What OS?

I have a Samsung N210 netbook. I use it to DJ MP3 files at events I help run. I’m not a professional DJ – I just set up playlists in iTunes (the netbook runs Windows 7 Starter by default) and then tinker about with them to keep people on the dancefloor. It’s a robust piece of kit – 1.5 pints of beer falling on the keyboard and being left out in the rain for 10 mins doesn’t seem to have dented its ability to keep on working. Something however is making it get creaky – I don’t know whether it is the massive bloatfest that is the latest version of iTunes or whether it is Windows 7 beginning its inevitable decline.

Just moving tracks up and down a playlist has been getting slower and more painful in recent months. Yesterday, in the middle of an event the RAM filled up, the CPU went nuts and a track stuttered for about 10 seconds. Not the end of the world, but a tad embarrassing.

So the time has come to move on and put a trustworthy, lightweight OS on the machine, running a lightweight audio player. Enter WattOS. I’ve been running this in USB sticks for a couple of releases now and I love how fast, simple and effective it is. So thinks I, let’s just slap it on the netbook in dual boot configuration (I paid for the damn Windows OS, I may as well keep it) .  So I fire up the live USB, install gparted to the live distro, raise an eyebrow at the default partitioning of the HDD, think nothing more of it and create a spangly new ext4 partition for WattOS. Ten minutes later I run the installer and pop off for a cuppa. I come back, and it says all is done. Jubbly! Restart and we get….. Windows?!

OK, so I messed up somewhere – no worries, just fire up the live CD, delete the partition, add in another one and repeat. This time stayed with it rather than going to get a cuppa. All seems fine, so let’s reboot.

grub rescue >

Ummm, not what I was after. Apparently there are no operating systems available. So I restart and press F4 to enter the Windows recovery process and I get the grub boot menu. It turns out that grub is on that partition. So I boot into Windows and after a bit of hunting on the internet I find out that the Samsung Hyperspace software causes a conflict with grub. So go to Uninstall program in the Control Panel and remove Hyperspace – never used it anyway. Then reboot into the live distro, set up the partitions which now look eminently more sensible, install, reboot and all works like a dream.

As for replacing iTunes, I have installed Exaile which has so many cool features. And there are all sorts of plugins available to extend it. The best thing is that it barely touches my RAM or CPU so I’m looking forward to DJing with it. It didn’t work straight out of the repositories – it kept coming up with some playability errors. But they were soon fixed by installing the gstreamer db, good, bad, ugly and ffmpeg libraries.

So all in all, a massive win for open source. Now where did I put that pint….. whoops, not again!


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