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David A's eeepc experience

The eeepc (a.k.a. eee pc, by Asus) is one of the 'Netbook' family of computers and is a welcome addition to the laptop scene. As of 2014 and the newer '*Pad' devices the old netbooks look primitive. But these historical notes might be of interest to a few people.

Asus 701

My first eee was the 701. It had Xandros (Linux) as the OS and we took it to London for a week. Misleadingly, it has a phone-wire-port which is not connected, so the tiny modem I unwisely bought was useless and unnecessary. Wifi sufficed, though in hotel rooms wifi tended to be weak, so wired access was much easier to use.

The machine will reset itself entirely with a multi-finger key-press (reinstalling the OS on the SSD disk), and that saved me when I made a bad mistake attempting to configure things: rather than attempt to fix a file which I had failed to backup first, I just reset the original install with the magic key press!

I never really got very comfortable with the 7 inch screen or the tiny keys, but it all worked pretty well. Skype was great, we made many skype-out calls from our hotel in London's Docklands to US and London numbers and spent 12 cents or so of skype-credit (total) doing so!

Asus 1002ha

The 10 inch screen of the 1002ha appealed greatly. As did the sleek appearance and the 160GB disk. And the 'almost full size' keyboard. So I ordered one from Amazon.

Verifying it basically worked (came with Windows XP), I began searching for the right Linux release to use. (Windows comes with a reinstall CD, but note one has to separately buy a USB CD reader to use it with). First I tried easy-peasy-1.0 (based on Ubuntu). I was not very happy with its look (or its name!). Next I tried eeebuntu-2.0 (based on Ubuntu 8.10). Now that was (to me) much better. I've been using ubuntu 8.04 on a big heavy laptop for some time, so this was familiar.

The machine speakers seemed...weak. And after fooling around for a week they no longer seemed to work at all. I called Amazon support and they shipped out a replacement immediately. With free UPS return of the bad one using the box and packing materials of the replacement. Very good customer service.

Issues, nearly all finally solved:

First, one needs to create a boot usb flash drive with the linux release of your choice. So having a Ubuntu machine at hand already is a big convenience (also doable with Windows). One needs a unetbootin application. And one needs gparted (or equivalent) to modify the flags and partitioning of the flash drive. (You will want syslinux and p7zip-full installed as well, it seems). Both are readily available for Ubuntu. Things did not go so well, the first 'boot' flash drive would not boot, it got 'invalid or corrupt kernel image' errors. I don't know why later attempts to build a boot drive on a usb flash drive worked better, but they did.

Second, one needs to get the 1002ha to boot from flash. Something called 'fast boot' is turned on in the 1002ha BIOS by default. That means the normal 'press and hold down ESC immediately after pressing the power button' does no good: one boots into Windows every time. Instead, do that with F2 (or maybe F6 or F10). Once you get into the BIOS that way, find the page with the fast boot option and turn it to 'disabled'. After that using ESC at power-on will get you to where you can boot off a flash easily. Curiously, once Ubuntu was installed that menu item on the Boot page of the BIOS screens about a 'fast boot' seems to have vanished. How odd.

The 'touch the touchpad and it thinks you did left-mouse-click' makes me crazy. The xorg.conf for 8.04 on the big laptop is very different from 8.10. Add the following lines to /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Section "InputDevice"
   Identifier   "Configured Mouse"
   Driver      "synaptics"
   Option      "SHMConfig" "true"

Section "ServerLayout"
   Identifier   "Default Layout"
   Screen      "Default Screen"
   InputDevice   "Configured Mouse"

Then add the following line to /etc/modprobe.d/options:

# following to give control of touchpad
options psmouse elantech=1

Now reboot. The touchpad now is configurable with the system menus so you can turn off touch-is-click.

I must say the compiz fusion 'dock' is pretty lame. To first use it you have to 'accept' it (why?) and it only lives at the bottom of the screen. On Mac one can place it on any side. The Mac version is soooo much better. But now I have turned off 'tap touchpad is mouse click' I can live with the 'dock' silliness.

The Wifi works very well. The built-in speaker and microphone work fine (there is no 'microphone boost' option in the menus AFAICT, though). Plugging in a separate microphone and headphone works.

skype is working as of Feb 24, 2009. I installed the one for Ubuntu from skype.com (for ubuntu 8.04!) and, once I set the skype sound input/output to HDA Intel (hw:intel,0) Then I signed on to Skype and set my status to online. Skype works using built-in speaker/microphone (an opportunity to annoy everyone nearby!) and with a headphone and microphone plugged in the jacks on the side. Took me longer than I would have hoped to find the right web help (it is right in http://www.eeebuntu.org/release.html ), but in the end it is working!

Feb 24: I added

 deb http://repos.eeebuntu.org intrepid main non-free contrib 

to /etc/apt/sources.list as suggested in an eeeuser forum.

You will also want eee-control to work, but at this time it is borked and it cannot communicate to its daemon. As of January/February 2009 there are notes on the web by relevant developers indicating they goofed. I installed eeecontrol but so far that is a bust because of the bugs.

I had sort of noticed the "DESKTOP DIRECTORY IS MISSING" issue (not serious) as noted on the release.html mentioned above, but with everything important now working I took time to follow the link on release.html and followed those instructions to add stuff to my home directory and update ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs. Fixing this problem. Very nice release notes! Thanks!