Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hacking the Aspire One

Well it had to happen, I mean come on you didn't think I'd go without opening the case for long did you?

Last weekend I ordered a Samsung HS081HA 1.8" hard drive on Ebay. The SSD was nice but it seemed like every other reboot of the machine would cause problems with my SDHC mounted /home directory so I decided to put a hard drive in there instead. Besides, with an 80GB hard drive I'd have room to acheive my other goal of tripple booting OSes on the machine. Yesterday afternoon the mailman delivered the harddrive and so I started the work.

First things first was to get the netbook open. Easy enough following the hard drive video from Tnkgrl. I had a little difficulty inserting the stock ZIF cable into the drive. It just seemed too thick for the connector on the drive. I took some 600 grit sand paper and carefully thinned the blue tab of the drive cable until it fit properly. Before assembling the whole thing I powered on the computer to verify the drive in the BIOS.  It wasn't found, so I powered off and flipped the cable over. The second time it was recognized in the BIOS but there was an ! in the second character of the drive's serial number. I later discovered the cable wasn't properly aligned and prevented the drive from working correctly. Simple reseating of the cable solved the problem. While I had the case apart I also upgraded the ram to 1.5GB thanks to a stick of ram my sister gave me after her Sony laptop met an untimely end (Thanks Paula). I didn't do the blue tooth hack or the wifi swap out at this time.

So with the case back together and an 80GB hard drive just waiting to be loaded, I started with the Windows recovery discs that came with my Acer. I figured this would be the simplest way to get Windows loaded and it allowed me to use the Windows key that came with it. These Windows CDs only come with the SSD equipped units, and like the Linux recovery discs they want to take over the entire hard drive. That was fine by me because I could just use Gparted to resize the partition once the install was done.

Using a Gparted iso and unetboot, I created a USB drive to take care of my repartitioning. First I resized the partition from the full 74G down to 17GB. Then I created the 40GB Linux and 18G Mac partitions. I opted not to use a swap partition because of the added ram. The whole process took about an hour and a half. Afterwards I installed Fedora 10 from the Live iso. This time I opted to install the full version of Fedora instead of the XFCE spin as I use some applications that aren't quite friendly with the XFCE menu system.

After Fedora was installed and working I checked to make sure booting between Windows and Linux worked. It did, so I proceeded with the 3rd OS installation, Mac OS X. I found a guide showing how to install using the Kalaway 10.5.2 iso and then applying several updates. The key to his guide was that he installed Ubuntu first and used grub to act as the boot loader, that seemed to fit with my plans. But before trying the older iso image I opted for the newer XxX 10.5.6 rev 1 torrent I found. Obviously the "customize" section of the installation didn't match so I tried my best to match the choices. Once started, the installer indicated it would be over 2 hours before it was done. Since it was after 10pm I decided to get a couple hours of sleep while the computer worked.

This morning when I woke up and checked on the install it was stuck in a viscous loop. Now I've found out the loop was likely caused by the "cpus=1" tag you need to pass when booting the vanilla kernel, but since I didn't know that at the time. I pulled out my Kalaway 10.5.2 CD and started following the guide. This time, it took 3 hours for the initial installation to complete.  By noon I had a semi-working Macbook nano, by 3pm I didn't have a keyboard or mouse working except with USB externals. Searching for help on the keyboard I found another guide on AspireOneUser  where the author mentiond a PS2 kext included with his "Utility Pack". This sounded promising and indeed it was. Once I installed his Kexts my keyboard and mouse started working again. By the time I completed the Venera7 guide it was just after 5pm. I had a working 10.5.5 Mac OS X running on my little Acer. But why stop there? I mean the latest version is 10.5.6 so I had to try it. Following recommendations from another blog post, I updated the PC EFI boot loader. When I tried to follow the link to get the DSDT patcher I found a stumbling block. It seemed was down due to a DNS issue. So a little googling turned up a gui version. I wasn't able to get it to compile without using the force option. However, rebooting after the compile showed no errors so I tried the 10.5.6 update from the Software Update menu option...

So while waiting for the 10.5.6 update to download and install I decided to pull the Broadcom wifi card in my HP. In the mean time I could use the Atheros card from the Acer in it and when the one I ordered off ebay (earlier today) arrives I can swap them out. It's just too easy to open the case of the AA1 once you know how.

After what seemed like an eternity and two automatic reboots the system came up on it's own. Sound didn't work and the display settings were back to 800x600 but the upgrade worked. "About this Mac" reports version 10.5.6. A reinstall of some kexts and then a permission repair (can't be too careful) resolved the issues with a few reboots. Basically I just had to follow the Venera7 instructions for what you do after the 10.5.5 update. The only thing left to do in the Mac OS other than install some apps was to get the Broadcom wifi card installed.

So I shutdown the computer for one more round of disassembly. Five minutes later I'm booting things back up but there's no airport listed. What's worse, my HP won't even boot with the Atheros card installed. Just after the initial BIOS post screen I get an error saying the wireless card is wrong and to remove it. Since it doesn't like the Atheros, and my hackintosh doesn't like the broadcom card out of the HP I think I'll just put them back for now. I'll have the card from ebay in a week or so and until then I can work it using the LAN port and my USB cellular modem (if I can get that to work).

Well, I still need to configure my Linux and Windows OSes to be useful. Both need updates applied and Linux needs my web browser and email settings applied. Plus things like unison to sync my documents and vpn connections. I'll just kick off a yum update before I call it quits tonight. This little netbook has become my favorite device when I'm away from the comfort of my desktop with it's three 24" monitors. It's reasonable speed, fantastic battery life and lightness just makes it the handiest computer to take with me. Whether I'm on my bike or in the Jeep. It's just the most packable computer I've had in a long time. Too bad Acer couldn't come up with a little better solution for the power cube and cord.

BTW: It wasn't a completely selfish Saturday for me. I did find time to fix my wife's AA1 so that she shares her Documents between the Windows and Linux (Linpus) partions. Thankgoodness I created that 4th partition as FAT32. Then it was just a matter of pointing all the folders to it on both sides. Now she can view her work documents from either OS. She's happy.

1 comment:

James said...

I found this post after a failed Aspire One 10.5.2 to 10.5.6 update! May I ask if, in hindsight, you think the XxX 10.5.6 install should have worked?