Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mandriva InstantOn

Mandriva InstantOn is a variant of their main distro based on their commercial product named "Mini". InstantOn is a boot-in-20-seconds minimalist Mandriva 2010.0-based distro aimed at providing a few applications (web browser, email, Skype, instant messaging, video and pictures) with a simple interface (just a few icons to single-click on).

The InstantOn iso image is an install image which can be transferred to a flash drive or a CD, whichever you prefer to boot from.

It will install itself by default into a 1.8GB partition # 1 that it will create on your hard drive. You may choose to use custom partitioning or use the existing partitions.

To gain admin access in InstantOn, click on the Multimedia icon, then the Home icon. Navigate to /usr/bin and click on the xterm icon. "su" to root: the password is "mini".

To add software, use vi to edit /etc/mandriva-release to Mandriva Linux release 2010.0 (Official) for i586, then add the 2010.0 repositories with
# urpmi.addmedia --distrib --mirrorlist '$MIRRORLIST'

(You can add thePLF repositories with
# urpmi.addmedia --distrib --mirrorlist '$RELEASE.$ARCH.list')

Follow adding the repos with
# urpmi rpmdrake urpmi glibc

to update/install those files and the reboot your computer.

All the config files for InstantOn are in /usr/share/instanton. I suggest that you copy those files to /usr/share/instanton.pristine before you modify any of them.

The X server is kdrive, not the usual X, and the default resolution is 800x600. You can change that by adding the appropriate "vga=" entry to the GRUB command line, but GRUB wants the values in decimal, not hexadecimal. A value of 792 will set it to 1024x768; 788 sets it to 800x600; you can convert the hex values from the chart if you need to do so. There's not a lot of documentation on kdrive and this is older. The kdrive server does not use a config file and cannot use TrueType fonts although it may be possible to convert TrueType fonts and enable auto-hinting in libfreetype.

I also suggest adding acpi_os="Windows 2006" to the GRUB command line to fool your ACPI BIOS into thinking you are running Windows Vista if your hardware is that new. Otherwise, there's no need to add anything as Linux fools the ACPI BIOS into thinking it is WindowsXP by default.

The key to getting InstantOn "instantly on", besides using kdrive as a lightweight X server, is that it uses finit instead of the regular init. The version installed (0.6-8) in InstantOn is from cooker; no man pages or docs are provided in order to save space. It appears to originally come from Eeepc and the gdium Project and is related to G-Linux, a Mandriva distro optimized for MIPS processors. The finit config file is found at /etc/finit.conf, which is mostly made up of mknod commands because finit does not use udev to create the /dev/ devices. It also sets the hostname and username for the system to "mini" and "user", respectively.

It would be nice to have access to the Mini build environment to be able to build customized versions of InstantOn for family and friends. At a minimum, access to the configuration documentation would be so we could do it by hand.

Much of the community development on InstantOn is being done in the French-language Mandriva forums. It re-hashes the information that is here, but there continues to be active discussion on the Mandriva Forums.

UPDATE: 2011-December
I must say that after experimenting with InstantOn and being underwhelmed, I installed the regular Mandriva 2010.1, eliminated any log writing and use /dev/tmpfs for /tmp and for Firefox's cache to reduce writing to the flash drive. It works wonderfully; no reason to return to InstantOn. But I'm a "power user"; InstantOn would be a good choice for somebody who is not interested in relentlessly tweaking their computer.

UPDATE: 2015
Sadly, Mandriva is bankrupt and gone and InstantOn, while a clever product, never caught on and had no real support.

1 comment:

Stan L Uptagrafft said...

Thanks for the tips. I installed InstantOn yesterday and it's just what I was looking for with one exception: I'd like a bit newer version of Firefox. You've provided an upgrade path I'm looking forward to trying. Thanks.