The Acer Aspire One is a pretty nice netbook – for a reasonable price you get 1Gb RAM, 160Gb hard drive, 1024 x 600 screen and 5 1/2 hours of battery life. However it comes with Windows XP or Linpus, which is a customized Linux distribution from Acer. Neither of these options appealed to me. In particular the Aspire One user forums seemed to have a lot of postings on limitations with Linpus.

Enter Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR), which is a special version of Ubuntu 8.04 for netbooks. Essentially it is the same as Ubuntu 8.04, but with some additions that make it easier to use on a small screen with limited height. Because netbooks don’t have optical drives it presents a challege to get a new operating system installed. Below is the process I found to work for me. I used Ubuntu on a desktop PC for all the steps.

Firstly note that I tried and failed to get a USB hard drive to work. I partitioned and formatted it every way I could and couldn’t get it to work. I managed to the the UNR installer to boot, but it always failed with “sdb: unknown partition table”. The process only seems to work with USB flash drives. I used a Sandisk Cruzer Micro 4Gb.

1. Download UNR 1.0.1 image from:

2. Plug in USB drive and identify device location. Mine was /dev/sdb mounted to /media/disk.

3. At command prompt:

sudo dd if=./unr-1.0.1.img of=/dev/sdb bs=1024

4. fdisk -l will then show:

Disk /dev/sda: 250.0 GB, 250000000000 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 30394 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x88000000

Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1               1           8       64228+  de  Dell Utility
/dev/sda2               9        1314    10485760    7  HPFS/NTFS
Partition 2 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sda3   *        1315        7769    51849787+   7  HPFS/NTFS
/dev/sda4            7770       30394   181735312+   5  Extended
/dev/sda5            7770       23109   123218518+   7  HPFS/NTFS
/dev/sda6           23110       29908    54612936   83  Linux
/dev/sda7           29909       30394     3903763+  82  Linux swap / Solaris

Disk /dev/sdb: 4016 MB, 4016045568 bytes
124 heads, 62 sectors/track, 1020 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 7688 * 512 = 3936256 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x8ef631df

This doesn't look like a partition table
Probably you selected the wrong device.

Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1   ?      274784      529564   979374166   66  Unknown
Partition 1 has different physical/logical beginnings (non-Linux?):
phys=(734, 123, 14) logical=(274783, 70, 21)
Partition 1 has different physical/logical endings:
phys=(120, 143, 6) logical=(529563, 65, 22)
Partition 1 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sdb2   ?      448668      961719  1972168331    7  HPFS/NTFS
Partition 2 has different physical/logical beginnings (non-Linux?):
phys=(187, 180, 14) logical=(448667, 16, 52)
Partition 2 has different physical/logical endings:
phys=(784, 0, 13) logical=(403059, 76, 1)
Partition 2 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sdb3   ?      426615      680707   976730017   7d  Unknown
Partition 3 has different physical/logical beginnings (non-Linux?):
phys=(252, 59, 46) logical=(426614, 84, 39)
Partition 3 has different physical/logical endings:
phys=(139, 118, 4) logical=(122048, 22, 28)
Partition 3 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sdb4   ?       36178       37261     4161536   6f  Unknown
Partition 4 has different physical/logical beginnings (non-Linux?):
phys=(370, 101, 50) logical=(36177, 96, 57)
Partition 4 has different physical/logical endings:
phys=(10, 114, 13) logical=(37260, 47, 62)
Partition 4 does not end on cylinder boundary.

Partition table entries are not in disk order

Don’t worry about the errors – they don’t seem to be important.

5. Unmount the USB drive by right-clicking on the icon on the desktop.

6. Plug USB drive into Aspire one and boot. At Acer screen press F12 to get to the boot menu.

7. On the boot menu the USB drive will appear twice:

USB Floppy Drive

This because there is a second hard-coded, read only partition that appears as a CDROM drive. Choose the floppy drive option. Press Enter at the prompt and UNR will now install. Follow the on-screen instructions.

8. At this point you probably want to change the name of the computer. It seems to default to the name of the first user. Go to Administration -> Network, click on “Unlock” and enter your password.

9. Click on the General tab and enter a new name in the Hostname field.

10. Reboot. Clicking on “Quit…” didn’t seem to work. Holding down the power button for a second or so brought up the shutdown options screen. Note that after the reboot the “Quit…” option started working, so I guess the reboot is necessary.

Cleaning Up Your USB Drive

1. Install GParted from Add/Remove…

2. Go to System -> Administration -> Partition Editor

3. Plug in the USB drive and select it from the list at the top right (for example /dev/sdb).

4. Right click on the drive on the desktop and unmount it.

5. Select the partition (there will only be one for some strange reason) and delete it. Click on Apply to confirm.

6. Create a new FAT32 primary partition. Click on Apply.

7. Remove and insert the USB drive to mount it.