Ubuntu Netbook Remix on Asus eeepc / eee pc

Following my previous post on restoring the default xandros install to the eeepc, it didn’t take me long to move to (and ultimately settle on) Ubuntu. Its not perfect but a hell of a lot better than stock Xandros.

I had a play with the stock ASUS install for a while, but it was less than exciting. What finally killed it for me was the broken Xandros wireless networking. To get WPA you need to do an update (via the wired connection) and after the update it still didn’t work for me. I finally learned that due to some scripting errors by the eee pc xandros developers WPA still breaks if there are certain characters in the password. Rather than do the script editing dance to fix a distro I was already feeling lackluster about I decided to move on to Ubuntu.

Installation of Ubuntu is a total breeze and everything you need plus instructions is over here : http://www.ubuntu-eee.com/. I won’t go over it here but to summarize:

  1. Grab the .ISO (less than 700MB, I used the torrent)
  2. Get the unetbootin netboot install utility (sourceforge)
  3. Blast the .ISO onto your 1GB usb drive
  4. Fire up your eeepc, do the usual ESC to choose boot device, and you’re away.

Up until the install I wasn’t aware of the existence of the ubuntu netbook interface remix: its essentially a touchscreen friendly netbook menu/window manager and very cool. Its the first real argument I’ve seen that might sway me towards installing a third party aftermarket touchscreen.

There are a couple of things that needed changing from the stock install, most importantly the broken SD Card mount function. Fortunately this is dead easy to fix (and it is maybe already sorted in the latest release even as I type this).

Run an update

Before doing any tinkering, its worth allowing ubuntu to run a package update via the synaptic package manager / built in updater / cmd line “apt-get update, apt get upgrade”. This is dead easy: do it first =)

Fixing the SD Card mount

This is a minor annoyance, possibly already fixed if there is a new release out, but very easy to fix.

  1. Fire up a terminal window (under accessories)
  2. sudo gedit /etc/fstab
  3. Comment out (put a hash at the start of) the last line which refers to the cdrom.
  4. Save and exit.

This is a minor oversight by the distribution chefs and takes about five minutes to fix. After doing that the SD card mount works seamlessly.

Getting your Divx/Xvid going

The next thing you’ll probably want to do is install media codecs so you can play your divx/xvids files on the go. This is as simple as firing off the media player while you have an active net connection and telling it to download the codecs from the apt repository (just search for ‘xvid’).

Another package I needed which didn’t come preinstalled was the VPN client. Standard ubuntu procedure applies here, as in the following packages should be installed:

  • pptp-client
  • gnome-network-manager

After that a command line network manager restart command purports to give you the VPN options in your network menu, but I needed to reboot before mine appeared. After all this was installed, my netbook connected ot the WPA network and through again to the PPTP VPN no worries.

Currently Unresolved Resolved Issue 1: hibernation is busted.

I won’t go into detail, but even after installing the hibernate package and going in with a gparted usb boot to match the swap partition size to my installed RAM size (512mb), hibernation is still broken. I don’t get the “Insufficient SWAP” type error messages now and it appears to be hibernating, but powering it back on results in a fresh boot rather than a restore from hibernation.

For the time being I’m resorting to leaving it in suspend and making sure I keep it charged if its not being used for a few days.

UPDATE: following the instructions for file-based hibernation in this excellent article at ubuntu-eee.com has things working perfectly.

Currently Unresolved Resolved Issue 2: Webcam is busted

Firing up the built-in ‘cheese’ app doesn’t give me any webcam goodness, only static. This is probably some default setting gone awry in a config file: once again I havent done much (any) research on this so it might be a simple fix. I haven’t tried Skype with it yet either.

UPDATE: Somehow the webcam had become disabled in the BIOS between the Xandros install and the Ubuntu install. Re-enabling it fixed all. Doh.

Currently Unresolved Issue 3: Some windows don’t fit the screen

This can be gotten around to an extent by the hold-down-alt-when-clicking trick, but what I really want is a VGA utility like the one included in the stock distro which allows a bigger virtual screen size. There might be something out there, but I haven’t give it a proper look yet.

I’ll post an update if I manage to resolve any of these items (before going on holiday in a few weeks =) )


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