Build process

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Free Geek Toronto: Build Process

Related: Build checklist File:Build-process.odt File:Build-process.pdf Checklist Draft File:Evaluation.odt

GeekBox specifications: Pentium 4-level computer, 1.7 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 40 Gb hard drive, at least one optical drive for reading and one optical drive for writing*, Ubuntu 11.04 operating system

  • DVDROM + CD writer or DVD writer and CDROM

May need to add a graphics card with 3D acceleration in order to fully support Ubuntu 11.04 Unity (see note under "Installing Ubuntu.")

If you need help, feel free to ask a build assistant or other volunteers.

Assembling the hardware

  1. Shake the computer case in different directions. Make sure there are no loose parts. If there are, open the computer case and fix the problems.
  2. Check for physical damage such as loose USB ports, dented pins, and broken connectors.
  3. Remove dust from the computer. If the computer is dusty, use the air compressor to blow the dust outside. Make sure you prevent the fan from over-spinning (use a stick, straw, or pen).
  4. Check the CMOS battery voltage. Make sure nothing is plugged in. Use the tester (VDC) to check the voltage of the battery. Acceptable level: 3.0 volts. Replace if necessary.
  5. Check the power supply. The power supply should be rated for at least 300W.
  6. Check memory for DDR or DDR2 RAM. Acceptable RAM has one notch instead of two. Make sure the system has 512MB of RAM. Add more if needed. If the system has extra RAM, downgrade it.
  7. Install the hard drive. Configure it as the primary or master drive on the primary controller using jumpers and cables. Look at the drive for specific instructions on how to set the jumpers. (CS stands for Cable Select, SL stands for Slave, and MA stands for Master). Attach it to the connector at the end of the cable. Plug in power, too.
  8. Add DVD/CD drives as needed. GeekBoxes have at least one CD drive and one DVD driver. One of those should be a writer and one of those should be a reader. DVD writers are in short supply, so GeekBoxes will typically have one CD writer and one DVD-ROM. To make it easier to install Ubuntu, use the jumper to configure the DVD drive as "master" (MA), then install the DVD-ROM drive using the connector at the end of the cable. Configure the CD drive as "slave" (SL) and install the CD drive using the connector in the middle of the cable. Plug power cords into both drives. Many BIOSes can only boot off drives configured as master, not slave, so configuring the DVD drive as the master makes it easy to use either DVDs or CDs to boot.
  9. Remove extra hardware not listed in GeekBox specifications.
  10. Install or upgrade any components (memory, etc.) as needed. You may need to search for RAM speeds, compatibility issues, or other details online, using any identifying numbers you can find on the components.
  11. Set up the BIOS. Plug in the power, monitor, and keyboard. Turn the computer on and press the BIOS key. Common keys: Delete, F2, F10, Insert, Escape, and so on.
    1. Write down computer specifications (CPU speed, RAM, hard drive, etc.).*
    2. Set the boot order to CD/DVD first and hard drive second. Remove all other devices from the boot order (ex. floppies, network boot).
    3. Enable USB support, if there is a BIOS setting for that.
  12. Replace the CPU paste. Turn the computer off and unplug everything. Remove the fan and heatsink carefully. Carefully scrape or wipe off the CPU paste using paper towels or a scraper. Replace with a thin layer of silver CPU paste. Put the components back on.

Installing Ubuntu

  1. Put the Ubuntu 11.04 installation disk in the drive. Connect power, a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse (preferably USB), and the network cable. Boot the computer off the disk.
  2. Install Ubuntu using the following options:*
    • Partitioning: Accept the defaults (install to entire drive, etc.)
    • Keyboard: US (this sets it to use a standard QWERTY keyboard)
    • Timezone: Type in toronto and select Toronto (Ontario, Canada) from the list.
    • Username: fgtuser
    • Password: password
    • Select Login automatically

The install may hang on the first reboot or display a video-related error message if the graphics hardware does not support Unity. Wait up to five minutes for the hard drive to finish all writes, then reboot. If your system does not support Unity, you will see a message about the graphics hardware and the system will change to Ubuntu Classic.


To simplify configuration, switch from Ubuntu to Ubuntu Classic. Log out, type in your user information, and select Ubuntu Classic from the choices along the bottom of the screen.

Test the system's capabilities:

  1. Check that all USB ports work. You can use a USB mouse to verify the ports.
  2. Check that sound works (headphone port as well as speakers).
  3. Do any other tests you find useful.

Configuring Ubuntu

When your system boots, install all updates (System > Administration > Update Manager).

While the updates are installing, continue with the following steps:

  1. Change the screensaver settings. Click on System > Preferences > Screensaver.
    • Change the default from 5 minutes to two hours.
    • Uncheck Activate screen saver when computer is idle.
    • Uncheck Lock screen when screensaver is active.
    • Click on Power Management. Set Put display to sleep when inactive for to Never.
    • Click on Make Default.
  2. Change the desktop background. Click on System > Preferences > Appearance. Click on Background. Choose the Berries background (the fourth image).
  3. Configure Firefox
    1. Change the Firefox homepage to
    2. Right-click on the Home icon and uncheck Tabs on Top. Then click on Customize and drag History to the right of the Home.

Install additional software by clicking on Applications > Ubuntu Software Centre.

  1. Enable restricted extras. Click on Edit > Software Sources. Make sure the following items are checked:
    • Canonical-supported Open Source software (main)
    • Community-maintained Open Source software (universe)
    • Proprietary drivers for devices (restricted)
    • Software restricted by copyright or legal issues (multiverse)
  2. Install Ubuntu restricted extras. Note: Choose the Ubuntu restricted extras package, not Xubuntu restricted extras or Kubuntu restricted extras.
  3. Install the gufw firewall configuration tool.
  4. If the graphics card did not support Unity and you have not upgraded the graphics card, install Unity 2D. After installing, log out, then type in your username and password. Choose Unity 2D from the select menu.