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We all know the mobility problem : we have a 17" laptop which is all neat 'n dandy, but carrying this stuff around leaves you with a nasty big red stripe on your shoulder at the end of the day : this stuff is *heavy*. So maybe you acquired a smartphone, which allows you to surf the web, either through 3G or WiFi. But using this thing intensively, quickly gets on your nerves : too much horizontal scrolling, dog slow and way too less RAM to load large websites.

Enter the eeePC : a small, sturdy 7" laptop (the 701 model), or the 9" 900 model. Extremely light, cheap, and carrying our most favorite operating system, Linux. I ordered the 900 model in the beginning of the week, and received it Friday evening. First thing I noticed, even while looking at the packaging : this thing is *small*. There is nothing that prepares you at the small size, even after seeing hundreds of pictures on the web, or even after seeing a colleague carrying the 701 model. It is so small it almost looks like a childs toy. It really is not much larger than a DVD case, and that's really small for a laptop.

Second thing that surprised me : it's much heavier than expected. Despite its 1 kg weight, it looks so light on pictures. But fear not, in comparison with your laptop, it's as light as a feather.

I like the screen : neat, offering a good crispy view from all sides. A resolution of 1024x800 is large enough for most webpages. Using the keyboard is more difficult : very small, and I have trouble of pressing hard enough for some characters on the outer edge of the keyboard. But that is something I have on most laptops. The 900 eeePC gets fairly warm, too; in contrast with the 701 model, this doesn't run underclocked.

The default installation of the 900 model is a Xandros Linux based install with 1 GB RAM and 20GB of storage. When I enter an unknown Unix or Linux system, I quickly run through the /etc and /proc dirs to get some feeling of the system. As it turns out, the 900 model has a fast 4GB SSD disk, and a slower 16GB SD card. Xandros boots very quickly, I guess it reaches the desktop from a cold boot in about 20 seconds. The default desktop is a simplified series of screens carrying big application starter buttons. All in all, I think that Xandros did a good job in delivering an easy-to-use Linux desktop for all kinds of users. It has even a nice tool to update the BIOS. Xandros offers a way of obtaining a full blown KDE desktop by first installing ksmserver and kicker. This offers a new option in the logout screen where you can opt for the full desktop.

Xandros uses unionfs for all filesystems, which means COW for all disk access. USB disks get letter notations like on Windows (/media/D:), which I rather dislike. I used Xandros for a while, but quickly found the default desktop too limiting, and the KDE desktop too irritating. So I decided to sweep the disk, and install another eeePC optimized Linux distribution on it. Doing this leaves the user for a difficult task on chosing one : Ubuntu alone has three versions for it (eeebuntu, eeeXubuntu and Ubuntu eee). I chose for the latter because it meant the least amount of thinkering with the system and the fastest way to productivity.

Ubuntu eee boots way slower than the stock Xandros kernel, but I sortoff expected this. The performance is still reasonable, even with compiz enabled. I installed the base OS on the 4GB SSD disk, and opted to transform the 16GB SD disk to a LVM volume group for /opt and /home (I had to manually load the dm-mod kernel module before I could create the logical partitions, apparently a bug in Hardy). No swap to reduce the amount of writing to the SSD device, and for the same reason I chose ext2 as filesystem. I needed to write a small stop init-script which removes the snd-hda-intel kernel module explicitly before shutting down, otherwise the eeepc doesn't cut the power after shutdown.

What still remains is some small stuff like cleaning up the 4GB disk from some unneeded apps, optimize Firefox for the smaller screen, test out Skype and the webcam and install the latest-and greatest TSM server on it.


Ubuntu community has a wiki about configuring the eeePC...

What strikes me is that the battery is labelled as a 4400 mAh model, while the kernel states :

$ cat /proc/acpi/battery/BAT0/info
present: yes
design capacity: 5200 mAh

No fear. /proc is right, so the battery is mislabbelled.

I had to manually fix the ACPI & OSD :

OSD : get the eee-osd package


$ sudo apt-get install module-assistant eeepc-acpi-source
$ sudo m-a a-i eeepc-acpi
$ sudo sh -c 'echo eeepc-acpi >> /etc/modules'