Installing Slackware on Asus EEE PC 900A

I’ve got an Asus EEE PC 900A. This is a netbook, but not a particularly good one. It was one sold specifically at Best Buy, and it’s a cutdown netbook – no camera, 1 gig RAM, 4 gig SSD, 4 cell battery. It’s okay, I got it cheap. It’s small and I use it a lot at lunchtime at Barnes & Noble. It came installed with Xandros, a version of Ubuntu, which has a baby GUI interface called Easy Mode. I changed that interface to Advanced Mode, and it looks more like normal KDE and have used it like that since. But I’m not happy with it. I have a lot of difficulty updating packages, especially Firefox and its plugins. I wanted to install Slackware on it and get more use out of it.

Research led me a number of sites. The essential element of Slackware installation on the netbook was getting Slackware on a USB stick. Most sites pointed to Alien Bob’s pages for installing Slackware on a USB stick. That’s for Slackware 13.0, the current version, but other versions can presumably be obtained by tweaking the URL.

I did it. I put the full Slackware 13.0 on my 2 gig USB stick. I can use it with my Netbook, and I can use it anywhere. This is useful. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I worked them out and learnt a lot in the process.

1. Get the software from Alien Bob

Go to Alien Bob’s page, go right down the bottom past the instructions and download every one of those files. I didn’t get all of them so the create kept failing at odd places.

2. Get Slackware

You need the complete Slackware tree already downloaded to your system. I already had this because I maintain my own mirror of Slackware. You can get this by using downloading and using Alien Bob’s mirror script.

3. Get ms-sys

Download the ms-sys package at http://www.slackware.com/~alien/slackbuilds/ms-sys/pkg/ andinstall it with installpkg.

4. Create the USB image

Basically, read and follow the README file you got from Alien Bob. I ended up with a file – /tmp/slackboot/usbhd.img. I ended up using this command:

SLACKROOT=/data/slackware/mirror/slackware-current sh create_multipartboot.sh 2000

Lots of interesting information followed, and then finally it said:

--- The following package series were copied to the USB image: ---
'a ap d e f k kde kdei l n t tcl x xap y'
--- ... of which the following individual packages were omitted: ---
'none'

------------------------------------------------------------------------
The new image file (for USB boot and install) is:
'/tmp/slackboot/usbhd.img'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

5. Put the image on the USB stick

Insert your USB stick and note how it is recognised (dmesg will help). Change directory to where your usbhd.img is, probably still in /tmp/slackboot, and then

dd if=usbhd.img of=/dev/sdx

where sdx is where your system sees the USB stick.

6. Install Slackware from USB stick – FAIL

So then with a full Slackware 13.0 on my USB stick, I attempt to install it on my Asus EEE PC 900A.

  • Boot the Asus and press F2 to get into Setup
  • Go to the Boot section.
  • Set the first boot device to Removable Device. This lets you press ESC at boot time and select which device to boot from.
  • Disable Boot Booster.
  • Save BIOS and reboot.
  • While booting, press Esc and get the list of devices to boot from.
  • After repeated attempts, fail to get the USB stick recognised.
  • Abandon the process in despair.

I downloaded EEEBuntu and put it on a 1 gig stick with unetbootin. I can boot from the 1 gig stick without any problems. But the 2 gig stick with Slackware on it cannot be seen by my Asus. After I boot, I can put it in and see it and work with it, I just can’t boot it. More research needed.

7. Install Slackware from DVD – SUCCESS

I abandoned all the hard work I had done in creating a USB stick with the Slackware installation. I remembered I had an external DVD burner in a USB enclosure attached to my desktop. I connected that to the Asus and tried again.

  • Plug in a USB DVD drive, insert Slackware DVD, reboot
  • While booting, press Esc and get the list of devices to boot from. Yay, it sees the ATAPI CD/DVD drive.
  • Select the DVD drive
  • Proceed with normal Slackware installation.

Summary

I failed to install from the USB stick. I have to assume that I created it incorrectly. I must have done something wrong. I will test the USB stick on another computer, and see if it is recognised. I did a lot of searching and a lot of other people have had similar problems. There is one good article about the Asus 900A boot process. Scroll down to the answer by dunbar at #11.

In the meantime, I have successfully installed Slackware from CDROM. So far everything works as I expect it to work. Looks like support for the Asus netbooks is thoroughly in Linux now. I didn’t have to go looking for drivers for any part of it. I have brought it completely up to date to current with slackpkg. I have installed bittorrent, blackbox, wicd and tightvnc from Slackware extras. I installed wicd and it works perfectly. Wireless works, everything works. Even the mouse gestures with the trackpad work, and I didn’t have to do anything to get that. I am currently using XFCE as my window manager and slim as my login manager. The whole machine feels faster.

I feel considerably happier to have Slackware running on this device.

Asus eeePC 901A

2 Comments

mfillpotJanuary 28th, 2010 at 7:49 pm

You should have just setup a PXE server for the installation, so that you can use it via network boot to install the latest version of Slackware on all of your machines.

hgriggsJanuary 28th, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Per your suggestion, I am looking into it now. Good suggestion. Thanks.

PXE Link