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Eeebuntu NBR on my EeePC

March 2nd, 2009

justlogo_390The out-of-the-box Xandros Linux that comes on the EeePC just seem too much like a toy. I was very familiar with Ubuntu so I decided to install an Ubuntu derivative on my EeePC 901. The top choices were the Eeebuntu or the easy peasy distributions. I liked the eeebuntu forums a lot so I decided to go with the Eeebuntu NBR (Netbook Remix) distribution.

I’ll attempt to describe all that I had to do to get it installed and go into some of the customizations or additions I’ve made and why.

Installing Eeebuntu was not very difficult but I did have a few challenges and even did a re-install to change the default partitioning to use both SSD drives.

The first problem I came across was that I could not boot from the USB stick I created using another Ubuntu box I had which is running 8.10. I changed the settings in the BIOS to boot from the USB stick first, but it still wasn’t booting. I read online that if you press ESC during the initial splash screen that you can choose the boot device, which is true. However, even when I did that and selected the USB stick it still wouldn’t boot from the USB stick.

I had an old PC that I was cannibalizing for parts and I had a USB to IDE adapter (which has come in handy before), so I took the old DVD player out of my old PC and used that to install Eeebuntu NBR (2.0).

During the install, the GUI in which you make all your selections in is larger than the screen so the Back and OK buttons can not be reached. That was  easy to overcome, but is nevertheless a minor annoyance.

My first install was just accepting the defaults and went very smooth. The machine came up clean and I poked around for a while. The main issue I had with the default install and using the “Guided” partition setup is that it installed  the entire system on the larger of the two SSD drives on the system (the 901 Linux version comes with two SSD drives, a 4GB and a 16GB). It didn’t even format or mount the second SSD. I decided that I would reinstall the system and put everything but the /home directory (and swap) on the 4GB drive. I also called my local PC store and they said that a 2GB upgrade for my EeePC was only $34.99 so I ran out and picked up the memory.

The memory install was a snap and not even worth going into.

For the second install I put the / mount point on the entire 4GB disk, created a 15GB primary partition for the /home directory and left the remainder of the second SSD drive for swap in a logical partition (I think it was just under 1GB).

The first problem I came across was during the system update, I was getting a message that some of the repositories had an unknown public key and therefore were not being updated. I think this was an oversight of the Eeebuntu repository so I did some searching and determined that I had to add the key for that repository:

sudo gpg --armor --export <INSERT KEY HERE> | sudo apt-key add -

After this, all updates completed successfully.

I have to say that I really like NBR launcher. It’s slick and easy to customize. It works very well with the EeePC form factor. I like the Eeebuntu distro much more than the OOB Xandros distribution, but there are some tweaks that have to be added if you want to use some of the hardware features.

The next step was to install the eee-control tool set and set it to load on restart. The eee-control tools allow you to assign actions to the silver hotkeys, turn on and off hardware (wifi, bluetooth, webcam, SD card reader), and control the system performance mode (which is a requirement, in my mind, to take advantage of the Atom processor and get decent battery life). To add the eee-control system tray icon add an entry to the Session in the Control Center.

Once I was satisified with my install I installed the following applications:

  1. Gnome Do
  2. Skype
  3. Songbird
  4. Gnome games
  5. Tomboy

I removed:

  1. Banshee
  2. Gnome PPP and other PPP utilities
  3. gtkpod and other iPod utilities

Overall, the installation process was not unexpectedly difficult based upon prior experience with Linux (I started with Slackware and kernel 0.82 in 1993) and Ubuntu. It’s still not Windoze but I doesn’t come with all the problems that you get with Windoze.

My biggest gripe at this point is the trackpad issue. The trackpad is super sensitive and it’s very easy to inadvertantly touch it with your thumb when typeing (even more so with this form factor as the keyboard is tiny and one thumb has to be tucked under the other while typing). I tried several options that I found on the eeebuntu forums including uninstalling eee-control and installing eee-acpi-utilities, enabeling the kernel module for the elantech touchpad, and any combination of the above. I still haven’t found a solution to that issue, but I did revert back to eee-control and set one of the hotkeys to disable the touchpad. It’s a solution, but I would prefer to have  the option of disabling the touchpad while typing which is an option with the Xandros distro and workes with some of the other EeePCs that have a different trackpad.

I’ll continue to see if I can find a solution for the touchpad issue and post as soon as I do. If anyone has a solution for the 901 using Eeebuntu or easy peasy please let me know.

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