Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Pre-built Joggler Images

It seems everyone buying a Joggler is doing so for their own good reasons with thoughts about how to hack the device to their needs. I include myself in this too, why else write these blog posts? The majority of people aren't so interested in the hacking side of things as simply getting the device to do what they want and that's where using a pre-built, already hacked, operating system image can come in very handy indeed.

The Images
Easily the two most popular images are Ubuntu based although there are Joggler communities for Android, Mer and Meego, all of which are Linux based platforms. I've only tried the first of these but can lend my recommendation to either of

As I said, both are Ubuntu based with the key difference being the first image uses the Ubuntu Netbook Remix (a.k.a UNR, Ubuntu Netbook Edition and UNE) while the second one uses "normal" Ubuntu.  You'd perhaps expect them to be in fierce competition with each other but in good open source spirit quite the opposite is true. Both are produced by nice guys who help each other (and the rest of the community out) by sharing what they do.

There's no sense in me reproducing how to download and use either of these images.  Both come with pretty bullet-proof instructions on what to do.  I would, however, heartily recommend you produce the images from a Linux system having recently helped a friend struggling with downloading the images successfully and finding the right tools to do the job under Windows.

Fair's Fair
From my own investigations and messing around with putting Fedora on the Joggler I can certainly vouch for the amount of time and effort these guys have put into producing such good quality, usable hacks.  So, if you do more than just evaluate these for your own use i.e. you really are using your Joggler with either of these images then do give serious consideration to spending a few quid giving something back to the guys as they ask through a small donation.  I have no idea how much they might stand to make through donation and other revenue such as the Google ads, but it's probably not a huge amount and is definitely well earned.

If you try the images out and there's something you don't like, fine, you don't have to stick with that particular quirk.  There's never going to be a one-size fits all approach so if you don't like, for example, the on screen keyboard, the user interface or something else then feel free to change it.  It's your system once you've downloaded and booted it after all.  There are a lot of, dare I say, complaints on the forums about things not being quite right.  If it's something major then let the guy know who produced the image, it will probably get fixed in their next version.  Also, there's a huge wealth of help and support out there in various places so try looking for someone who's already "been there, done that".

Subject to some of the Joggler Hardware Gotchas it is possible to use these images on devices much bigger and faster than a 4GB USB stick.  I've tried with an 8GB stick and USB hard disks from 80GB through 320GB and even one disk of 1TB.  Simply follow the instructions for either image to write to your larger device as if it were a 4GB stick.  Then use a tool such as gparted (again I recommend Linux simply because it's easy and the tools are readily available) to resize the second partition to be as big as you like.  If you move to a hard disk (rather than USB stick) then you can undo some of the modifications made in the images for efficiency and to try and protect your stick:
  • Change the file system back to ext3 from ext2
  • Add a swap file or swap partition
You can change the file system type from ext2 to ext3 either before or after changing the size of the partition.  Simply boot the image on your Joggler and run the command "tune2fs -j /dev/sda2" then edit the file /etc/fstab to change bit that says ext2 to say ext3, save that file and you're all done.  The reason for making this change is your files will be a little safer in the event of unplanned events such as sudden loss of power.  This was quite rightly turned off for the USB stick images because more data is written to the device and since USB sticks are only capable of being written to a relatively small number of times the trade-off between stick reliability and file system reliability has to be made.

Adding a swap file (if you don't know what this is then have a go at understanding paging)is probably easier in many ways than adding a swap partition and with a recent version of Linux such as the ones used in these images doesn't lead to any loss of performance as might have been expected in older versions of Linux.  Feel free to add a swap partition in gparted though, don't forget to add a line to /etc/fstab to tell Ubuntu to use this partition as swap.  To add a 1GB swap file simple run the command "dd if=/dev/zero of=/swap bs=1M count=1024; swapon /swap" then add a line to /etc/fstab so next time you reboot Ubuntu will use this file for swap space.

You can find a lot more of my information about the Joggler at my Joggler Index post. I also have a list of Joggler Bookmarks.


john said...

Excellent info on Joggler/Linux combination. Thankyou very much....

Graham could you please tell me; excacly what line I need to add in

/etc/fstab for swap partition.



Graham White said...

/etc/fstab consists of one or more lines that describe file systems to mount, each line has six fields.

First is the path or description of the device, second the path to mount it to, third is the file system type and fourth are the mount options. The fifth and sixth fields are used when (if) the file system has problems by the dump and fsck programs.

For swap you would do something like this:

/path/to/swap swap swap defaults 0 0