Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First week of adventures with the new Netbook


Finally managed to garner enough funds to get myself the new Netbook. Yeah. Spare the advice about whether I know what I have gotten into as the answer is YES, I DO! and here's proof: http://www.etiole.com/?p=4907

My first day with my new prized possession began with I trying to get a practical OS installed on it. Yes, in order to save money, I bought the FreeDOS version. And, with that OS, come on! you can do nothing in today's world.

Before I began the installation, I being I, went into the BIOS and meddled with all the settings, explored it and finally found the option to set BIOS password. God! Why did I do that? Seems, the Samsung N148 netbook has its keyboard layout configured differently in the BIOS (before the drivers get loaded). After I set the password, though I was typing the right password, it was saying that it was wrong and wasn't even booting into the OS.

Then I read the manual and found out that the BIOS password can be reset by calling Samsung's customer care but it will be charged. Cursing my luck, I started scouring the Internet to find a way to short the jumpers to reset the BIOS as I knew that this was all they were going to do anyways and I didn't want to pay for it.

Found a lot of articles and pictures which said the pins were found underneath the RAM , like this one e.g.: http://www.sammynetbook.com/forum/threads/9287-cmos-password-NC10 There you go! In a purely geeky fashion I opened the RAM compartment, plugged out the RAM and shockingly didn't find the pins there. All this on Day 1 of buying the Netbook. Thank God I am not in my teens, or else I would have gotten a nice dose of my parents.

Finally, did some more searching and found another netbook that had the pins in a different place than the typical ones. Tried looking at the same place on mine. Took some time to figure out that it was hidden underneath a pice of insulation tape that I had to remove. Overjoyed in finding the pins, wasted no time in shorting them. Did that, put back the covers and tried booting. Guess what. The BIOS hasn't been reset.

Tried many a time in vain. It wasn't getting reset. Then, to find out whether I was typing the wrong password, tried searching for a way to decode the password. Found out that the Hex code that is displayed along with the error message for BIOS being locked actually is a cryptic way of letting you figure out the password. Type the hex code and get the password using this tool for Samsung laptops: http://sites.google.com/site/dogber1/blog/pwgen-samsung.py (Python script)
or the Windows binary:
http://sites.google.com/site/dogber1/blog/pwgen-samsung.zip

For other laptops refer this Blog: http://dogber1.blogspot.com/2009/05/table-of-reverse-engineered-bios.html

Using this tool revealed that I was indeed typing the right password.

This was when I realized that the keyboard layout may be wrong as I remembered that earlier in the FreeDOS's command prompt too, I had some messed up commands being typed because of wrong key map.

I connected my desktop's USB keyboard (which I luckily had besides the wireless one), and typed in the password. Voila! It accepted. Immediately I removed the password.

Phew! That was one hell of a ride, I thought I should blog about it. So, here it is.

After this ordeal. I was too tired to go ahead with anything else, the clock had struck 1 AM and I had to work the next day so went to bed without bothering too much about the OS which was what I had initially set to do. Whatte Day, eh?

Day 2:

Naturally, I wanted to install Windows 7 on it but didn't have a large enough pen/thumb drive. You need a minimum of 4GB. Yes, that should remind you that it lacks an optical drive, if that had skipped your mind.

Prior to getting the netbook, I was experimenting with Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat and was quite amazed at the evolution of linux from a few years ago. Everything on my desktop had worked out of the box. And it was only 693.2MB. Since I had heard a lot about Ubuntu's unity interface in the netbook edition, decided to give that a try. Since the pen drive had to be bootable, tried using the tool that came with the ISO but that failed to boot. Then found out of this neat tool: UNetBootIn.

This tool offers to download any one of the various linux distros and directly create the bootable Pen drive or can do so from an ISO image that you already possess. I chose this option and allowed it to do its job. Absolutely no intervention required other than selecting the source ISO image and the destination pen drive. This took about 15 minutes.

Just noticed this Ubuntu's site : http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/get-ubuntu/download
They're recommending another tool called Universal USB Installer.

After this, I plugged in my pen drive to my netbook, booted from it and installed Ubuntu. I was amazed at the unity interface of ubuntu. Quite nifty, but having gotten used to the regular Gnome, I wanted to switch back to it. I thought I had to reinstall the desktop edition. Surprisingly, all I had to do was switch the option on the login screen to desktop edition. Thank God!

The latest version of ubuntu offers to install restricted drivers and extras meaning copyrighted video codecs and drivers for your graphics chipset. This is neat considering that in earlier version, you had to manually search for those and install them.

Took the netbook with me to my Uncle's place where I was visiting for the Diwali holidays and my cousin seemed to have a 4GB pen drive with him. Borrowed it, created the Windows 7 boot from pen drive and installed that too.

So far, so good. Having fun. Let's see how it goes.

Please leave your thoughts...