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Asus Eee PC Linux Ubuntu

Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) Beta First Impressions

As far as I can tell, jackalopes aren’t even real animals. I still remember the first time I got a jackalope postcard over ten years ago. Well, the Ubuntu folks have decided to name the next Ubuntu Linux release Jaunty Jackalope. I’ve used every single Ubuntu release since its second one (Hoary Hedgehog). That would be 5.04, 5.10, 6.06, 6.10, 7.04, 7.10, 8.04, and 8.10. Eight releases. And I can honestly say that Ubuntu 9.04 is the smoothest, most polished release I have ever seen from Ubuntu.

I installed Ubuntu 9.04 beta (yes, it is beta, so it not guaranteed to be bug-free) on my Eee PC 701 (which, only a year after I’ve purchased it, already feels like a netbook dinosaur), and I have only one complaint (which I’ve filed a bug report on).

At first glance, it looks pretty much like any of the recent releases, but some nice little touches are in there:

  • Boot up time and general responsiveness are significantly increased, even with still the Ext3 filesystem (I don’t want to risk Ext4 at this point).
  • When the package manager is interrupted, you’re told to use the command sudo dpkg –configure -a to fix it (instead of the incorrect previously given command dpkg –configure -a
  • Hotkeys, sound, touchpad tapping, and wireless all work out of the box with the Eee PC. No tweaking or special kernels necessary.
  • Time zone selection during installation actually is by time zone and not by city.
  • More themes are included.

I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head, but it just feels good. I wanted to file as many bugs as I could before final release. I could find only one bug to file so far, though.

Good job, Ubuntu folks!

Categories
Apple and Mac OS X Asus Eee PC Computers Linux Ubuntu Windows

Should Linux users hush up about Microsoft?

Someone linked to Good Linux Users Don’t Talk About Microsoft on the Ubuntu Forums. I started to type up a reply, and then it got so long that I figured it was more of a blog entry than a forum post. Besides, who wants to hear about our broken toilet flush, anyway?

Okay, let’s see. So “good Linux” users can’t bash Microsoft, but “bad Linux users” can be bashed as morons? Okay. I don’t really see how that works.

I do agree that if Linux users want others to use Linux (and not all Linux users say they do) they should focus more on what Linux can do than on what Windows can’t do. It’s the same for anything in life, really. You have more respect for a political candidate who says “I’m going to do this, this, and that good things” instead of “My opponent has done this, this, and that bad things.”

But it’s only natural for people to compare two competing alternatives, especially if most of the users of one alternative used to use (or still use) the dominant product. If almost every Toyota owner used to own a Honda, then you bet you’d hear a lot of Honda-bashing from Toyota owners.

I see this a lot with Mac users, too. There are some very vocal anti-Microsoft and anti-Windows Linux users online, but in person all the Linux users I know are pretty level-headed about things (use what works for you, I prefer Linux), and the most vocal anti-Microsoft and anti-Windows sentiment I hear in real (in-person) life is from Mac users who were former Windows users.

It’s the same trick that the bully from elementary school used to use. You put others down to make yourself feel better. Well, if you’re not 100% sure you like your new choice, you may feel tempted to put down your former choice to reassure yourself you made the right new choice. It’s like when people start reminiscing about their exes and then a friend says “Oh, he was such a jerk anyway. You’re so much better without him.” He may, in fact, have been a jerk, but why do you need such assurance that you’re doing better now? It’s because there’s a little part of you that wonders whether you should still be with him. And for every Linux or Mac user who does spend the bulk of her energy putting down Windows, I often wonder if that’s where it’s coming from.

I kind of see both sides of it. On the one hand, there are many deplorable things Microsoft does, and there are many things I don’t like about Windows. It doesn’t make sense to ignore corporate bullying practices, vendor lock-in, or bad default security practices. On the other hand, focusing your energy solely on what “the competition” is doing wrong isn’t a good “sell” for your own “product.” You should spend most of your energy talking about what Linux is good for.

This goes to a larger sociological issue when it comes to operating systems. You see a lot of dumb back-and-forth arguments about “Which is better, Mac or [understood to be Windows] PC?” or “Is Linux ready for the desktop?” Well, obviously no one’s going to come to a unanimous conclusion, because there is none. No one operating system can be everybody’s preference or suit everyone’s needs. And no one operating system needs to.

My wife can love her Mac OS X and that doesn’t bother me. I can love my Ubuntu and not bother others with it. And our friends can use Windows to their heart’s content, and I won’t bother them. As a matter of fact, even though I prefer Ubuntu, I use Windows at work every day, and I divide my home time almost equally between my wife’s Macbook Pro (with Mac OS X) and my own Eee PC (with Ubuntu). So I’m familiar with all three operating systems and can appreciate their respective pros and cons.

If someone says “Do you think Linux is ready for the desktop?” I would probably respond “I don’t think there’s a definite answer to that. It’s better to tell me what your computer habits and budget are, and then I can tell you whether a Mac, a Windows PC, or a Linux PC is best for you.”

The key is really being able to talk intelligently about what works for whom instead of trying to pit operating systems in a battle out of which only one winner can emerge.

Categories
Apple and Mac OS X Asus Eee PC Computers Linux Ubuntu Windows

Would Apple’s netbook be the next iPod?

I remember back in 2003 when only a handful of early adopters in America were buying portable audio players. If I’m recalling correctly, some of the big players at the time were RCA and Creative, among others. Once 2004 rolled around and the 3rd-generation iPods came out, suddenly “everyone” I knew had an iPod. Soon, even armed with my Sandisk player, I had unknowing friends call my portable audio player an iPod. The iPod took over a growing trend and made itself a virtual monopoly in portable media devices.

In recent years, phones have been getting more internet-connected. Blackberries have been the standard for business travellers, but most everyday folks have had crappy no-name web browsers in their phones that can do only some very basic tasks. Suddenly, the iPhone came along, and now… well, not nearly “everyone” but it’s getting close to half of the people I know are getting iPhones or planning to get an iPhone when they can afford it. I had high hopes for the Google phone or the Blackberry Storm; however, all the reviews I’ve read of them have been mixed and make it sound as if the iPhone, despite its own flaws, cannot be beat for sex appeal to the masses.

Now we have these netbooks that are “popular” in the sense that early adopters are excited about them, but really very few people I know have netbooks let alone know of their existence. I bought an Eee PC 701, and I still love it but, like many netbook owners, know that the netbook has not reached its full potential. Some Linux users are optimistic, since most netbooks come with a Linux-preinstalled option, that netbooks could be the key to a Linux-for-home-user revolution of sorts. If that’s to happen, OEMs have to wake up and start making a netbook that is unreservedly the best. I’ve read literally hundreds of reviews of various netbooks, and with every review, there’s something seriously wrong. Some key is placed in the wrong place. The keyboard is too small. The sound is tinny. The processor is too slow. The battery life is too short. The Linux distribution it comes with is crippled.

Why is it so difficult? Really. If an OEM (Dell, HP, Acer, Asus, etc.) came out with a netbook that had these characteristics, I guarantee it’d blow the sales of the other netbooks out of the water:

  • 92%-sized keyboard with important keys in the right places
  • No weird side buttons for the touchpad
  • Nice aluminum casing, no cheap plastic
  • Sleeps when you close the lid, wakes when you open the lid
  • Ubuntu-based Linux that takes advantage of the full Ubuntu repositories
  • “Easy” interface that can easily (meaning a box that checked or unchecked, ticked or unticked) be changed to a more typical “advanced” interface
  • 2- or 3-second boot time
  • Definitely cheaper than the corresponding Windows option
  • Battery life of longer than 4 hours
  • Kernel supports 2 GB of RAM without user modification
  • Ships quickly, no extended delays

Why is that so hard to find? Why does Dell’s Mini come with some weird architecture that isn’t compatible with the regular x86 .deb packages? Why does HP’s Mini-Note use a Via processor? Why does any netbook run with a crippled version of Xandros or with Linpus Linux? Trust me, OEMs, for your own financial good, fix these problems quickly and come up with an all-around great product, not just a sufficiently-good-for-early-adopters product.

If the rumors I’m reading are true and Apple may enter the netbook market soon, this could be another iPod coup. I don’t agree with all the design decisions Apple makes. In fact, I actually am opposed to Apple’s whole approach to user interfaces. I cannot deny, however, that Apple thinks out its decisions and tries to create what they consider a good user experience. And they know how to make their products sexy. See, I don’t mind having an ugly MP3 player that also has a radio, has a really long battery life, and costs half the price of an iPod. But I’m not most people. Most people would much rather have a sleek iPod that costs more, has a cool scroll wheel, and works with iTunes.

I’d love to see Linux get some real success among home users, but if there’s not a Linux netbook that I can unreservedly recommend to friends and family before Apple comes out with one, I’m afraid Linux may miss the boat on this one. Or, even if Apple doesn’t come out with a netbook exactly, if the current line of netbooks stays flawed, netbooks themselves may die out, and the iPhone may take over yet another niche.

Categories
Asus Eee PC Linux Ubuntu

Ubuntu Eee 8.04.1 – I’m impressed!

If you’ve been following my blog at all the past year, you know I’ve been obsessed with finding the right Linux distro for my Eee PC. It came with an Asus-customized version of Xandros that works perfectly with the hardware but suffers in many ways on the software and user-interface side. I’ve since tried vanilla Ubuntu, eeeXubuntu, Mandriva, Debian, Puppeee, and various other distros that are supposed to be good for the Eee PC.

It’s been a tough search to find a good combination of usable and compatible. I just want something that will let me use all the hardware on the Eee and more or less let me use Ubuntu and its repositories. Why is that so difficult to find? Well, I think I may have found the holy grail of the Eee PC—Ubuntu Eee. Yes, I’d heard about it for a while now but never gave it a try, because I’d had a disappointing experience with eeeXubuntu. I’m very impressed with Ubuntu Eee, though, despite running into a few problems that were easily fixed.

Here were the problems I ran into:

  • The netbook remix it came with wouldn’t let me quit. I’d click the Quit button, and it’d look as if it were going to fire up the logout dialogue, but nothing would come up. And the way the netbook remix Gnome panel is set up, it was impossible for me to add anything to the panel (like the logout applet). So to shut down the computer, I had to use a virtual terminal and the sudo shutdown -h now command.
  • The netbook remix interface was also extremely unresponsive. I think it was designed with the Intel Atom processor in mind and not my poor little Eee PC 701’s Intel Celeron processor. So one of the first things I did was remove the remix and automaximize applications through Synaptic.
  • Wireless, as the Ubuntu Eee website indicates, is a little buggy with MadWifi on the 701 (and I’ve experienced this with other distros too), so I blacklisted the Atheros modules and installed and used ndisgtk, and that problem was solved.
  • There was a minor volume applet adjustment I had to make to get the front microphone working.
  • Ubuntu Eee comes with a lot of stuff installed by default (normal Ubuntu stuff and then a lot extra), so I spent a good hour in Synaptic Package Manager trimming out the fat.

The webcam, microphone, hotkeys, and sound all work great. They even have the little on-screen displays from Xandros when you press the hotkeys. I do get some weird message about the scanner group being unknown when I boot up, but the boot time isn’t too bad (still not as speedy as Xandros, of course). I think I’ll be sticking with Ubuntu Eee for a while. And now that it’s based on the 8.04.1 release of Ubuntu, I know it’ll be supported for the next two and a half years also.

P.S. There is one minor annoyance, which seems to pop up every now and then with Ubuntu releases. In Gnome, the volume manager will automatically mount my Lacie external drive’s FAT32 partition but not the Ext3 partition. With Thunar’s volume manager, neither will mount automatically. When the automatic mounting doesn’t happen, I get some message about not being able to mount the partitions since I’m not the superuser. So I’m mounting them from the command-line right now. I don’t mind doing that, so I’m on the whole pleased with Ubuntu Eee, but it’d be great if there were an easy fix for it.

Categories
Asus Eee PC Linux

What’s so bad about the Eee PC Xandros anyway?

Since I’m a regular on the Ubuntu Forums and, like some other forum members, I have an Asus Eee PC and decided to install Ubuntu on it, I do every so often get asked the question, “What is so bad about the Eee PC Xandros anyway?” I recently did a reinstall of Xandros, so after playing around with Xandros for a while again, it’s fresh enough in my mind that I can talk more specifically about the pros and cons of Xandros.

Xandros Pros

  • Hardware support. Yes, many distros have come pretty close to full hardware support or there exist some tweaks to get everything working, but Asus customized Xandros to work exactly with the hardware in the Eee.
  • Fast boot time. Likewise, there are some hacks to make Ubuntu or other distros boot a little more quickly (maybe 45 seconds instead of 90 seconds), but Xandros boots in 12-30 seconds, and that just can’t be beat. I understand some people have done some experimental fast-booting projects for other distros, but all of them have huge disclaimers about them being experimental for a reason.

Unfortunately, that’s about it. I can think of absolutely no other advantages to Xandros over other Linux distributions.

Xandros Cons

  • Annoying simple mode. At first glance, simple mode (the one with the tabs and huge icons) looks good or at least easy to use for beginners. It’s not a well-thought-out interface, however. The difference between Network and Wireless Networks isn’t readily apparent (Network is for frequently used connections you want remembered; Wireless Networks is for ad hoc connections). There’s also no easy way to make the Favorites tab the default, which would make the most sense. If my most-used applications are on two separate tabs, that’s kind of annoying. And if I have to click to a separate tab every time I want to see my favorites, that’s also annoying.
  • Too much QT dependence. If you’re a Gnome fan or generally favor GTK applications, there’s only so much you can strip down the KDE libraries and QT dependencies in the Eee Xandros. The essential-to-functionality programs all depend on KDM and KDE libraries. I don’t have a huge problem with mixing QT and GTK, but when my hard drive is only 4 GB, having double the libraries takes up almost double the space.
  • Limited repositories. When you load up Xandros, you’ll notice that the software available for installation is pretty much what comes on the Eee PC by default and little else. And some of the software updates actually take away functionality (for example, the update to the usb storage applet makes it so you can’t turn off the device dialog when you plug in a USB device). It is possible to add repositories, but there aren’t extensive repositories that can be used without adding potential conflicts. There are some small community-maintained repositories you can add. Or you can add Debian ones and make sure to pin versions of applications so that the Debian versions don’t replace the Xandros versions.
  • Mounting like Windows. When you plug in a USB device, instead of appearing as a normal drive name, you get all the weird D:\ and E:\ stuff as you would in Windows.
  • You can’t add a password to sudo. I’ve done extensive research on this at the Eee User Forums, and no one has successfully been able to add a password to sudo, so for almost all intents and purposes, you are running as root all the time. I can understand if this were only the default, but if you edit the /etc/sudoers file so as to require a password for sudo commands, you render the Eee unbootable.
  • No Quicktime. Yes, it’s great that Xandros comes with MP3 playback and Flash installed by default. But you’d think they would also give you the codecs you need to play Apple Trailers. No dice. The workaround is that you add Debian repositories and force and lock a downgrade to the slightly older version of MPlayer that apparently has the proper codecs.
  • Old versions of software. People often complain about Ubuntu updating its software versions only every six months with a new release. Xandros doesn’t do even that. There are some really old versions of applications that I don’t think have been updated since last year.
  • The username is always user. So in a regular distro if you say your full name is Carol J. Clover, the distro will make your username carol, as would make sense. In Xandros, no matter what your full name is, you’ll always be called user and your home directory will always be /home/user.

I think that pretty much sums it up. So the next time someone asks what’s so bad about Xandros, I’ll just point them to this blog post.

Categories
Apple and Mac OS X Asus Eee PC Computers Music I Like Ubuntu

How my own stupidity killed my Sansa Clip

So my last MP3 player (the much-lauded but ultimately disappointing Cowon iAudio 7) died because of a manufacturer error (even though Cowon claimed the repair was not under warranty). This time, I killed my MP3 player (my 2 GB Sansa Clip) with my own stupidity.

The long story
I love Ubuntu, and I keep coming back to it, but every now and then I get distro cravings and have to try something else. I hadn’t had a distro craving in probably over a year. I kept reading all these great things about Mandriva, though, and how well it works with the Eee PC 701.

So I tried downloading it to my bootable USB “key” (i.e., the Sansa Clip) and extracting the .iso the way I did for Ubuntu and eeeXubuntu. No go, though. I got a boot error of some kind (I think it was some busybox thing). When I read up online about how to install Mandriva on the Eee, I found out you have download some premade all.img file and install via FTP. So I dd‘ed the all.img to my Sandisk player, knowing all would be overwritten and thinking I could restore anyway. None of my Ubuntu adventures had affected the Sansa Clip adversely, so I wasn’t worried.

As a sidenote, Mandriva’s installer made me really appreciate the simplicity and speed of Ubuntu’s installer. The Mandriva installation took literally hours, and the first mirror I selected for doing the FTP install kept having trouble fetching packages (with no easy way of switching to another mirror). It also had this annoying Windows-like habit of asking you a question, doing some processes that took an hour or so to execute, and then asking you another question, and then doing more processes. Why can’t it just ask you all the questions up front and then do all the processes?

After Mandriva finally installed, I wasn’t that impressed, but I thought I’d at least give it a go (and I will). Even though resume from suspend worked with the prepackaged Xandros, I couldn’t get it to work with any *buntu flavor, and I’d heard it would work out of the box with Mandriva. Not so. When I try to wake up the computer with a keystroke, nothing happens. If I press the power button quickly, it looks as if it’s about to wake up but then shuts down completely. Very disappointing.

So my next task was to get my Sansa Clip back to its previous state. I realized that the all.img file I dd‘ed over was extremely small, so even though the Sansa Clip was officially 2 GB, it made my drive appear to GParted to be only a few MBs in size. GParted couldn’t recognize the full size, so I thought if I deleted the entire partition and created a new one, that’d be fine. But Mandriva’s GParted, for some reason, doesn’t let you create FAT32 or non-Linux partitions (I’m sure there are packages that could be installed that could add that support—I had no idea what those were).

For a quick fix, since it was nearby, I opened up my wife’s Macbook Pro and used the Mac Disk Utility to erase the Sansa Clip drive and format it as FAT. Bad move. The Disk Utility wiped it out completely, including the firmware!

So when I finally ejected the Sansa Clip and then tried to plug it into my Eee PC, it would not be recognized. It was totally dead. It wouldn’t turn on. It wouldn’t show a little display on the screen saying it was connected to a computer. fdisk -l on the Eee side also showed nothing connected. Same deal when I plugged it back into the Macbook Pro. And finally, same deal when I plugged it into my Windows PC at work.

The real shame of it is that it probably still works… or would work if I were able to get the firmware back on there, but without the firmware installed, the Sansa Clip doesn’t know when it’s connected to a computer, and I need to connect it to a computer to get the firmware installed.

It’s official: I’m a moron. Mandriva, I hope you appreciate all I went through to get you installed.

The short story
I erased the firmware off my Sansa Clip, and now it’s totally useless. Good thing it was cheap.

Categories
Asus Eee PC Linux Ubuntu

Should I trade my Eee PC 701 for a Dell Inspiron 901

I saw Leaked: Dell Inspiron 910 (Mini Note) Specs and Release Date today and I’m intrigued, but I’m not excited yet.

I tend to be pretty cautious about computer purchases. I’ve heard rumors that the base model is supposed to be US$299, but I’m not sure what specs that’ll be. By the time you jack up the specs to be something reasonable, it may be over US$600, which I’m not willing to shell out.

I also find it odd that a couple of months ago, Dell hinted at the netbooks being announced in August. It’s almost the end of August now and it’s still just “leaked… specs” a few days before the supposed release date (August 22). If Dell is releasing the netbooks on August 22, shouldn’t they have released the full specs and pricing (not just “leads” and speculation) a lot earlier?

Well, I’m curious to see how this all turns out. I love my Eee, but I don’t love its Ubuntu-unfriendliness (I don’t think I can go back to Xandros at this point). If the Dell Inspiron 901s are priced reasonably, get good reviews, and come preinstalled with a Ubuntu version that boots up within seconds, then I may just regift my Eee to a friend who doesn’t mind Xandros and who also travels a lot.

Bring it on, Dell! Let’s see what you got.

Categories
Asus Eee PC Computers

Technology ideas I thought were stupid… until I tried them

I have consumer’s arrogance. I’ll admit it.

While innovators, inventors, businesspeople, and artists are busy working to make money (and art, too, if they’re lucky), I’m comfortably sitting back, relaxing, and critiquing them from my little soapbox of a blog. It’s easy once something has tanked to balk at it, “What were they thinking?”

Sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they had a good idea in theory, but in practice it was terrible. Sometimes it just didn’t get implemented properly, or it worked for test groups but not consumers at large.

Well, sometimes… sometimes, it actually works!

Here are three products I balked at wrongly. I thought they were stupid until I realized they were brilliant.

  • The iPod’s Scroll Wheel. Yes, I understood the appeal of the iPod. Yes, I knew Apple made slick-looking products. But the scroll wheel baffled me. I thought about the CD players of old. Wouldn’t I just want to click to the next song right or left? Why would I want to go in a circle? Apple knew, though. They knew that people either already had or would soon amass music collections with songs numbering in the thousands, and scrolling through thousands of songs without a scroll wheel is tiring for your fingers. Even though I’ve long since grown disillusioned with iPods and iTunes (I use Sandisk players with Linux now), I do miss the scroll wheel and appreciate it for the brilliant invention it was.
  • The Wii. When I first heard about the Wii, I thought Nintendo was crazy. The name sounded stupid, like a kid peeing. The system’s graphics weren’t in the same class as the PS3. You used the remote to make motions with? What is this—Tron? Well, apparently it is. Gamers and non-gamers, children and adults alike love the Wii. I’m not much of a gamer myself, but I enjoy the Wii, too. It’s like a video game console for non-video-game-players. I even know someone who claims that Wii bowling practice leads to better real-life bowling performance. Not sure about that, but if it’s true, then cool!
  • The Eee PC. Okay. It has a 4 GB hard drive, a crappy webcam, no optical drive, 800×480 screen resolution, a child-size keyboard, and only a 3-hour battery life? Why do I want that? I guess it’s at least cheaper than the Macbook Air by US$1400. If someone had pitched that to me, I would have said, “You must be on crack!” But the Eee PC has been selling quite well for Asus, spawning competition from HP, Acer, Dell, and others, and keeping Asus itself on its toes with a new release with better specs. It’s gotten rave reviews, too. I was intrigued by this little giant and read literally hundreds of reviews before taking the dive and buying one myself, and it’s lived up to the hype even though it isn’t perfect. Asus just realized that these days most of what people use computers for is the internet, and that’s all the Eee really is, an internet appliance that can do a few other cool things, too.

So, hats off to you CEOs who, on rare occasion, know better than I do what will be successful or a good idea.

Categories
Asus Eee PC

Should you keep unionfs on your Eee PC?

Introduction
When I announced to the other Ubuntu Forums staff members I was getting an Eee PC and planning to stick with Xandros (as opposed to installing Ubuntu on it), one of the first pieces of advice I got was to remove unionfs from the Eee to free up space.

What’s the deal with unionfs anyway?
Just a quick primer on unionfs (as well as I can understand it): one of the great features the Eee has is the ability to restore factory settings with the press of a couple of buttons at bootup (tap F9 quickly and then select the restore option from the menu). One person made a YouTube video of the process and clocked the restore at two minutes. I did the restore myself and it took about ten seconds (not kidding).

This works because the Eee has two major hard drive partitions (and two random smaller partitions at the end—I don’t know what those are for). The first is mounted at boot as read-only and contains the factory settings. The second is mounted as read-write and is the user partition you modify after you start using the Eee. While having those two partitions makes restoring (in case you mess up something) easy and quick, it also sucks up a lot of hard drive space on a drive that is already pretty small (4 GB on the 701 version).

My experience with unionfs and reasons for removing it
Even though the advice I got turned out to be good advice, at first I was hesitant to remove unionfs for two reasons:

  1. I knew I’d be tweaking Xandros a lot and wanted an easy way to restore the default installation in case I messed things up.
  2. I didn’t have an external DVD-ROM drive to use for the restore DVD that came with the Eee, and I was intimidated by the tutorials about making USBs into bootable live “CDs.”

Well, after a lot of tweaks, I did manage to mess up the Eee badly enough that I could fix it by undoing all the tweaks, but I was glad to have the option to quickly restore it. And, more importantly—too cheap to buy an external DVD-ROM drive—I rolled up my sleeves and actually followed a tutorial on making a USB device into a live “CD.” It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

So, with the ability to back up my installation (I used the dd command to back up the entire Eee PC hard drive to a .img file on an external hard drive), I had fewer qualms about removing unionfs. I also realized through regular use with unionfs that a little less than 2 GB is not a lot to work with after you have applications installed. I don’t want to store my entire music and photo collections on the Eee, but I’d like to have some selection available there.

The removal process
Emboldened by how much easier the make-a-USB-live-“CD” process was, I went ahead and tried the Removing UnionFS/aufs tutorial on the EeeUser Wiki, and the process could have been a lot smoother. I basically ended up following the instructions, messing everything up, and then having to restore my Xandros .img with dd and then redo the instructions again.

If you’re planning to follow the instructions, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You do not need to enable (i.e., add as a permanent boot option) single-user mode or recovery mode on the Eee, but it’s probably a good idea to know how to make it available for one-time use.
  • If you have an easy way to back up the Eee (the dd command, for example, or an external DVD-ROM drive with the Eee PC DVD), you can simplify the process by using a live CD (or live “CD” USB stick) to make all the changes to /dev/sda1. You should be familiar with mounting partitions, but it’ll save you the trouble of going into recovery mode and using vi and all that. You also won’t have to constantly reboot and test things (again, you should have backed everything up first; otherwise, testing is a good thing).
  • There are instructions in the middle of the page about growing the /dev/sda1 partition using GParted, but then there is a warning at the bottom of the page about how using GParted won’t work and how you should use fdisk and some other command-line options instead to merge partitions. Please heed this bottom-of-the-page warning. I tried to grow the /dev/sda1 partition in GParted to fill the space and got an error message and the /dev/sda1 partition then appeared to fill all 3.7 GB but was also almost completely full. When I rebooted into Xandros, the drive was reported as being only 2 GB large and almost full. If you want the non-unionfs-ed partition to fill the whole drive, follow the instructions about using the command-line to do it.
  • The other thing I learned is that the commands given seem counterintuitive to the uninitiated. To expand the first partition to fill the space, they actually have you delete all the partitions and then create a new partition. My intuition was telling me, “Hey, this is wrong! I don’t want to delete the partition. I just want to expand it.” But if you follow the instructions and delete all the partitions and recreate a new one, it actually has the same effect as expanding the first partition. Don’t ask me how that works, but it does. You backed everything up anyway, right? There should be nothing to lose.

Conclusion
My advice to owners of any Eee PC that has a 4 GB hard drive or smaller is to find a way to back up and/or restore your Xandros installation and then get rid of unionfs as quickly as possible in order to reclaim hard drive space. The quick restore tool is fun and amazing, but it takes up too much space. I’m so glad I now have 1.8 GB of free space on my Eee instead of 400 MB.

Categories
Asus Eee PC

Back to Xandros with tail between my legs

Well, my enthusiasm for Ubuntu was a bit hasty, I guess. Everything was good for a while, but then I saw the extent to which things weren’t working. I though the microphone and video in Skype were working, but they weren’t, and the boot time was just too long (and suspend didn’t work). Worse yet, the sound controls are not integrated. The volume applet and the volume controlled by the keys defined in System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts didn’t control the actual master volume. The whole experience of getting things to work was too frustrating, so I’m very happy I had imaged Xandros and put Xandros back on for now.

Eventually, if I get restless again, I’ll probably try out eeeXubuntu 7.10, or I may wait until Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) to see if the Ubuntu developers have worked to make an Eee-friendlier release; I realize it’s tough for them since Asus uses some proprietary components.

Well, it was worth a shot, and I may shoot again, too.