In MCS-378, the assigned lab projects assume that you have installed the Ubuntu distribution of Linux onto your netbook (Eee PC 900HA). Please plan to have at least the basic installation done prior to our first lab day, keeping in mind that the process may take longer than you expect and may require consultation. You are welcome to install any other systems you wish, and you can choose whether to retain the Windows XP that comes pre-installed.
This web page contains general tips, not a precise step-by-step process. Please read the whole page before beginning and please let me know if there are any topics I ought to clarify.
The basic instructions for downloading and installation are on the the Ubuntu Netbook Remix download page.
You will temporarily be using a removable flash memory device (SD card or USB stick) to hold the Ubuntu system. This will allow you to boot the netbook off of that flash device, rather than the internal hard disk, which in turn means you will be able to erase or repartition the hard disk as a preliminary step of installing Ubuntu onto it. Once you've finished the installation, you won't need to boot off of the flash device any more; you'll be able to boot the copy of Ubuntu that you installed onto the hard disk.
One option for downloading Ubuntu could be completed without using any other computer. Just power your netbook on, which will boot into the initial setup of the pre-installed Windows XP. Then register your machine on the Gustavus network, and use Windows to download Ubuntu and write it onto the SD card that I stuck into the netbook box.
A second option for downloading Ubuntu could be completed without using the pre-installed Windows XP. You could use some other network-connected computer (running almost any system, such as Mac OS X, Linux, or Windows) to download Ubuntu and write it to a flash memory device. The only problem is that many computers don't have slots for SD cards. So, you either need to select a computer that does have the SD slot, or you will have to provide your own USB flash memory stick.
If you are using a Windows system to write Ubuntu onto a flash device, the instructions say to remove the flash device once it is written. I'm pretty sure you should use the "safely remove" command within Windows rather than just yanking the device.
Once you have Ubuntu written onto a flash memory device, you will need to take some pains to get the netbook to boot off of it. The netbook has a "Boot Booster" feature that makes it boot rapidly into Windows; your first step will need to be turning that feature off:
Power the netbook on and press F2 to enter the BIOS setup; this may take a couple tries. Disable Boot Booster, save the settings, and power off.
Insert the flash memory device you want to boot off of.
Power on while holding the ESC key. This should bring up a boot device menu that allows you to select the flash device.
When you are repartitioning the hard disk, you can decide whether you want to keep a spare partition around, depending on how you want to experiment with file system performance later in the course. In experimental work, there is always a tradeoff between how tightly controlled (well understood and repeatable) the experimental conditions are versus how realistic. If you want to perform tightly controlled file system experiments, you'll want to have a partition used just for the purpose, which you can completely reset before each experimental run. If you want to perform more realistic (but less controlled) experimentation, you might prefer to measure performance on the main partition that is in active use.
Installing Ubuntu is just the beginning. There is an update manager you can use to check for newer versions of software packages. (This is normally set to run daily, but I would also manually run it upon newly installing a system.) Also, you will find that many of the programs you want to run are not installed initially. In most cases, if you try running the program from the shell command line, you will get a helpful message telling you what you need to do to install it.
If, for some reason, you want to put your netbook back into mint condition with just Windows XP, I've got a USB flash drive version of the installation DVD that comes with the netbook.