Installing Ubuntu on an EMachines E350 netbook

I am now the proud owner of an EMachines E350 netbook. Well, proud is probably overstating it. It’s about the same spec as most of the other netbooks out there and it was cheap.
This particular model boasts 1GB RAM, a 160GB HDD, and an Intel Atom N450 processor.
It also comes with Windows 7 Starter as the OS. Hmmm, not sure about that last bit.

My purpose in obtaining this machine is to replace the venerable Laptop I’ve been carting around on the train for the last several months. Like the Emachines, it also has 1GB RAM. Unlike the netbook, it’s running Ubuntu 10.04.2 LTS.
So, all I need to do now is to wipe away Windows and install Ubuntu. Oh, and make sure the wireless network card still works ( which has often been a problem with this kind of exercise).

So, what follows is the steps taken to install and configure Ubuntu on my netbook, with all the mistakes and associated cursing removed so I can pretend I really do know what I’m doing.

If you want to follow along, you will need :

  • a machine to experiment on ( or your new netbook)
  • a machine running Ubuntu already
  • a wired network connection
  • a USB stick with at least 2GB capacity
  • a bit of time (such as a Bank Holiday)

By the way, I’m going to ruin the suspense here and say that I’ve typed this on and posted it from the netbook in question, using OpenOffice Writer and a wireless connection. You can probably tell by the fact the typing is a bit slower and there are probably some amusing spelling mistakes. I put this down to getting used to the new keyboard.

A word of warning here – apart from the wireless card, I’m really not too bothered about the other peripherals on this machine. So, I’m not worried about the web cam, for example and have not covered this here.

Getting Ubuntu

Head over to the Ubuntu Download page and press the big orange button. Note – I’ve decided to stick with the OS version that I know here and gone for the Long-Term Support version (10.04.2 LTS). I’m not quite brave enough to explore the delights of the Unity desktop just yet. For the rest of this post, I’ll assume that you’ve followed suit. If you have got a bit adventurous, just remember that the name of the file you’ve downloaded will be that appropriate for the downloaded version.

Press the big orange button...

Depending on the speed of your connection, you may want to make a cup of tea (or coffee, if you prefer), mow the lawn, or do any of the other jobs that Deb has lined up for you on this fine Bank Holiday weekend.
What’s that ? She only does that to me ? I wondered why she kept saying I was special.

Anyway, after the download, you should have the following under $HOME/Downloads :

ubuntu-10.04.02-desktop-i386.iso

Creating a Live image on a USB

Deb thought I should call this section “Where Ubuntu babies come from”. Having listened to one or two further suggestions about inserting USB sticks, I decided that it would be rather more edifying to stick to the point. Honestly, a bit of sunshine and a jug of Pimms and there's no stopping her !

Anyway, at this point you need to make sure that any files you have on your USB stick are backed up because we're about to wipe it.

We're now on your existing Ubuntu machine ( running 10.04), which also has the iso we downloaded (ubuntu-10.04.02-desktop-i386.iso).
Insert the USB stick then go to the System menu Administration/Startup Disk Creator

The startup disk creator - where all the magic happens

In the top pane you need to select the Ubuntu iso file (ubuntu-10.04.02-desktop-i386.iso) you're going to use and in the bottom, select your USB.
NOTE – it may be that the USB is listed twice in the bottom pane. If so, choose the line that shows an amount of free space on the USB.

At this point, you do have the option of creating a startup disk that has an area of writable space. You don't have to do this to complete this exercise and doing so will cause both the disk creation and, later on, booting from the USB, to take a bit longer. On the other hand, it will allow you to test the wireless card setup BEFORE you take the plunge and install the OS on your netbook.

Hit Make Startup Disk and we're off...

When it's all done, you should see...

The thunderstorm has arrived, lightning has struck, you're new creation is ready to lurch down to the village

At this point it's probably a good idea to test the Live image is working as expected. To do this, simply make sure that the BIOS on your machine is set to look for a USB drive before the hard-drive, insert your shiny new Live Image USB, and restart.

If your machine now boots off the USB and you see a screen offering a language selection, together with a buttons to either try out or install Ubuntu, you're pretty much good to go.

The Wireless Card

As I mentioned earlier, this is my main area of trepidation. Some machines are built in such a way that the wireless card can only be enabled in Windows. I really don't want to dual-boot, but if I were to go ahead and wipe Windows out completely, would wireless be lost to me forever ? Slightly dramatic I know, but I'm trying to build some tension here.

Anyway, with your netbook booted from the Live Image on the USB, Go into the Applications Menu, Accessories/Terminal.
Now we need to get some info as to the nature of this wireless card :

lspci -v

The output you get from this command should include an entry for a Network controller ( that's your wireless card). Mine looks like this :

02:00.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation Device 4727 (rev 01) 
	Subsystem: Broadcom Corporation Device 0510 
	Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 17 
	Memory at 52000000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K] 
	Capabilities: <access denied> 
	Kernel driver in use: wl 
	Kernel modules: wl 

At this point I must confess that this is the output AFTER I've done all the configuration. The relevant bit is really the First and second line, which gives details of the wireless card. If yours is the same, then the signs are quite positive.

If you have created your Live Image with a writable area, you can at this point test to see if the driver setup will work. If not, you'll have to take the plunge and go for an installation.

Now, you need to make use of your wired connection so that your netbook does actually have an internet connection.
Next, you should notice a green network card icon on the top menu bar :

Is this a driver I see before me ?

Click on this and select the install drivers menu item from the drop-down ( it should be the only one). You'll then get a screen asking if you want to activate this driver. Just say yes...

One click away from the wonders of wireless

Once it's completed and activated, remove the wired connection. The wireless card should now be active and you should get a list of wireless connections available when you click the wireless icon on the menu bar ( that's the five concentric semi-circles).

Provided all has gone to plan you can now go forth and install Ubuntu for real. Just re-boot with the USB stick in place, select Install Ubuntu and away you go.

I've got to run off now, I think I'm being summoned to the Garden Centre. Bank Holidays. Don't you just love 'em ?

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6 thoughts on “Installing Ubuntu on an EMachines E350 netbook

  1. Pingback: 配1GB独显 14英寸三星RV415仅售3399元SamsungPhone | SamsungPhone

    • Can the machine see the wireless networks ?
      If so, then the wireless card is working so it’s possible that your issue is to do with how to connect to the network.
      In addition to requiring a password, some routers also need to be set in pairing mode to accept a wireless connection from a “new” device. Even a machine that’s been dual-booted will count as a new device to the router if you’re connecting from that OS on that machine for the first time.

      HTH

      Mike

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