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Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).

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Old 03-30-2009, 09:48 AM   #1
r3g
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Registered: Jan 2006
Distribution: Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Remix
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HP Mini - install to SD card


Hi,

I have a HP 2133 mini note and it came with SLED 10, which is a great OS and very stable. But I want to experiment more and SLED is not the best platform for that by any means.

So my question is. Can I install to an SD card as though it were an internal HD?

The plan is to put an ubuntu alternate cd onto a pendrive. Then initiate a text-mode install and set the SD card as the destination drive for the install.

I've tried various Live distros, but I can't get any of them to work on the mini note due to what I think is a problem with the unusual screen resolution of 1280 x 768 and VIA Chrome display chip. Each one I try just ends up at a blank screen during the startup of the X session. (I'e tried "live xforcevesa" and other hacks, but none seem to work.)

So, if I can actually use my 2gb SD card as the installation destination, then I'm hoping that I can get it installed in text-mode, then edit the X config accordingly. That should give me a bootable persistant install without touching the internal HD.

Is this possible?

Richard.
 
Old 03-31-2009, 04:24 AM   #2
frieza
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Registered: Feb 2002
Location: harvard, il
Distribution: Ubuntu 11.4,DD-WRT micro plus ssh,lfs-6.6,Fedora 15,Fedora 16
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if the computer supports booting from the sd card i don't see why not, although one caveat of installing ANY operating system to an sd card is memory wear
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_memory#Memory_wear
in short, flash memory can only support so many erase/write cycles before it starts to become unusable
 
Old 03-31-2009, 05:44 AM   #3
r3g
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That's a very good point. I wasn't aware of that.

Hopefully though, once the system was up and running, the effects of this could be minimised by switching off things like image caching in Firefox etc.

I still plan to mount the main internal drive for saving data, so providing I also use the internal drive for the swap partition, the vast majority of operations on the card will be read operations.

Given that these cards are also so cheap now, I can just clone it once I have a good working configuration.

I'll give it a go at some point over the next few days and post any results here. If anyone knows where I can buy a few extra hours to cram into my day to do this, then please let me know :-)

Richard.
 
Old 04-03-2009, 12:04 PM   #4
kgken
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Registered: Nov 2007
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With a Dell Mini 9 netbook, I was able to load a live Ubuntu 9.04 beta to USB stick, then booted it and tried to install it on my 8GB SD card. The result looked like a good install, except at the end, the grub_install failed.

I opened a shell and ran grub. grub found the SSD and USB drives, but not the SD drive which shows up in /proc/partitions as /dev/mmcblk0

I tried cloning a USB stick that booted grub onto the SD card and set the BIOS to boot from the SD device, but it didn't see it.

If you do get Ubuntu installed on the SD drive, and can boot from a different drive, that would probably be your easiest rout. If you have grub on your primary drive and a copy of Ubuntu's kernel and initrd there as well, set up your grub.conf so the root (hdN,N) points to that primary drive with the Ubuntu kernel & initrd, but set your kernel argument for root=LABEL to the location of your '/' partition on your SD drive. NOTE. You may need to add the SD/MMC drivers to your initrd, if it doesn't already have them.

here are some other links on this you may find helpful:
http://www.a110wiki.de/wiki/Booting_from_SD
https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=461884
http://www.nabble.com/-RFC--Support-...d19719370.html

If you find an easier way, please post it.

Thanks,
Ken
 
Old 04-04-2009, 02:29 AM   #5
r3g
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Thanks Ken, that's definately worth considering.

So far, I'm having trouble with the display.

I have tried putting the install media onto a 4Gb USB stick, then booting from that so that I can target the installation at my 2Gb SD card.

Trouble is, I can't use seem to use Live disks for the install as I can't get an X server up and running. When it gets to that point in the boot process, I just get a black screen with a flashing cursor in the top left.

I've tried and get the same results with Fedora 10 Live also, so it not just a quirk of the Ubuntu Live disk.

So, I thought I'd try the Ubuntu Alternate disk instead as there is a text mode installer on that one. But I couldn't get that one to successfully boot from my USB stick.

I'm now onto plan "S" (having exhausted plan B, plan C...).

I borrowed a USB CD drive from work for the weekend and have managed to boot and run the alternate install from there.

I was able to successfully select the SD card for the installation target and use the swap partition of my existing install.

Would you believe it though, I get 95% through the install process and then it fails.

Checking the install afterwards shows that the SD card is full. So it looks like I'm going to need a bigger SD card before I can get much further!

At least that method looks promising though.

In the meantime, I may download the Xubuntu image and try to get that running as at least I can work out the required X configuration for my netbook, then use the same one with my Ubuntu installation when I finally get it on there. At which point I may need to come back and refer to your grub instructions :-)

Thanks,

Richard.
 
Old 04-06-2009, 07:43 AM   #6
kgken
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Richard, sounds like you're making progress.

I finally got Ubuntu 9.04 to work from the SD card, but ended up booting from the hard drive; either the Mini 9 BIOS isn't geared to boot the SD card, or grub needs some adjustments to find it. My thought is the latter, but I don't have the time to look into it.

Booting from a /boot partition on the normal drive was NOT immediately successful. The initial RAM (initrd…) drive didn't have the drivers needed to mount the SD card and the Ubuntu / (root file system)… The drivers I needed turned out to be sdhci, sdhci-pci, and mmc_block. Your HP drivers will likely be a bit different.

Putting the drivers in the initrd proved a little challenging: I didn't find a "mkinitrd" program with this distro, so I ended up adding them to the initrd manually. I've edited Fedora initrds in the past that need to be gunzipped and then unpacked with cpio, but for some reason the commands I used to do this made an non-working Ubuntu initrd. However, here are the commands I used that did work to for the Ubuntu initrd:

mkdir tmp
cd tmp
gzip -dc /somepath/initrd.gz | cpio -id

# do the edits on the files

find . | cpio --quiet --dereference -o -H newc | gzip -9 > /somepath/new-initrd.gz

Basically, to add the drivers, I was able to just dump the mmc directory in with the other drivers and added the names of the drivers to the list found in the modules file. If you're doing it with Fedora, you will likely have to do some changes to the init file and place the drivers just in /lib.

Best of luck,
Ken
dereference -o -H newc | gzip -9 > /somepath/new-initrd.gz
 
Old 04-06-2009, 08:39 AM   #7
r3g
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Thanks Ken.

I've managed to get a bit further.

I downloaded the Xubuntu alternate image and installed that for the moment until I can get a bigger SD card.

It's almost working, but not quite.

Booting from the SD doesn't seem to be problem. During the install I mounted the SD card as a root partition and used the swap partition on the internal hard drive. I didn't bother with a seperate boot partition.

The install went well (though very slowly) and at the end I chose to instal grub to the SD card.

This now means that when I power on my mini note, I get SUSE as default, but if I press f9 at the BIOS screen I can choose to the SD card and it boots Xubuntu.

This is exactly how I wanted it, so I'm really pleased with that.

The issue now is actually getting to a login prompt.

It looks like the earlier issues I reported with various Live distros were not necessarily the video driver (well not entirely anyway). At first boot into Xubuntu I got the usual black screen with flashing cursor just at the point where you expect the X server to start up.

So I rebooted into SUSE and removed gdm from the start up so that I could get it to boot straght to a shell. This time, I get to the point where the screen goes black, but then I get some error text about b43 wireless module not being found.

Unfortunately, at this point it just hangs, so I still can't actually log in to sort it out.

Whatever solution I find is going to have to rely on editing the Xubuntu configuration from within SUSE.

I'll have another play with it tonight.

Richard.
 
  


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