Friday, September 19, 2008

Puppeee's missing steps

The Asus Eee PC has just won the Hardware of the Year Award. Last year the Eee PC made quite a stir in the news prior to its release due to its small size, full functionality and low price, and it deserves the award. The newer models, which won the award, have larger screens and more memory than the first release. I bought a 701 for my wife near the time of its release last fall. I was impressed with the machine right away for its quickness and good design. Unfortunately, connecting to a WPA encrypted wireless network proved troublesome. I resolved the issue by following the excellent tutorial in the forums and wiki, but this turned out to be a temporary fix and the connection was never robust. After giving up for a while, it turned out that the Eee PC may not have been the culprit after all. The DSL connection on my AP was frequently dropping off, and, after some frustrating phone calls to Telus, a technician came over to my house. He turned out to be great, and made a number of changes to my phone system that made my connection robust. After these changes were made the Asus Wi-Fi worked with WPA, but only for a week.

Rather than screwing around with the default Xandros any more, I opted to live-boot Puppeee. The tutorials were helpful, but they missed some steps that caused me grief. Live-booting allows you to boot the operating system from a disk; as a result, you can boot a distribution, such as Puppeee, without affecting your default OS (in this case, Xandros). The first step is to download the ISO, or disc image, for the operating system. Then, check the fingerprint of the file with md5sum (good instructions here). Now you're ready to burn the ISO to disc; I used Infra Recorder and followed these instructions. Once you have a CD you can plug in your USB CD Drive to the Eee or xcopy the image to a USB flash drive, no programs seemed to do this directly. Once Puppeee is booted from the CD (if it doesn't, change the boot order in the BIOS) you can make a portable version on a Flash drive or card. To do this you need to mount the CD drive by clicking on the drive icon on the desktop and clicking on the CD drive; then, click on Home>Setup>Puppy universal installer and follow the recommended instructions. Once it is installed you shut down the computer and unplug the CD drive; then press the power button and press Esc when the Eee screen appears to select the boot device. Select a boot device (USB drive) and you're all set. Puppeee has handled the wireless encryption without incident and I'm once again marvelling at the Eee PC's greatness. Once you've cut your teeth on this, trying other distributions is a synch, although some may require a larger flash drive. I used a 2 Gb drive, but Ubuntu and Mandriva require more (you can purchase Mandriva on an 8 Gb flash drive for $80).

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