Replacing Windows XP with Ubuntu Hardy Heron on the Advent 4211 aka MSI Wind

As I promised to the boys from the UbuntuUK Podcast, here’s a simple how-to for replacing the Windows XP installation that comes pre-installed on the Advent 4211 with the Ubuntu Hardy Heron linux distribution (the machine is actually a rebadged MSI Wind by the way)

This is by no means a comprehensive guide, but it does reference some very good guides elsewhere. Overall, replacing Windows XP is quite a simple process, and starts with creating a bootable usb disk with an ISO of Ubuntu Hardy Heron loaded onto it. There’s a good guide to creating a bootable disk that I followed without incident here.

Once the bootable disk is created, you just need to move the Ubuntu image from wherever you’ve copied it over to the USB drive and then insert the thumb drive into one of the ports of the machine (note that you will need a USB drive with a capacity of at least 1GB because the .iso comes in at about 699mb). All you then need to do to install Hardy Heron is go into the BIOS of the machine (accessed during the bootup process by quickly hitting the Delete key at startup) and use the arrow keys to go over to the Boot tab. It’s then just a matter of selecting the usb drive as the first thing to boot from, going to ‘Save and Exit’ and bobs your uncle :)

The next time the machine starts up you’ll go into the Ubuntu install menu, where you can follow the guide here to install a working system. When the installation is finished you just need to go into the BIOS on the next startup and change the startup selection so the machine chooses the hard disk to boot from, save & exit.

The only issue that you’ll have now is that with the default install (until they update the kernel that is) the wireless card that’s installed, the Realtek 8187SE, won’t work. There are two options here – either remove the back of the machine (a simple process as long as you have a small philips head screwdriver of course!) and replace the PCMCIA card with one that works ‘out of the box’, such as these cards available from the Linux Emporium, or to install the driver for the card and ‘insert’ it into the kernel, and again there’s a simple guide here. Just to note, however, that whenever you update the kernel to a newer version (which the update manager will prompt you to do from time to time) you’ll have to go through this process again, so make sure that if you accept a kernel update you have a wired connection when you next start the system so that you can repeat the above process to insert the driver.

You will now have a working machine, and just to point out that even though the graphics card on the Advent is the low-powered Intel GMA950, you can still use Compiz Fusion to give yourself an open-gl enabled desktop without any problems, and games such as ArmagetronAd (the 3d Tron-a-like light cycle 3d game) also work flawlessly :) Some games will run like slideshows however so don’t have too high expectations! As it is, this little thing is my companion everywhere I go now – I even blog on the bus!

If you’re interested in trying the Ubuntu Netbook Remix interface on the machine you can find some information here, however having tried it myself it appears that it is designed for devices with much smaller screens, and to my mind just gets in the way – it’s also a bit ‘unfinished’ looking. As you can see from the photos in this post, because it has a 10″ screen the Advent supports a normal desktop environment perfectly comfortably, so I just don’t think a cut-down interface is necessary…

An important resource if you’re having issues can be found at the MSI Wind community site here. It has a very active forum, including lots of advice on installing linux. I recommend you look for advice there if you’re experiencing problems, as there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of activity on the official Ubuntu forums at the moment regarding this product.