Ubuntu Hardy on the EeePC 901

My IBM T42 notebook — which I have loved and which has served me well — is unfortunately on its last legs. So in preparation for a trip overseas which will require a reliable laptop, I bought a black EeePC 901 netbook.

Wow! It is awesome. The battery lasted 5 hours today at a conference I took it to. The keyboard is great (although getting used to the shift key being right next to the up key is a little annoying). It cost $580 at Orange IT in the city (Sydney). Unfortunately in Australia they don’t have the Linux version (which also has a 20GB hard disk instead of 12GB on the Windows version) so I installed Ubuntu Hardy when I got home.

eeepc screenshot with ubuntu

Jeff and I ran into a few little glitches. Here are some tips.

Firstly to get it installed. There is no CD-ROM so you can either create a bootable USB key or netboot the Ubuntu live CD image. We went with the latter as we have a fast network and server. :-) We had to add the EeePC ethernet driver to the PXE image. We basically did this by first unpacking the default initrd.gz cpio image, adding in the atl1e.ko driver file and then cpio-ing the initrd.gz making the driver available for the PXE boot. This excellent blog post by Joseph Monk gives the instructions for getting and making the kernel driver (as well as how to install from USB key).

The webcam, sound and screen res all worked without any tweaking. Install cheese for extra fun! But the wireless did not work!

Even after trying the driver from the Ralink website, it would associate with networks but seemingly not connect, and at any rate Network Manager wouldn’t work with the wireless card using that driver. So we ended up having to use ndiswrapper (install ndisgtk — it has all the right dependencies and is easy to use) with the RT2860 Windows driver from the Ralink site.

After downloading the Windows driver, you need to unpack the file to get access to the inf file. cabextract and unzip on Linux didn’t work, which often work with self-extracting cab/zip installers, so Jeff had to install it on a Windows virtual machine to get these files. Once this is done and ndisgtk is installed you have to start ndisgtk and install the Windows driver by pointing to the inf file.

Lastly and importantly we installed the Ubuntu Netbook Remix user interface which looks totally awesome on the EeePC and makes the best use of the available screen space. Also the 901 uses an Intel Atom processor, it is fast and uses relatively little power. It feels fast and I’m really loving it :)

Reference: a big thank you to Joseph Monk for this post which got us on the right track.

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14 Responses to Ubuntu Hardy on the EeePC 901

  1. It might interest you to know that you can purchase extended warranty support from Lenovo for old Thinkpads. For mine (T41p) I was quoted about $200. So a viable option may be to wait until something important wears out and then pay $200 for that and anything else which breaks within a year to be fixed.

    I plan to try this next time something wears out. $200 is much less than any new laptop that I would want to use.

  2. Alfred says:

    How is the netbook remix going for you?
    And did you do ext2 or ext3?

  3. greebo says:

    Thanks Russell for that, Alfred the netbook remix is great.

    There are a few bugs, so when the laptop resumes from sleep you can’t click around the main interface, but generally it is really nice, and to be honest kind of preferable to the normal menu system. I’ll be posting again in a month or so with more feedback but at this early stage I’m loving it.

  4. I just bought myself a 701. I couldn’t find a Linux 901 in stock and also was a little hesitant about the weight and space that it takes.

    The downsides for my use of the 701 are the smaller keyboard (which sucks badly) and the lack of PAE (so I can’t run Xen). Apart from that it’s great.

    I would not describe the menu as being good for anyone like me, but I think it would be good for novices and young children.

  5. jdub says:

    @Alfred: ext3 with noatime. :-)

  6. Alfred says:

    Thanks,
    I just set it up today for someone in an office.
    But did not use ths.
    I guess I can do it next week?
    defaults,noatime <–in the fstab
    No extra tune2fs command?

  7. jdub says:

    @Alfred: hardy uses relatime by default, so just replace that with noatime. i switched it to noatime because that’s probably slightly better for flash, but it’s not crucial. the only tune2fs changes i regularly make are: tune2fs -i 0 -c 0… which turns off regular fscking. :-)

  8. Alfred says:

    Thanks…
    I will take care of it next week.
    I am looking forward to hearing more about Ubuntu Netbook Remix cause we are trying to offer an Ubuntu desktop to Non-profits in the area.
    We are doing okay right now and w/ this new interface I wonder if it is worth moving people into it.
    If 3 people in the office use it and the rest use regular ubuntu then it is not worth it.
    It will be neat to hear the reviews.

  9. René says:

    Did you check http://www.ubuntu-eee.com/index.php5?title=EeePC_901 ?
    It seems to have the lan fixed!

  10. greebo says:

    @René: Thanks for that! Awesome writeup!

  11. and it was going okay but quite often when she walks away from it and come back sometimes in 5 minutes sometimes a day it is blank and frozen.
    No image on the screen.
    The two front lights are on but you need to hard reset it (hold power button down 8 seconds).
    I am going to do a reinstall and this time add a swap. Unless it is a power saving issue, not sure yet.

  12. phill says:

    I just received my 901 with linux, available by special order only (In Australia), It took close to 2 months to get it from Asus. I am a little disapointed with the linux asus has put on it, and would love to run ubuntu on it.

  13. cougarten says:

    Easy Peasy (http://www.geteasypeasy.com/) works out of the box and you can uninstall the netbookremix if you don’t like it.

    But one serious problem I have is the space: I used my 12gb ssd to install Ubuntu on it, but it keeps getting bigger with every install and I think many packages weren’t uninstalled either (tested some programs).
    Any Idea how to keep my linux smaller? Or any Idea to Install apps to an external drive (for programs I don’t use that frequently or only when I have all the stuff from my exernal drive aswell).

  14. greebo says:

    @cougarten, my Ubuntu install wasn’t too big, my biggest problem was my 4GB mail archive :) I’d suggest if you need space you could buy one of those micro HDDs. They aren’t cheap, but you get loads of space and it’d be better than a flaky SD card or USB key.

    Otherwise my only suggestion would be you should look at what you’ve installed and remove what you don’t need.

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