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Best way to switch a virus-riddled Eee running XP to Ubuntu?
November 23, 2008 3:29 PM   Subscribe

First-time Windows user. Brand new Asus Eee running Windows XP. Will installing Ubuntu get rid of these nasty viruses?

I've had my Asus Eee 904 for two days, and it's already besieged by spammy IE pop-ups and fake "You Must Protect Ur Computer" windows. I've barely touched the thing, except to install Firefox and a legit copy of Microsoft Office from my university.

Assuming I can battle the pop-ups long enough to download Ubuntu, will installing it rid me of these problems, or do I need to wipe the whole machine and start over?

If wiping it is the only option, is there any way to do this that doesn't involve using the recovery CD that came with the computer? The Eee doesn't have a CD drive, and I don't have an external one readily available.

Thanks in advance. I'm going to go cradle my trusty MacBook and weep for a bit.
posted by rebekah to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you sure they are "spammy IE pop-ups?" if you haven't done anything but download Firefox, it REALLY doesn't make sense that you could have gotten a virus or spyware.

"You Must Protect Ur Computer" sounds like something legit (if annoying) coming from either Windows or the bloatware anti-virus that a lot of Windows machines come preloaded with. You can probably clear everything up by installing AVG Free and uninstalling whatever McAfee/Norton trial crap they put on it. Unless you go to shady "warez" sites on a daily basis, the major anti-virus programs themselves are far more detrimental to your computer's performance than any virus you are likely to get. Most of them are just awful.

That said, if you do have a virus, or if you do just hate Windows that much, installing Linux will almost certainly fix everything.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:49 PM on November 23, 2008


Are you only seeing problems when you run Firefox? If so, it's probably web site popups, not a virus. Add the FF extensions AdBlock and NoScript.

You should be running some sort of virus checker; check to see that you are.

If you really want to go the linux route, return the machine and get a linux-based Eee; the linux based Eees have better hardware, as Asus was able to save the $100 Microsoft Windows costs.

If you insist on installing linux on your 904, you'll need a special Eee kernel; see the forums at eeeuser.com for more information.
posted by orthogonality at 3:52 PM on November 23, 2008


there's a special Ubuntu distro for eeePC users called eeebuntu. installing Ubuntu (or eeebuntu) will definitely remove any Windows viruses, because you won't have Windows or anything that came with your computer installed on it anymore. (remember, viruses are just programs. nasty and troublesome programs, sure, but still just programs.)

you're going to need a CD drive to install Ubuntu anyway, BTW. installing Ubuntu is akin to using your recovery CDs. unless you can figure out how to get your Mac to do the correct voodoo to make a USB flash drive into an install disk. (you might be able to get it to work by booting the Mac up with a Ubuntu disc and using the built-in tools to convert a flash drive you have into an install disk. there's instructions on the web for that. personally, i just gutted an external USB hard drive and hooked a CD-ROM drive up to it instead, and used that with my eeePC.)
posted by mrg at 4:06 PM on November 23, 2008


Oh, and if you go the linux route (either installing it yourself or getting an Eee that comes with linux), the fonts are going to disturb you. (Unless you're running MS Windows without ClearType tuning.)

This can be fixed by making KDE the window manager by installing "Advanced Desktop", and using the KDE control center to turn on anti-aliasing.

Firefox and other GTK apps will be "too big" for the small screen; this is because they use Gnome settings. You'll need to run Gnome Control Center and install the "Clear Looks Compact" theme. Running Gnome Control Center will make GTK apps use Gnome anti-aliasing, so you'll have to fix that too, which is a PITA -- until Gnome Control Center runs, the KDE anti-aliasing will be in effect for GTK apps, but afterward, Gnome's anti-aliasing settings will be. Each time you restart X Windows (or reboot), you'll have to run gnome-control-center to make the gnome setings take effect for GTK apps.

The other linux problem is that the Eee uses Xandros, and the Xandros repositories are old. You'll want to install additional repositories and you'll still have problems with incompatibilities. Again, eeeuser.com forums will sort you out.

Installing Ubuntu will take care of the latter problem, but again, you'll need the Eee specific kernel.
posted by orthogonality at 4:07 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm going to go cradle my trusty MacBook and weep for a bit

I take it you've not already been assimilated into the Redmond Borg, then. Well done.

Assuming I can battle the pop-ups long enough to download Ubuntu, will installing it rid me of these problems, or do I need to wipe the whole machine and start over?

You should be able to use your trusty Macbook to download the forked eee Ubuntu variant. When you install that on your eee, choose the "Guided - use entire disk" partitioning option, which will wipe out everything already there. Then you will have wiped the whole machine and started over, and you will be rid of all the customary Windows annoyances.

I expect you will find Ubuntu different from your Mac, but of at least equal sanity.
posted by flabdablet at 4:17 PM on November 23, 2008


That sounds more like the windows messenger service to me - it's likely not virus related.

How to turn it off.

NB - not related to Windows Live Messenger
posted by saintsguy at 4:28 PM on November 23, 2008


Ortho, what's your beef with Gnome anti-aliasing? On every LCD machine I've ever put Ubuntu on, I just turn on subpixel smoothing with slight hinting using Preferences->Appearance->Fonts, and the resulting font rendering is the best I've used on any system.
posted by flabdablet at 4:30 PM on November 23, 2008


and it's already besieged by spammy IE pop-ups and fake "You Must Protect Ur Computer" windows.

This may be a pop-under ad served by the sites you are visiting. Have you tried installing a free antivirus like AVG to verify if you even have a virus?

or do I need to wipe the whole machine and start over?

Ubuntu is not a program, its a whole OS. If it is running then windows is not running. How you decide to install it is up to you (wipe entire disk or keep windows partition).
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:44 PM on November 23, 2008


As others have said, if you switch to Ubuntu, that will remove all your Windows problems. If you'd prefer to keep Windows, and you're able to resolve your current virus problems, use a non-admin account, and that will protect you from the vast majority of Windows problems. But honestly, on an eee, unless there's some specific Windows software you want to run, Ubuntu is probably your best bet.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:41 PM on November 23, 2008


there's a special Ubuntu distro for eeePC users called eeebuntu. installing Ubuntu (or eeebuntu) will definitely remove any Windows viruses, because you won't have Windows or anything that came with your computer installed on it anymore. (remember, viruses are just programs. nasty and troublesome programs, sure, but still just programs.)

I'd highly recommend the eeebuntu version with the UME launcher (the Netbook remix version). I have a sylvania netbook with Netbook Remix and I've been beyond impressed by how perfect it is for an ultraportable computer.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:28 PM on November 23, 2008


But honestly, on an eee, unless there's some specific Windows software you want to run, Ubuntu is probably your best bet.

Even if there is, Wine works perfectly well under eeebuntu, and a lot of programs work perfectly well under Wine. For really old programs, DOSBox works well too.

Nthing the recommendation to do this. I switched from XP to Ubuntu after XP mysteriously forgot how to make the wireless network card work; it's worked fine ever since.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:51 PM on November 23, 2008


Thanks for the help, everyone. The pop-ups are definitely not regular pop-under ads -- they come up in IE, before I've opened any other programs, when I've never run IE. All of the warnings about viruses are misspelled and grammatically incorrect, so unless Windows is *really* as bad as I think it is, I'm pretty sure they're fake.

Thanks also for the clarification about what Ubuntu would do in terms of getting rid of everything else on the machine -- I'm going to cross my fingers and go with flabdablet's suggestion.
posted by rebekah at 9:02 PM on November 23, 2008


flabdablet writes "Ortho, what's your beef with Gnome anti-aliasing?"

No beef, your settings are what I use too (I think). The problem is that on the Eee, it's becessary to install gnone-control-center and then find the anti-aliasing settings which work -- and changing the settings hang or abend Firefox.

So what you initially see on Eee is horrible sketchy faded blocky fonts. And the default sans font is OK, except that italic "e"s descend too far. It's a small defect, but horribly jarring. Worse is that the gnome settings don't apply until gnome-control-center runs.

It's annoying.

Now I've been using an Eee running linux as my primary machine for several months and I'm mostly happy with it, but I don't want to minimize the rough spots. The out-of-the-box fonting is one of those rough spots.
posted by orthogonality at 12:12 AM on November 24, 2008


Ubuntu is not a Mac, nor is Ubuntu Windows. They are very different. Coming from a Windows world (with Mac more in the past) I was initially put off by a lot of things to be found in the Ubuntu distribution of Linux. However, my investment in time has paid off 100x.

I have found that there is nothing I cannot do in Linux that I can do in Windows except for gaming; for everything else Linux meets my needs and has opened many opportunities for me to do things I didn't think I could do (unless I spent double what I could on a Windows machine for a Mac).

As a web blogger I am currently building a Linux (Ubuntu - I tried Kubuntu but KDE drove me crazy) box to act as a file server and to run, hopefully, MySQL, MyPHP, and b2evolution/Wordpress so that I can play with things without ruining my production blog. It's frustrating, confusing, but very empowering.

I encourage you, (as I would any proprietary OS user who is not a hard-core gamer) to make the switch. In your case it will be more difficult without a CD-ROM drive, but not impossible. Most people have the option to play with a dual-boot (which is surprisingly easy) first.

If you need help, shoot me a mail. I have found ubuntuforums.org to be frustrating at times, as things tend to get lost there and not answered, while others are responded to by 4 different people within one minute, seemingly at random. I honestly am a newbie to Linux, but I have found that if you have just one or two people willing to coach you on various things, it makes the whole experience a lot easier.

Oh, and yes, your spyware problems will go away rather quickly when you install Linux. Have fun with it!
posted by Nixie Pixel at 1:18 AM on November 24, 2008


Ortho, when you speak of rough out-of-box fonting, are you talking about *buntu or the Xandros thing that ships with Linux eees?
posted by flabdablet at 2:56 AM on November 24, 2008


The Xandros thing. I haven't tried eeeUbuntu or the like, as I can't figure out how to install it on an SD card using only my eee, without a desktop.

I have added a kernel image that doesn't use aufs to grub, so I can boot with the read-only restore partition writable, and gone in to remove crap I didn't want (games) and add stuff I do want. (Open Office; the factory installed Star Office crashes if KDE instead of XFCE is used as the window manager under the xandros.)

(Incidentally, while the eee 901 is under-powered, I've been able to run a LAMP setup, or jetty to serve up java apps, and Eclipse runs decently, though I've used it more for C development than Java. MySQL runs decently if not speedily for tables up to about a 0.5 to 1.0 million rows; above that it begins to suck hard.)

Oh, if you are running Gnome or any GTK app (including Firefox) on an eee, get the Clearlooks Compact Theme. Standard Gnome widgets are way too big for the eee display size. In particular, without the compact theme, many dialog boxes simply won't fit on the screen. Since it's usually the "OK" and "Cancel" buttons that get clipped, this is annoying as hell. (Yes, alt-mouse drag will move the dialog around, but that's still a PITA.)
posted by orthogonality at 5:42 AM on November 24, 2008


As an Ubuntu contributor, I have to affirm wiping Windows ;)

As far as wiping / installing, I think the 904 has enough disk space that, should you so choose, you can resize the partitions to make room for both. I wouldn't recommend wubi, which installs Ubuntu inside a file in the Windows filesystem -- it causes general slowness. Given the hardware behind the eee, nuking Windows probably won't cause any hardships though.

Netbook Remix software, UME launcher in particular, is pretty sweet. I use it on my considerably larger tabletPC and it works amazingly well. With a bit more thought to file management I imagine it could replace nautilus as the desktop.
posted by pwnguin at 10:28 AM on November 24, 2008


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