Reconstructor: When You Lose Your Restore CD

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I have an original Asus EeePC 701 4G. I've talked about it and written about it before. I tend to like a full operating system on the Eee, and have had several different Linux distributions installed on it. I'm constantly looking for the best mix of form and function. It turns out, however, that my kids really like the original Xandros based operating system that comes with the EeePC. Unfortunately, I lost my original restore DVD that came with the computer. Since it's Linux, you wouldn't think that would be a problem. Unfortunately, it is.

I'm sure Asus has their reasons for not allowing a download of the restore ISO. Perhaps they are under some legal obligation to keep it off the digital shelves. Sadly, I think they've lost one of the more powerful aspects of incorporating a free operating system on their computers. Why not provide an ISO image of the OS installer for download? As it stands now, I can't put Xandros back onto my EeePC. Thankfully, there are alternatives.

One interesting option is to create a custom Ubuntu based distribution. Reconstructor, a project on SourceForge, allows you to start with Ubuntu, and then create a customized operating system that you can install, or even redistribute if you like. (Assuming you don't customize it by adding software that is illegal to redistribute. For those, you'd want to make a script to install them post-install anyway. I suspect if Asus did something like that, they would be able to redistribute their restore CD.)

Some of the things you can customize with reconstructor are:

  • Change the boot image
  • Create a custom Gnome splash screen
  • Change the default desktop background
  • Customize icons on the desktop (like adding a script to install things that can't be redistributed)
  • Enter a chroot environment, to change system settings for the installed base
  • Customized installed packages

Those are some powerful changes, albeit for the most part they're rather superficial. Reconstructor goes even further, however, and gives you a powerful module mechanism so that other users can contribute pre-scripted code to make customization even easier. As of this writing, there are 134 modules available that others have contributed. Some simply add a package to the default install, and others make significant changes to the underlying installable OS.

So if you're like me, and tend to install operating systems all the time, you might want to consider creating a pre-configured Ubuntu distribution. You can customize it to reflect the way you use a computer, and always have a restore CD available. Even if you lose the one that comes with your laptop, like I did.

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Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

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A Couple of Thoughts

waparmley's picture

A couple of thoughts to go along with this --

I recently discovered PING (Partimage is not Ghost) thanks to a posting on the Aspire One user forums and have gone crazy with it creating drive images of every computer in the house. It has already saved me from having to rebuild the customized version of Linpus that I am running on my Aspire One (had a BAD crash while fooling with Compiz). Yesterday PING saved me again when I messed up trying to get MythTV running on Hardy Heron (subsequently found the fix for that and have MythTV running just fine). Once you get a distro installed and configured to your liking, running PING (or something similar) seems like a good idea.

Several of the folks with the Aspire One have tried out Ubuntu-eee with success, except that the mic is not supported. I decided to revert to customized Linpus because of the mic issue, but I keep a liveUSB drive version of Ununtu-eee with my little netbook so I can run it if I want. Ubutnu-eee might be a good choice for your EeePC. (I used UNetbootin to create the liveUSB drive, by the way.)

Pertinent links:

http://ping.windowsdream.com/ping.html

http://ubuntu-eee.com/

http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/

See ya around Twitter....

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