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.
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.