Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux Operating Systems and with the release of 11.04, I was keen to have a dedicated computer running it, so with an Eee PC netbook at hand, I had the challenge of installing it on a system with very little space.
In the past, Ubuntu has had a dedicated netbook version for small laptops like this but the interface was so popular they chose to mix the interface into the main Ubuntu Desktop version and simply rebrand it as “Ubuntu” meaning that all Ubuntu computers share the same interface that is suitable for both desktop and netbook.
The specification of the Eee PC 901 that I bought came with two solid state drives on board: one 4GB drive for the operating system and applications and one 8GB drive for my own files. A quick installation using the presets for replacing XP left me with 0 bytes of space left on my first drive which effectively crippled the computer.
My challenge then was to set up the system in a way that best utilised the drives I had on board.
By default, when Ubuntu installs, it partitions the main drive it is installing on with a swap partition to use for virtual memory management. In my case, that was 1GB, so already I’d lost a gigabyte of space for my operating system.
Now a solid state drive like the one in my Eee PC has its lifetime limited by the number of writes it can perform, as a swap partition is accessed so often, it can severely drop this lifetime so I chose not to have one.
Next I would have to make sure my system knew to use the second, larger drive for my Home directory where I would be storing all of my personal data.
I chose to create a Ubuntu Live USB Stick as detailed on Ubuntu’s download page here and install it using that, when booting on Eee PC, hold down the escape key to be able to select the usb stick as the device to boot from.
Now after selecting to install Ubuntu on your computer, I’d recommend you connect it to the internet if you can and tell it to “Download updates while installing”, you will also spot the option to install some third party software that is not open source like Ubuntu. I would recommend this as it installs various bits that you’re likely to use, like MP3 support and the ability to view Flash media online. It’s not necessary but it makes like so much easier if you have it. To do this, select “Install this third-party software” and continue with setup.
Next up is to setup the drive partitioning. If you’ve already got an Operating System installed, such as Windows XP or another Linux distribution, you’ll have the option to “Install Ubuntu alongside them.” Now as we’ve already established that we don’t really have the space to do this, we would rather erase the disk, however, we already know that the default method of “Erase disk and install Ubuntu” won’t utilise the space on our netbook the way we require it to, so instead, choose “Something else” to be able to setup the partitions our own way.
Now this is where the important stuff is done. Delete all partitions across the devices and then, on the small (4GB) drive, click Add and choose to create an ext4 partition with the mount point set to root (/). Now, on the larger (8GB) drive, choose to create another ext4 partition with the mount point set to be your home directory (/home). Finally, make sure the boot loader installation is set to be on the smaller drive and click “Install Now.” You’ll receive a warning message about not using a swap partition, but as I’ve explained, that’s not something we’re wanting so just continue with setup.
And that’s it, now you have Ubuntu 11.04 all up and running on your netbook, congrats!