Pedro Rodrigues

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Yak shaving for a BIOS

The shortcomings of technology in the new millenium are astonishing.

While trying to update a bogus BIOS on a computer I bought a couple years back I was sent into a yak shaving trip that resembles that of a shaman looking the right set of herbs for a voodoo session that will heal the wounded.

The objective was to update the BIOS of an ACER Aspire One 110. These models came with a faulty BIOS that does not recognize the battery and will not allow it to charge, rendering the netbook a very small desktop computer has it needs to be connected to a power source to work.

The machine I bought came preloaded with some flavor of Linux that I got rid off many moons ago and ACER only provides BIOS updates that can be loaded from a Windows environment, thus not supporting users after the sale is made. So the first step on my yak shaving trip was to get Windows to run on this machine. That meant getting some flavor of Windows into an USB drive.

Windows on a USB is not an easy task, specially if you do not have any Windows machine and for me it was actually impossible. I tried everything from dd to unetbootin and some more. Has it stands one cannot get an USB drive to boot an ISO 9660 image of Windows using OS X.

I had to load VirtualBox with XP, install FlashBoot and load the USB drive with XP because Windows 7 would not fit.

With the USB drive ready I had to convince my Aspire One to take this evil medice, it would not be an easy task. First FlashBoot gives you a two step install process, you start with a free version of fdisk and then proceed with the install. On my first run of the installation the setup was complaining about drive size, Google told me I had to downgrade the system from FAT32 to either FAT16 or NTFS. What is this, the XIX century? Ok, start fdisk without FAT32 support and create a primary partition.

Second time with setup and it complains about not having a "place for a swap file". And I'm thinking is this really worth? Thankfully my first attempt at solving this was actually the solution, entered fdisk once again and created another extended partition besides the primary partition.

After that Windows XP is copied to the extended partition and once the machine reboots you are presented with the actual installation of XP. Of course this was not without it's bumps, but I won't put it on Windows XP for this copy came from devious origins. A few files skipped and reboot.

Updating the BIOS itself did not come without it's own hops and the network along with other devices were unavailable under XP. USB drive to transfer the required files did the work and thankfully the ACER provided programs to update the BIOS did work on the first run.

Now I can go reinstall Linux again.

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