Booting Linux On Neo-Netbooks Like Dell P24T - a HowTo

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Mr. B1ack

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May 24, 2017, 10:05:27 AM5/24/17
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I bought a couple of those cheapo neo-netbooks made
by Dell and Lenovo - the kind with just a 32gb 'SSD'
that are kind-of hardwired to run Win10 and ONLY Win10.

Well, Win-10 was immediately deleted ... don't want
to be anywhere near that horror !

The problem with these things is that the 'SSD' doesn't
really emulate a HDD very well. The machines really
are seriously hardwired for one OS only and the 'SSD'
really doesn't have a real MBR.

Trying to install various Linux distros just didn't work -
would not boot either in 'legacy' or UEFI mode. I took
to running Mint from a thumbdrive+persistence which
worked, but it was clunky.

Nobody seemed to have a good answer for these
neo-netbooks.

However ... then I came across "MX-16" - a Mepis/Antix
production. Not only is it much faster than Mint but it
also does something only Mint had been doing ... getting
my touchpad and wi-fi right the first time.

MX-16 was able to do one other thing that Mint wasn't -
it could be installed on the 'SSD' and actually BOOT.

Procedure :

Use Gparted or something to hose the 'ssd' and create
a 'GPT' partitioning scheme, not 'MSDOS'.

Create a UEFI partition, 500mb will do, as FAT32. I named
it "UEFI-BOOT'.

Create a big EXT4 partition where your main system will go
and a small Swap (you can leave out the Swap if you want).

In the F2 setup make sure UEFI mode is enabled.

Boot MX-16 from a thumbdrive and run the installer.

When you get to the disk partitioning part, tell it to go
ahead and use your EXT4 partition as the 'root' ...
basically as '\'.

Let it go through all the other installation steps until
you get to the Grub setup.

MX-16s Grub setup has three explicit options ... 'MBR',
'Root' and 'EFI'. Most modern distros never even ask.
For these neo-netbooks you choose the 'EFI' box to
insert the needed boot stuff into the UEFI partition.

Allow installation to finish normally.

For my Dell, I went into the F2 setup and made sure
that :

a) UEFI boot was enabled
b) 'Security' was turned off (otherwise it looks for Windows stuff)
c) "Legacy Bios" was turned off.
d) There was something about 'TMM' ? Turned it off for good luck.

First try it tried to boot and then got stuck in a black screen
halfway through. Re-tried using one of the Grub 'special'
options that forced 'systemd' instead of 'sysvinit'. THAT
booted properly. Got the wi-fi attached and did 'apt-get dist-upgrade'
to get all the newest packages.

Rebooted just using the 'default' menu entry ... and while
the screen had a couple of black instants the booting was
a success and I don't have to use anything special now.

MX-16 uses about 4.6g of the 32g 'ssd'. It boots up very
quickly. It has pretty much everything you'd ever need
(and some things you didn't know you needed) in there
by default ... and you can always install more.

Anyway, this actually works for the Dell P24T (I'll try the
Lenovo soon) when nothing else got it right. It'll be a
fair replacement for my dear departed EEEPC.

Mint/Lubuntu/etc are supposed to be "UEFI-Aware",
but they just couldn't get it right on these netbooks.

Note : MX-14 and I think MX-15 were based on Fedora.
MX-16 is based on Debian instead. This means you
can use the common 'apt' commands to do a lot of
updates/upgrades smoothly and Synaptic to make
installing new stuff easier. They managed to get a
*lot* of functionality into MX-16 without using up too
much disk/memory space. It's very zippy too. I'd
say it falls into the "middleweight" category. This
distro uses XFCE, but I suppose you could download
LXDE/LXQT and install that if you needed an even
smaller memory/cpu-usage profile.

Anway, since I couldn't find any good answer online
to booting linux on these neo-netbooks I figured I'd
post the procedure *somewhere* that might wind
up Googleable.

Eli the Bearded

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May 24, 2017, 5:12:03 PM5/24/17
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In comp.os.linux.misc, Mr. B1ack <now...@nada.net> wrote:
> I bought a couple of those cheapo neo-netbooks made
> by Dell and Lenovo - the kind with just a 32gb 'SSD'
> that are kind-of hardwired to run Win10 and ONLY Win10.

I'm not familiar with the model in the Subject:, but an image
search shows it looks very much like the Dell Inspiron I got
last year.

I had no problems booting from USB to install Slackware,
but after the install it couldn't find a boot disk. I tried
three times, with different LILO configs, and no luck.

Eventually I reasoned that since it could boot easily from USB,
maybe if I used a different boot disk. So in when an SD card
in the existing slot, and the install went to that. That worked
fine for me, and I could mount the internal storage as /home .

> The problem with these things is that the 'SSD' doesn't
> really emulate a HDD very well. The machines really
> are seriously hardwired for one OS only and the 'SSD'
> really doesn't have a real MBR.
>
> Trying to install various Linux distros just didn't work -
> would not boot either in 'legacy' or UEFI mode.

That sounds like exactly the same problem.

> Anway, since I couldn't find any good answer online
> to booting linux on these neo-netbooks I figured I'd
> post the procedure *somewhere* that might wind
> up Googleable.

I love having a computer that weighs so little. I have a small regret
that I only used a 32GB SD card, but that was the only spare I had
on hand. Next time I'll plan to buy a larger one when getting one of
these things.

The one I got was:
http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/0436134

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series Laptop, 11.6" Screen, Intel Celeron, 4GB
Memory, 32GB eMMC Drive, Windows 10 Home

And the exact model number seems to be 3162 (shown as "I31627142BLU").
"List" price is $299, I got it for $239, now it's been reduced further
to $179.

Biggest drawback for me is the lack of Home/End keys, which I use a lot.
I ended up xmodmap'ing F11/F12.

Elijah
------
likes having a sturdy lightweight computer enough to sacrifice power

Mr. B1ack

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May 24, 2017, 10:25:48 PM5/24/17
to
On Wed, 24 May 2017 21:12:02 +0000 (UTC), Eli the Bearded
<*@eli.users.panix.com> wrote:

>In comp.os.linux.misc, Mr. B1ack <now...@nada.net> wrote:
>> I bought a couple of those cheapo neo-netbooks made
>> by Dell and Lenovo - the kind with just a 32gb 'SSD'
>> that are kind-of hardwired to run Win10 and ONLY Win10.
>
>I'm not familiar with the model in the Subject:, but an image
>search shows it looks very much like the Dell Inspiron I got
>last year.
>
>I had no problems booting from USB to install Slackware,
>but after the install it couldn't find a boot disk. I tried
>three times, with different LILO configs, and no luck.
>
>Eventually I reasoned that since it could boot easily from USB,
>maybe if I used a different boot disk. So in when an SD card
>in the existing slot, and the install went to that. That worked
>fine for me, and I could mount the internal storage as /home .

I had been using the things in much the same way, though
I'd settled on those super-shorty USB sticks. Creating a
stick with Unetbootin allows you to add a fairly large
persistent cache that's (almost) as good as if you ran
from the "hard drive".

But I yearned to use my 32gb e-disk ... so I kept trying
various distros, various settings.

I think the Dell *is* one of the "Inspiron" line, albeit the
cheapest smallest one. I didn't call these things "neo-
netbooks" for nothing. Damned thing is made of
super-slippery plastic too ... I may put traction tape
on it just to prevent accidents :-)

>> The problem with these things is that the 'SSD' doesn't
>> really emulate a HDD very well. The machines really
>> are seriously hardwired for one OS only and the 'SSD'
>> really doesn't have a real MBR.
>>
>> Trying to install various Linux distros just didn't work -
>> would not boot either in 'legacy' or UEFI mode.
>
>That sounds like exactly the same problem.
>
>> Anway, since I couldn't find any good answer online
>> to booting linux on these neo-netbooks I figured I'd
>> post the procedure *somewhere* that might wind
>> up Googleable.
>
>I love having a computer that weighs so little. I have a small regret
>that I only used a 32GB SD card, but that was the only spare I had
>on hand. Next time I'll plan to buy a larger one when getting one of
>these things.

I don't like lugging around a full-sized notebook, and
tablets are much TOO small ... so ........

At least with Linux you can get most of the Winders
capability - but without all the Winders overhead and
problems and factory spyware. The W10 installation
left only 2gb free 'disk'.
That's it, the bright blue one. Somewhere on the bottom
it's identified as a "P24T" or "3162".

> Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series Laptop, 11.6" Screen, Intel Celeron, 4GB
> Memory, 32GB eMMC Drive, Windows 10 Home
>
>And the exact model number seems to be 3162 (shown as "I31627142BLU").
>"List" price is $299, I got it for $239, now it's been reduced further
>to $179.
>
>Biggest drawback for me is the lack of Home/End keys, which I use a lot.
>I ended up xmodmap'ing F11/F12.

Keymapping can save sanity sometimes. I like those
old "clicky" keyboards and modern Linux distros can't
always figure them out.

ANYhow, try my procedure. You won't have to damage
your SD card setup. Boots in about half the time from
the internal "drive" than from a card.

Oh yea ... somewhere in there MX-16 offers to port
the existing USB/SD live settings over to the new
'disk' installation. It'd be a huge timesaver if you've
heavily tweaked your live version.

I also got this to work in a similar way on a Lenovo 110,
which is almost the same machine under the skin. For
some odd reason MX-16 wouldn't recognize partitions
not made by ITS version of Gparted ... and then the
Grub installer didn't seem to understand that I'd made
an EFI partion. Had to use 'fdisk' and manually set the
partition type to '1' (EFI) even though fdisk said it
couldn't offer a list of partition types ... weird.

Again, UEFI boot mode, security boot off, and on the
Lenovo there's a special option in the F10 save-changes
menu you want checked that somehow also encourages
it to use "pure UEFI". There's no "legacy bios" though
like in the Dell.

Both machines, the FAT32 EFI partition (250-500mb)
has to be the first on the disk. It should be named "EFI".
You have to set the "boot" flag ... and that usually sets
the efi flag too. I saved space by not creating a swap
partition.

If the MX-16 grub installer offers the third, efi, installation
location button then you're golden. Otherwise you may
have to try the fdisk trick.

As usual, if you can find just the right Linux, and a trick
or two, you can generally overcome any hardware
obstacle. All the previous 'fixes' for these kinds of
machines were just totally bizzare and super-complex
however ... MX-16, and it's lack of assumptions about
where you want the boot-up stuff, made it all easy.
Now I have two snappy ultra-compacts with a full-
featured OS (that isn't Winders).

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