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Parted magic on ubcd works with me because it's a RAM only version.
I think my plan now is, go home and use gparted on sda1. Try my usual live usb's to see if any will boot now. If not, then come back and do what you describe above, i.e. a manual install... but the instructions above involve booting a live usb. If I could do that, there wouldn't be any issue. I'd boot live eeebuntu and click the 'install' icon.
I used gparted to delete the partitions on sda1. I deleted both the following:
/dev/sda1 ext2 2.30gb
/dev/sda1 /media/sda2 USER 141mb
Afterwards, the main partition was a single block of 'unallocated' space, of 3.71gb.
The first sector 0 and last 7775459, of a total of 7775460
Left undeleted were:
/dev/sda3 unknown system. It was followed by the symbol of an exclamation mark in a triangle and a black square, had the label BIOS the flag was lba and it was 7.84mb
/dev/sda4, also followed by an exclamation mark, no labels or flags, 7.8mb.
I shut down, tried to restart, the new eee 701 iso installed to usb. This showed the usual unetbootin menu, a 'starting system' message and then nothing.
The live eeebuntu usb was exactly the same, booting as far as '0.336948 ACPI: CHECKING INITRAMFS for custom dists'.
Then I went back to gparted, applied an ext2 label to the primary partition, so it was no longer unallocated, tried to boot both again with the same result.
When gparted was doing its thing, the ssd light at the front flashed for a while, something it hasn't done since the trouble started.
When I was looking around sda1 before I formatted it, I noticed a file called BIOS which had a file in called 07121700.EN and showed up as a program. No idea if that's normal or if it's still there or not.
Gparted still shows two little blocks of unformatted space at the right hand end. I'm not touching them because one of them is called BIOS.
The splash screen still comes up OK. UBCD and Parted Magic are still OK. The sdd is still listed/recognised in the bios.
So... I don't know now. Perhaps use unetbootin on ubcd to install something and see what that does, or perhaps nuke, in case there's some file still being read? I don't know.