Ubuntu on an RM One…

One of the problems with changing schools is that all the kit you’re used to having around (and knowing how it works!) stays when you go.

I, for example, am used to having a scanner attached to my work machine – and using it for all sorts of handy jobs, in particular scanning storyboards and other design work for my GCSE students. This is a Very Handy Thing to be able to just do.

But in my new school I (probably) won’t have that. Not to start with anyway.

At the same time, my old school had a bunch of old scanners still lurking around the place that won’t work with Windows 7, the standard network stuff. And there are a bunch of old, slow RM One machines that won’t really like the newer school network and are generally a bit out of date.

So – I wondered – can I solve my problem by using some out of date kit and, deep breath, installing Linux and then convincing it that it wanted to recognise the scanner? Well…

The Kit

This was all second hand, about to be thrown out, old kit bought before 2010 I imagine.

The RM One

RM Ones are machines with a screen built in. The ones we were throwing out were old single core processors with 1024 pixel wide screen resolution. Not the sort of thing that most of our up to date software would enjoy and generally a bit wheezy when running XP.

An armoured screen and compact footprint, however, make them ideal for sticking on a side bit of bench or desk and using when required. No CD or DVD drives, no floppy drive but plenty of pen drives. No WiFi. Nothing flashy, just a box with a built in screen.

The Scanner

An old Canon CanoScan N670U. No Win 7+ support at all (although I notice it would run on my Mac). I can’t even remember which room it used to live in, but it was in the pile of Stuff To Throw Away.

The Ubuntuisation

I started trying this at work but failed, despite creating a nice little bootable USB disk. Nothing occurred and it hung up after finding the USB and realising Linux was on the pen drive. And time got utterly chaotic at work and there just wasn’t time.

So, the machine went home and, on the first day of the holidays, I set about starting to solve the problem.

Firstly I downloaded an ISO of Ubuntu from the Ubuntu website. I went for a 32 bit install of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, the most recent build of Ubuntu as far as I can tell. It’s called Trusty Tahr.

Then I swapped to my Windows machine and downloaded a copy of the Linux Live USB Creator. This appears to be needed to turn the pen drive and the ISO file into a form that is bootable from a machine restart. I followed the instructions and got the pen drive set up.

Then I tried it – inserted the pen drive, started the machine and… The same error: No default or UI configuration found. Darn.

Google…RM One

The Solution

It seems that the pen drive I was using needed to be formatted to FAT 16 (or just FAT) standards. It was a 4 Gig drive and was using FAT 32.

So, reformat the drive in Windows, rerun the USB Creator, create the drive and…

It works!

The Installation

I just followed the standard installation process. Nothing got tweaked, just simple click to continue at each stage. Updating wasn’t ever going to be possible as the machine will likely never be connected to the internets. There didn’t appear to be a need to do anything odd or fancy. It liked the screen and set itself up perfectly well.

The Scanner (again)

So, machine working. I plugged the scanner in and – nothing happened. Tried pressing buttons on the scanner. Nothing.

Went to applications, opened the built in scanning software called Simple Scan. It opened. There was a Scan button. I pressed it. It scanned. Perfectly well.

The End Bit

So, it seems I’ve managed to convert an old, cranky and slow RM One into an offline scanning machine I can use in my new school. Other than having the pen drives formatted using the wrong baseline there really wasn’t a problem. I might need to download a few more piece of software for the box but, other than that, it looks like it’ll work.

So – think twice before throwing that old RM One out – or those old scanners. They can enjoy a new life – and one that only takes an hour or so of tinkering to achieve.