Monday, July 27, 2009

Fix File Manager problem after Asus update

Many people have complained about this problem that after applying the printer update from Asus, File Manager will close automatically when you right click a file or directory to view its properties.

I have also experienced this problem on the EeePC Linux I have installed to my desktop since I updated it from 701 4G to version 1.6. I have not paid much attention to it before but due to certain practical need, I need to get this fixed tonight.

After some checking, I have located the problem to be due to undefined symbol in /usr/lib/
XandrosFileManager: symbol lookup error: /usr/lib/ undefined symbol: _Z13SqueezeStringPKcj
Further tracking this down, this library is symbolically linked to the library /usr/lib/ and is part of the package xandros-libpropdlg which is further updated by "Asus Update" after I upgraded to version 1.6:
/home/user> dpkg -S /usr/lib/
xandros-libpropdlg: /usr/lib/
The installed version is found to be 4.0.492-1:
/home/user> dpkg -l xandros-libpropdlg
| Status=Not/Installed/Config-files/Unpacked/Failed-config/Half-installed
|/ Err?=(none)/Hold/Reinst-required/X=both-problems (Status,Err: uppercase=bad)
||/ Name Version Description
ii xandros-libpropdlg 4.0.492-1 Xandros PROPDLG Library
By force downgrading this package to version 4.0.398-2 with synaptic, I have managed to get this problem fixed.

Below are screenshots of how I do this in synaptic:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Upgrade my EeePC to Openoffice 3.1

From time to time, I will receive emails with *.docx attachment which is only supported by openoffice3 but not the openoffice 2.x that comes pre-installed in EeePC. So there is the need for me to upgrade to openoffice3.

Upgrading to openoffice.org3 requires an extra 381MB disk space because by nature of the union filesystem, files of the factory installed version are in the read-only partition sda1 and thus cannot be removed unless you have removed union filesystem or uninstall openoffice from the read-only partition as what I have previously done. Then you can save 264~299 MB depending on your model.

The following steps are gathered from the information in this wiki: Upgrading from 2.0 to 2.3.1 and from this and this threads by kgha in the EeeUser Forum.


1) Download the latest openoffice of your required localized version for "Linux DEB" platform from, save it to "My Home".

2) Extract the archive and navigate into the "DEB" folder of extracted folder tree. Then open a terminal:

Alternatively, you can press [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[T] to open a terminal and then change directory into the "DEB" folder:
cd OOO310_m11_native_packed-4_en-US.9399/
cd DEBS/
[NB. Please note that the 1st folder name will be different with different OOo and localized language version.]

3) Install the deb packages in the "DEB" folder according to this sequence:
sudo dpkg -i ooobasis*.deb
sudo dpkg -i openoffice*.deb

4) There will be some error messages that the packages are left unconfigured due to dependency problem:

I corrected this by:
sudo dpkg --configure -a
5) Also, if you have enabled Advanced desktop, you will also need to install the Debian menu package in the folder "desktop-integration" to have openoffice3 programs menu show up automatically in the KDE start menu:
cd desktop-integration/
sudo dpkg -i openoffice*.deb
This will also take care of "File Associations" in "File Manager".

6) Finally, if you are using the Easy Mode simple desktop, you will need to update the tabbed icons for the new OOo version program shortcuts by editing simpleui.rc:
sudo kwrite /opt/xandros/share/AsusLauncher/simpleui.rc
Please note that depending on your model, the old OOo program shortcuts (in /usr/share/applications/) may be:
And the new program shortcuts installed by openoffice3 are:
So what you'll need to do is to search for "ooo" in your simpleui.rc and replace it by the corresponding new program shortcut, e.g. search and replace "ooo-writer.desktop" by "openoffice.org3-writer.desktop".

Then, on reboot, you should be able to run openoffice3 from the usual Easy mode desktop icons in the "Work" tab and open *.docx files.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

9 Steps to Uninstall Programs from the Read-only Partition

(Cont'd from Uninstall Program from the Read-only Partition - 1st test)

Yesterday, I have completed the backup and restore scripts and run a 2nd test uninstalling programs from an again newly restored EeePC Linux 900. This time, after I installed some extra programs (for test purpose only to put something into sda2), I only uninstalled the factory installed packages from the read only partition (sda1) which are a total of 264 MB. And also since the original read-only partition sda1 is only 71% used, I ended up with much more free disk space than before (2 GB vs original 1.44 GB).

The actual partition layout before and after the changes are:
Disk /dev/sda: 4001 MB, 4001292288 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 486 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/sda1 1 300 2409718+ 83 Linux
/dev/sda2 301 484 1477980 83 Linux
/dev/sda3 485 485 8032+ c Win95 FAT32 (LBA)
/dev/sda4 486 486 8032+ ef EFI (FAT-12/16/32)
  Device Boot    Start       End    Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1 1 220 1767118+ 83 Linux
/dev/sda2 221 484 2120580 83 Linux
with the read-only partition sda1 shrunk from original 300 cylinders (2.37 GB) to 220 cylinders (1.72 GB), and the read-write partition sda2 enlarged from original 184 cylinders to 264 cylinders.

In this blog today, I won't go into much details of how this works. You can refer to my previous blog Uninstall Program from the Read-only Partition - 1st test or HOWTO: Uninstall Programs from the Read-only Partition for more explanation of the process. I will focus on the steps to implement this and how to work with the scripts.

9 Steps in 3 Phases

Most of the steps have been automated with my scripts. You can simply enter your choice from the task menu:
Select Menu for run tasks:

"0" = Installing read-write boot initramfs image
"1" = Backup USER partition /dev/sda2 to image
"2" = Defrag and shrink SYSTEM partition /dev/sda1 to minimum
"3" = Grow USER partition /dev/sda2 to fill up free disk space
"4" = Restore USER partition /dev/sda2 from image
"5" = Grow filesystem in USER partition /dev/sda2 to fill up partition

"8" = Backup SYSTEM partition /dev/sda1 to image (Optional)
"9" = Restore SYSTEM partition /dev/sda1 from image (Optional)

"b" = Reboot System
"e" = Run extra scripts
"q" = Quit to shell prompt

Please select operation to run and press [Enter]:
For example, to backup the SYSTEM partition sda1, type the key [8] and press [Enter].

Step A1 - Prepare an Asus EeePC System Recovery USB disk

This is simple. I won't go into details. You can refer to either:

Step A2 - Modify the System Recovery USB disk with my slim_eee scripts

Download my script package slim_eee-0.1.tgz, extract it (right click on it in File Manager and select "Extract All...") and save the files to the root folder of the System Recovery USB disk. [NB. Better do it in your EeePC instead of a Windows desktop]

Step B1 - Install the read-write boot initramfs image

I have built a read-write boot initramfs image initramfs-rw-eeepc.img and packed it together in the slim_eee-0.1.tgz package. This initramfs-rw-eeepc.img supports both unionfs (for 701 4G) and aufs (for 900 and later models).

You need to install this to the folder /boot of the read-only partition sda1. Normally, this has to be done in rescue mode, but now you can just boot up from slim_eee System Recovery USB disk and select [0] from the task menu.

To boot from USB, press [ESC] at startup and select your USB disk as 1st boot device at the BIOS screen similiar to this:

Step B2 - Boot into read-write union filesystem and Uninstall Programs

After you have installed initramfs-rw-eeepc.img, you can proceed to boot into the read-write union filesystem to uninstall programs. For this, you need to access the hidden grub boot menu (the infamous F9 function) at bootup.

There are more description to this in this wiki: F9_restore (explain), but what I use to do is to press [ESC], then just [Enter] at the BIOS "Select Boot Device" menu, immediately followed by [F9].

You will find a new entry "Boot Read-Write Union Filesystem" there, which is what you should select. Then you will be booted into the normal X windows desktop environment.

Everything will look the same except that sda1 is no longer read only (which can only be verified by entering the "mount" command in a terminal). Now when you uninstall programs that reside in sda1, the files will be deleted instead of the normal whited-out only but still sitting there eating up your precious disk space.

For this test, I have uninstalled openoffice with apt-get in a terminal as below:
/home/user> sudo apt-get remove --purge openoffice*
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
Note, selecting openoffice.org2-math for regex 'openoffice*'

The following packages will be REMOVED:
dictionaries-common* myspell-en-us*************** python-uno*
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 17 to remove and 10 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B of archives.
After unpacking 264MB disk space will be freed.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?
[NB. Please note that the behaviour of the read-write union filesystem is that if you upgrade a program with files originally residing in sda1, the old files will be deleted from sda1 and the new files will be written to sda2. This is effectively moving the files from the read-only sda1 to sda2. The same applies if you force re-install a factory installed program.

If you want to keep the F9 restore function, it is better not to upgrade packages that contain system libraries required for bootup, or otherwise you won't be able to boot up after your F9 restore.]

Step C1 - Backup the USER partition sda2

Now that we have uninstalled programs from the read-only partition sda1, to be able to make use this free disk space, we need to shrink down sda1 and enlarge sda2.

As currently resize2fs cannot resize a partition changing its beginning sector, we can only backup all files in sda2, do the changes, then restore the files. So the 1st step in Phase C is to backup the USER partition sda2 - Select [1] from the task menu.

You will be prompted to insert additional USB drives if you want, then choose the drive to save the image to. The saved image will be named "eeepc-sda2.img.gz". Do not change this as the restore script will be looking for this same name.

Beware of error messages. If you are not sure, better do it over again.

Step C2 - Defrag and Shrink the SYSTEM partition sda1

After backup is completed, you can proceed to defrag and shrink sda1 - select [2] from task menu. It will take long time (something around 15 - 20 minutes). There is no user interaction required.

Defrag is just by moving files from sda1 to sda2 and back. You will need at least 300 MB free disk space in sda2 for this, or else the script will ask if you want to delete all files in sda2. So make sure you perform step C1 before doing this.

After defrag is completed, the script will calculate required disk size and resize sda1 to minimum required size + 5%. This will normally result in 96-97% used in the final sda1, and new free disk space in between sda1 and sda2.

Step C3 - Grow USER partition sda2 to fill up free disk space

Now we grow sda2 to reclaim the free disk space - Select [3] at the task menu.

This is effectively by deleting the original sda2 partition with fdisk and re-create it out of all the available free disk space, then format and label it.

Step C4 - Restore USER partition sda2

By selecting [4] at the task menu, the restore script will look for the file "eeepc-sda2.img.gz" in the position where you have previously saved it. If not found, it will then search all mounted filesystem for this file.

Step C5 - Grow filesystem in USER partition sda2 to fill up new partition

This last step is required because the backup image of sda2 is of the size of the previous partition which is smaller. So even after you have restored from the image, the partition is not fully utilized by the filesystem. This can be easily corrected by resize2fs - Select [5] at the task menu.

In this example screenshot, the filesystem has been corrected from 369495 blocks to 530145 (4k) blocks, i.e. from 1.44 GB to about 2 GB.

Additional scripts (Optional)

1) I have also written the scripts to backup and restore the SYSTEM partition sda1 which are optional to this process. If you want to play safe, you can also backup the SYSTEM partition sda1. The scripts are actually just copied from the backup and restore scripts for sda2, but replacing every sda2 with sda1 and /mnt-user with /mnt-system.

2) There is also an extra script for adding a "rescue console" to the grub boot menu.

Concluding Remark

So, as easy as this, Linux EeePC users should be able to remove factory installed programs from the read-only partition sda1. And from now on, the union filesystem should no longer be a hindrance to add/remove softwares in the EeePC.

In this hack, the major breakthrough is the script to defrag and resize the partition sda1 which I have been working on for more than 1 month already since I started my Restore from USB to minimal EeePC Linux project and have so far done numerous test and proved working.

I have also looked into the possibility of moving packages from sda2 to sda1, i.e. to make changes permanent. With the read-write union filesystem, this should also be possible working in this way:
  1. Boot into read-write union filesystem and force re-install a program you have previously upgraded. [NB. You can skip this step if the newly installed program has nothing to do with files in the read-only partition.] This step is for to remove those .wh.xxxxx white-out files previously written to sda2 by the union filesystem to mark files in sda1 as "deleted".
  2. Then boot from the slim_eee System Recovery USB disk.
  3. Extract a list of files for packages to be moved with the "dpkg -L [package]" command.
  4. Copy all files listed (probably with tar) to an USB disk, delete the original in sda2.
  5. Then backup all files in sda2. [NB. Do not use dd as the partition sda2 may become smaller when you restore.]
  6. Check free disk space available in sda1, enlarge partition and resize filesystem if necessary.
  7. Now copy all files saved for the packages to sda1.
  8. Shrink sda1 to minimum.
  9. Recreate sda2, format it and restore all files from backup.
So far, I have been working only with factory installed softwares. With the different EeePC Linux Recovery iso(s) I have on-hand, I can simulate most situations. But coming to user installed or upgraded packages, there will be unlimited possibilities and I don't think I can work on this alone. So I am going to start this discussion in EeeUser Forum and invite others to join this project.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Uninstall Program from the Read-only Partition - 1st test

Yesterday, I have started my 1st (and successful) test run of uninstalling programs from the read-only partition of EeePC Linux as a continuation of my Restore from USB to minimal EeePC Linux approach.

I have done this test with a 900 iso restored from USB. For testing purpose, I upgraded a few programs with "Add/Remove Software" so as to create something in the USER partition (sda2). Then I proceeded to modify the script package from my Restore from USB to minimal EeePC Linux approach, breaking down the main script into scripts for installing the read-write initramfs image, defrag and shrink down sda1, and grow sda2 to fill up free space resulted, together with another script offering a task menu for the user to easily run the scripts:
Select Menu for run tasks:

"0" = Installing read-write boot initramfs image
"1" = Backup USER partition /dev/sda2 to image sda2.img.gz
"2" = Defrag and shrink SYSTEM partition /dev/sda1 to minimum
"3" = Grow USER partition /dev/sda2 to fill up free disk space
"4" = Restore USER partition /dev/sda2 from image sda2.img.gz
"5" = Grow filesystem in USER partition /dev/sda2 to fill up partition
"b" = Reboot System
"e" = Run extra scripts
"q" = Quit to shell prompt

Please select operation to run and press [Enter]:
I have not yet worked out the scripts [1] and [4] for backup and restore sda2. Originally I intended to use the tar and gzip command to backup all files, but was not successful because I couldn't figure out what options the tar command in busybox environment supports. So I ended up doing this semi-automatically with the backup and restore process done manually with the dd and gzip command.

Once again, except for "Part II: Uninstall programs under read-write union filesystem", all the other steps were done booting up from a custom Asus EeePC System Recovery USB disk which I have modified with support of e2fsprogs commands including e2fsck, e2label, mke2fs, resize2fs, tune2fs, and also additional commands like tar, gzip.

Part I: Install read-write boot initramfs image

I have written a simple script "" for easy installation of the read-write boot initramfs image initramfs-rw-eeepc.img into the read-only partition sda1 booting up from USB, just choose [0] at the task menu and press [Enter].

On reboot, I pressed [ESC] and then [Enter] at the 1st boot device selection menu, immediately followed by [F9] [NB. This offers a better chance to catch the 1 sec timing after the BIOS splash screen than pressing F9 repeatedly]. This led me to the hidden grub boot menu, where I selected the last entry: "Boot Read-Write Union Filesystem". to boot into a read-write union filesystem.

When the system got booted up, I verified this with the "mount" command. Here were mounted filesystems:
rootfs on / type rootfs (rw)
/dev/sda1 on / type ext2 (rw)
none on / type aufs (rw,xino=/.aufs.xino,br:/=rw:/=rw+nolwh)
proc on /proc type proc (rw)
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw)
devpts on /dev/pts type devpts (rw)
tmpfs on /dev/shm type tmpfs (rw)
tmpfs on /tmp type tmpfs (rw)
usbfs on /proc/bus/usb type usbfs (rw)
See / is mounted rw, and the union filesystem aufs is also rw for every branch.

Part II: Uninstall programs under read-write union filesystem

In this read-write union filesystem, the SYSTEM partition sda1 is not mounted read-only. So when you uninstall factory installed programs, instead of just whited-out (in sda2) as in default Xandros, it will be deleted from sda1. So if you have some factory installed programs you never use in your EeePC, you can uninstall them in this read-write union filesystem and reclaim some extra disk space.

In this test, I uninstalled all games, all educational programs, skype, pidgin which I seldom use. Once in a while, I will play a game, but it is easy enough to just re-install the particular game when I need it.

Be careful when you uninstall programs with either synaptic or apt-get, always carefully look at the "To be removed" list to make sure you do not accidentally remove some other important dependent packages.

I also upgraded firefox, and xlex. The behaviour of a read-write union filesystem is that if you upgraded a program, the old version files in sda1 will be deleted and the new version files will be installed to sda2. So effectively you are moving the package files from the read-only sda1 to the read-write sda2 if you upgrade a program. So you should not use this method to upgrade system libraries or you will lose the F9 restore function.

Eventually I will also work on moving packages from sda2 to sda1. This will probably involve booting up from USB and generating a list of files for the package to be moved with "dpkg -L [package]". Then according to this list, move the files from sda2 to sda1 (probably first into the USB disk because there may not be enough disk space in sda1). For the moment, let's stay with just removing factory installed programs.

After I was done uninstalling programs I don't need, I booted from USB again to reclaim the free disk space in sda1 then.

Part III: Shrink down the read-only partition and reclaim the free disk space

Step 1: Backup USER partition /dev/sda2 to image sda2.img.gz

As currently it is not possible to resize and move the beginning of a Linux partition, after we have shrunk down sda1, the only way to reclaim the free disk space is to delete partition sda2 and re-create it. So we need to backup files in sda2 first.

The ideal method is to use the tar and gzip command. The advantage of this over dd is speed, especially if you have a USER partition not so full. But since I can't get the busybox tar command working, I worked with the dd command this time.

The draw back of backing up with dd is that if you have a target partition smaller than the original, you may end up with errors restoring the image. However, if the target partition is bigger than the original, you can easily resize it to fit afterwards with the resize2fs command. So if we were to eventually work out a way to move packages from sda2 to sda1, we may come up with a situation where sda2 will become smaller. Then we would definitely need to backup with tar or other means instead of dd.

The dd Backup Process

Here are the commands and terminal output how I use
the dd command to backup the USER partition sda2. Before I dumped the drive image, I also mounted it and zeroed it so as to reduce the size of the gzipped image.
#mount /dev/sda2 /mnt-user
#cd /mnt-user
#dd if=/dev/zero bs=8M; rm
dd: No space left on device

#cd /
#umount /dev/sda2
umount: Couldn't umount /dev/sda2: Inappropriate ioctl for device
#umount -l /dev/sda2
umount: forced umount of /dev/sda2 failed!
#umount -l /mnt-user
#mount /dev/sda2 /mnt-user
#umount /mnt-user

#dd if=/dev/sda2 | /sbin/gzip > /xan/sda2.img.gz
2955960+0 records in
2955960+0 records out
Please note that I had difficulty to umount it, and has tried to force umount it with the lazy umount option. It was successful only when I specified the mounting point instead of the device name in the force umount command.

As I am saving sda2.img.gz to the USB Recovery Disk, you will need enough free disk space there. Since the USER partition sda2 is normally of size 1.3 GB, you will probably need an USB Recovery disk of size 2 GB to play safe. This also means you would probably need to delete the P701L.gz Linux system image from the USB Recovery Disk.

Step 2: Defrag and shrink the SYSTEM partition sda1 to a minimum

I already have this script "" done. It is basically part of the main script in my Restore from USB to minimal EeePC Linux approach, so it is well tested. So I just ran "" and select [2] from the task menu.
#sh /xan/
However, please note that the current script is defragmenting sda1 by moving files in groups of maximum 300 MB. So you need at least 300 MB disk space in sda2 to do this. If the script found less than 300 MB free disk space in sda2, it will ask if you want to delete all files in sda2 to make necessary space.

Step 3: Grow USER partition sda2 to fill up the free disk space

On completion of step 2, I have freed up something like 600 MBs. Actually part of this is the original 27% free disk space in the factory sda1. By selecting [3] in the task menu, the script "" was run which run the fdisk command to delete existing partition sda2 and re-create it, filling up
available free disk space. Then format and label it.

Step 4:
Restore USER partition /dev/sda2 from image sda2.img.gz

Again, I have not yet worked out the script for this. I just enter [q] to quit to the shell prompt and enter these commands manually:
#cd /
#/sbin/gzip -dc /xan/sda2.img.gz | dd of=/dev/sda2
2955960+0 records in
2955960+0 records out
#/sbin/e2fsck -fy /dev/sda2
USER: clean, 2611/185088 files, 63833/369495 blocks
#/sbin/resize2fs /dev/sda2
Step 5: Grow filesystem in sda2 to fill up partition

Now that sda2 has been restored from the image, its filesystem however is still of the same size as the previous partition, and is smaller than the enlarged partition. So we need to run resize2fs to enlarge it.

The script for this has already been done. Just run again and select [5].

Now that everything was done, I rebooted into normal union filesystem to check the result.

Package installation and removal record can be read from /var/log/dpkg.log (as root only). I verified that all the changes had been properly noted.
sudo kwrite /var/log/dpkg.log 
I also fired up synaptic and verified the packages I have removed were gone, and tried to re-installed a few packages.

The available disk space as reported by "Disk Utility" is now 1.7G. So this approach is all over successful. What remains for me to do is to complete the 2 missing backup and restore scripts, then run another test probably uninstalling openoffice (because I will probably upgrade to openoffice3 which has no deb available for Debian etch yet). Then I will pack the scripts and upload to my server.

(To be cont'd: 9 Steps to Uninstall Programs from the Read-only Partition)