Raspbian on Intel


Back in 2007 I got an Asus Eee PC, one of the fist netbooks, which were tiny laptops that (typically) ran Linux. It served me well for quite a while and I eventually turned it into the controller for my RepRap.

After I had it for a year or so my wife’s old laptop died and we were looking for a (cheap) replacement, and by that time you could get netbooks that ran Windows. Granted, it was Windows XP, but hey, it was over a decade ago. She used it for a few years until I got her a (used/cheap) MacBook Air and her old Eee PC 901 sat in my office doing nothing.

In the most recent cleaning fit I found it and was about to drop a lightweight Linux onto it (probably
Lubuntu or Xubuntu, which I’ve used in the past) but then I remembered there was a Raspbian Pixel distro for Intel machines (aka “Mac and Windows” computers) so I burned a disk, booted it up, and it was like the old days of install Linux on dodgy hardware! Manual disk partitioning, errors, multiple tries, but in the end, it worked!

So I’ve now got a laptop running Raspbian Linux. And since it’s old hardware it probably runs at a speed close to a modern-day Raspberry Pi, but has a built-in screen, keyboard, trackpad, speakers, etc. It’s like a portable Pi. (Sort of.) The one tricky thing is that when installing software you need to grab the Intel version, not the ARM version… but other than that, it’s like a Pi without the GPIO stuff. I can see it being useful for developing and testing things in a Pi-like environment with Raspbian. Maybe I’ll use it for something.


Linux Data Rescue

Rescue Me!

Sometimes it’s hard to believe my adventures with Linux go back nearly 15 years. For the first few years I kept a notebook titled The Road to Linux, which, looking back now, I find mildly entertaining.

I have a history of cobbling together old hardware into working Linux machines, and it wasn’t until 2007 when I actually bought a working Linux laptop. The Eee PC was a tough little machine, and after I got a MacBook Pro I didn’t use it much, until last year when I made it control my RepRap. It’s worked well for that. (The external monitor at home helped quite a bit too.)

I’ve been running a Linux server at home for a long time, and a few years back a friend offered me a broken PowerBook, so I managed to get Ubuntu on it and made than my low-powered Linux home server. It’s worked well, and really had no issues… until I decided to go crazy and run a system update on it. I know, and you know, that backups are important, and you know, and I know, we all still fail to do them properly sometimes.

Well, the system update failed, leaving the system unbootable. And yeah, I had two things on it that I sort of needed. Urgh. Time for some data rescue! I’ve got lots of experience doing data rescue with Macs, but not as much with Linux. Still, it was fairly easy.

Since this was my “home server” and not anything for work, I was probably a bit lax on properly administering it. (I won’t be in the future.) Most of my boxes with databases have cron jobs to dump them to disk every now and then. This one didn’t, and that’s where the fun begins.

I ended up opening the PowerBook and pulling out the drive (thank goodness I’ve got a full set of Torx drivers) and connecting it to the Universal Drive Adapter to turn it into an external USB drive. But what could I connect it too?

As luck would have it, a few months back a relative gave me an old Dell laptop to “wipe clean” and dispose of. I of course dropped Linux onto it. I ended up using Xubuntu, which works well on a 10 year old laptop. Seriously, I do love the ability for Linux to turn old, old, old hardware into something useful.

I plugged the Universal Drive Adapter into the Dell running Xubuntu and copied all the files I needed from the drive. Done. Mostly… except for that one database.

The database rescue took a few more steps. Luckily, I had installed MariaDB onto the laptop. I’ve always used MySQL but in a “what the hell” moment, I decided on MariaDB, which is “an enhanced, drop-in replacement for MySQL.” Indeed it was.

I ended up running a few familiar MySQL commands, first to create an empty database, then to add a user with the proper permissions, and then it was just a matter of copying the correct files from /var/lib/mysql into place from the old drive to the new drive, and bam! My data was all in MySQL, well, in MariaDB.

Just to confirm all was good, I dropped the proper files in /var/www and poked at Apache enough to get my app running and test the database connection. All good.

So now that I’ve got all the data I needed from the PoweBook’s drive, I should probably wipe it and re-install Linux on it. Again. ;)


RepRap Report #2

End Stop

Somehow I can’t believe it’s been four months since my last RepRap update! I’ve got a lot to report…

In July I took the RepRaster 5000 to 3D Printing Camp in Madison, and that didn’t work out too well. The first problem was that I couldn’t get the bed up to temperature (and yeah, I print with ABS.) I didn’t notice the ceiling fan directly above me. I moved. I also managed to knock the Z end stop out of place, which made the extruder crash into the bed. No real damage from it, but I decided I needed a new end stop solution. The new one is way more solid. No easy way to bump it out of alignment.

I also took the RepRap to the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup. Once again something went goofy, but I did get it working fairly quickly after the first fail. (Just a few weeks ago I took the RepRap to BarCampMilwaukee7 and had no issues at all. Success!)


At some point I got sick of all those damn wires coming from the ATX power supply, so in the process of making them shorter, I hosed something up good and ended up with a power supply that supplied no power. I finally got a smaller (and more powerful!) power supply. I’m not 100% happy about the mains not being totally covered up, so I should make a case for it at some point. It works very well though… much better than the ATX supply did.


My great spool experiment was a bit of a failure. I mean, at least I don’t use soup cans, and while I still think my idea was good (or at least looked good) trying to wind a coil of filament onto a spool is damn near impossible. Just ask my daughter, who had to hold back from laughing when the power drill kept slapping me in the head with filament. I’ll probably move to one of those adjustable filament holders you can easily get a coil onto. At home I end up just hanging the filament from the ceiling, so that works fine.

QU-BD Extruder

I ended up getting an extruder from the QU-BD Kickstarter campaign, and I haven’t bothered to assemble it yet. My original plan was to donate it to the DIY 3D printer we were going to build at Milwaukee Makerspace. Since we ended up getting a Replicator, we didn’t build a printer. It’s a 1.75mm extruder, and since I use 3mm now, I may end up switching to 1.75mm in the future, so it could come in handy.


My best RepRap hack was getting my MacBook out of the picture and making good use of my old Eee PC 701. This was the first netbook ever released, way back in 2007. I’ve struggled with how to make it do something useful, and now it does. I’ve connected an old LCD display I got for free to it, and it sits on the shelf near my workbench. It does one thing… control the RepRap. It’s plenty powerful for that. I do all my modeling and slicing on my MacBook, so the Eee PC just runs Pronterface. And for traveling I can just bring the Eee PC and it doesn’t take up much room.

Mr. Pumpkintatohead

Hey look, it’s Mr. Pumpkintatohead! Nothing amazing, but I’m getting better at using OpenSCAD. I managed to design all the parts (minus the knobs) for my Laser Kaleidoscope in OpenSCAD (no, they are not parametric, but hopefully I’ll get better as time goes by.) I also managed to complete a home repair thanks to OpenSCAD and the RepRap. Hooray!

I’ve still got some challenges. Now that it’s getting colder out, and I’m printing bigger objects, I’ve got some warping issues. As winter comes, this may be my biggest problem. Besides that, things have been working really well. One thing I’ve found is that I’m not happy with my z height. It’s just 75mm, and I’d like to see a bit more. Oh, I also switched from Sprinter to Marlin, so I may be able to get a few more millimeters of height by just updating the firmware. (I was a little conservative at first.) I can probably gain a few more millimeters with a new piece of plywood under the bed. There’s always something to tweak with a RepRap…

I think the biggest change from June to October is that I am now confident enough that I can hit ‘print’ and leave the basement and I’ll come back to a successful print. I used to just stare at the bed as the skirt went down, and that first layer went down… in part because I was fascinated, but also in part because I always assumed something would go wrong. Things tend to go right almost every time now… it’s almost like having 3D printer at home is a normal everyday thing. :)

(You can see some photos of my prints over on Flickr. I’m way behind in taking photos of my prints, but there’s a few interesting ones in there.)


Time Lapse from Eee PC

I find myself on a quest to do some time lapse video… and this one was done with the built-in camera on the Eee PC running Ubuntu (Netbook Remix) and the application UCView.

There seems to be a bug in UCView that prevents it from creating more than 150 still images. I’ll need to dig into that a bit more… It can also create video files, but I prefer stills. With the stills I typically use mencoder to combine them into a video file.

The Eee PC is a nice small solution for time lapse photography. It’s one device, and does everything. Quality? Well, not that great… and bugs? Hopefully I can get more than 150 images in the future…

This will be the first post of many exploring time lapse photography/video. It can be difficult. Just ask this guy.


One Year with the Asus Eee PC

It’s been a full year since I got an Asus Eee PC, so I thought I would review…

We can start with my first impressions of the Eee PC.

Throughout the year the little computer has served me well. It’s almost always in my backpack and ready to use. Being just 2 pounds is a definite plus for something you always carry around. Lightweight is definitely a top feature. As for battery life, well… I really expected better. With wifi on, I typically see under 3 hours, which isn’t great, but again, small computer = small battery, so I can live with that. The power adapter isn’t too big, so I always carry that around as well. The battery does seem to drain more than it should in sleep mode, so I typically turn if off when not in use.

Asus Eee PC

Connecting via wifi was only an issue at my own house where I had a weird setup (which I’ve since fixed) and anywhere else it worked fine. One annoying issue is disconnecting an external monitor/projector. The Eee PC thinks it’s still there and you can’t see the parts of the screen you want to because it assumes some higher rez display is there, it’s annoying, and worse case, requires a reboot to fix. (I’m used to the way the Mac dynamically deals with monitors being connected/disconnected and does the right thing.)

As I wanted a unit that “just worked” (as much as a Linux computer can) I stuck with the default Xandros OS on it. I contemplated trying Ubuntu a few times, but things like “recompile the kernel for wifi to work” or other such warnings turned me off. Besides, for the way I use the thing, I didn’t think I’d see much benefit from a different OS.

So after one year how am I liking the Eee PC? There have been a few small issues, but none I couldn’t deal with. For the price, it was worth if. Of course today you can get a much better little PC for even less money. It served me well through Web414 meetings, and BarCamps, and anywhere else I needed a computer on the go. (Unless I needed Mac-specific applications, in which case, it was totally useless.) The screen is small. I’m glad to see that 1024 pixels wide is what the newer machines are using, as 800 pixels just doesn’t cut it. All in all, I’ve been pleased with the Asus Eee PC. (I’ll be following up with another post specifically about how I hosed it all up.)