Where to go when you’re an AspireOne user.

The EEEpc’s community has already been well documented, so today a shout out for the two sites keeping the AspireOne users out there happy, supported and content: AspireoneUser.com is a blog cum forum, serving the need of the AO community and is incredibly helpful (especially the forum, which really produces some astounding guides and hacks, thanks to its resident ultra-alpha geeks).  Macles* keeps an eye on the software side of things, offering downloads for the Acer Bios upgrades and points to updates.

Both excellent sites, both well worth visiting.

Ubuntu on the Aspire One

Hello all,

after a short break from posting, Messagedfromtheouthouse is now back in action. Work unfortunately was a bit overwhelming over the last two weeks, but after a nice and quiet weekend filled with lounging on sofa and bed and some serious Indian cooking I am appropriately refreshed to get back to the important business of blogging. Anyway, I am sure you all remember that I recently bought an Aspire One, Acer’s answer to the EEEpc, the lovely little white laptop that is giving so much joy to the best girlfriend ever (and millions of happy clients all over the world). Faced with a serious shortage of EEE’s in my vicinity, I went for the Aspire One with it’s chunky 120MB HD and more generous sized keyboard. Fitted with ‘Linpus Lite’, I was moderately happy with the machine, though it’s ancient software suite and garish desktop design annoyed me slightly.That and it’s annoying fan, but that’s a different story.

This weekend I finally had the chance to change the operating system, and after much soul searching I went for Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix (NMR). And boy, the change is immense.

But first things first: the current NMR is based on Ubuntu’s Hardy Heron with some kernel tweaks for Intel’s weird little Atom processor and some proprietary drivers for the built in wifi. The installation is straightforward: download the image, transfer it unto a USB key, boot the AspireOne from the USB key and Robert is your mother’s brother. After the first boot all you have to do is add some personal details and everything just works. Firefox 3, Evolution, Open Office 2.4, all wrapped up in a very tasteful GUI, devoid of the terrible vomit green and orange colours that Linpus Lite was offering.

Battery management seems improved, wifi works, audio works (and somehow sounds not as flat. Maybe due to a different Alsa version?), webcam works, and now I have access to Ubuntu’s massive repositories and I don’t have to dabble with Fedora’s weird package management system anymore. A win-win situation.

Suddenly working with the AspireOne seems to be much more fun.

Acer Aspire One instead of EEEpc. Oh well.

Right.  Turns out my online supplier of geeky goods actually sold out of the desired EEE. Just as all the other computer retailers around me in the south east of England. So I ordered an Aspire One. To be exact, the Aspire One A150-AB (Why in the world do makers of laptops come up with these weird and seemingy random model numbers?). This baby sports 1 GB ram, a chunky 120GB HD and Linpus Lite, their netbook Linux flavour, a derivative of Fedora 8. That would be another Linux flavour to get used to. Sigh. So one day the nice man from Amazon knocked on my door and brought a small but eagerly awaited package.

The Aspire is undoubtedly attractive and feels better designed and made than the best girlfriend’s first generation EEE. The keyboard and the screen especially are superior to the EEE, and there is a multicard reader that’s coming in handy.

Still compact, but larger than a Star Trek VI mug.

Apart from the multicard reader there’s 3 USB Slots, an external VGA plug, and an additional slot for more SD cards. It boots up in seconds and apart from a mild whirring noise when the little fan is trying to cool Intel’s Atom processor pretty quiet (though not as silent as the girlfriend’s eee).

It’s pleasant on the eye, balances well on my lap and fits perfectly into my work bag. Unfortunately the batttery is completely pish. While watching Little Britain USA (which, btw was rubbish) the battery drained almost cmpletely, and I presume that under full load the battery wouldn’t last longer than an hour. No comparison to my Macbook that would happily run for 5 hours. So no long train journeys or flights to New Zealand in economy class then.

As mentioned before, Acer is selling the One with Linpus lite, a Fedora 8 derivative. This is quite similar in apperance to the EEE’s Xandros flavour, just with worse applications. I have no idea who had the idea of leaving out Skype (it does have a webcam, you know), VLC and Thunderbird and instead use some other unusuable crap. So my first job was to get used to Fedora’s weird package manager, ‘yum’. I now have all the necessary apps installed, and available via XFCE’s ‘advanced menu’, but still have to remove the annoying apps and then edit the desktop file to add the right icons. I am quite happy to do that, but I can see the best girlfriend ever struggling with that task.  I have no idea what Acer’s software engineers were smoking when putting the One’s software package together, but here they certainly messed up.  Another minus was the lack of the GIMP and the fact that so far my trusty TX1-Powershot is not being recognised by the crappy photomanager.

So, after 3 days with the Aspire, what are the first thoughts?

Well designed hardware that is let down by a crap battery and a software package that is lacking in functionality compared to the EEE’s far superior Xandros flavour. I am pretty sure that very soon Ubuntu’s Hardy Heron will make a guest appearance, but for now I am just happy that I have replaced the Macbook with a credit-crunch model (the Aspire costs exactly a third) and that I can again watch movies and listen to my music.