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.

Running Ubuntu on mediocre Hardware

As my lifestyle is rather mobile at present, my main computing tasks are being performed by my Macbook, but recently I inherited an old beige Box from work together with a nifty flat screen LCD monitor that has a nice small footprint. so before throwing it away, I thought I give it a try. After cleaning it and having a rummage around it turns out to be a ca 6 year old KM2M Combo-L Motherboard from MSI, powered by a 1.4 ghz AMD Duron. I upgraded it to 1.2 GB ram and added an oldish Geforce FX 5700 that I still carried around with me, but still, for 2008 the whhole thing is a bit of a stinker.

Next my thoughts turned to the Operating System: it was supposed to have a dual role, on the one hand enabling me to finally finish Morrowind, so I bought the last legit copy of Windows XP my local mum and pop retailer had left (“funny that”, he said. “We have never sold so many copies of XP as in the last 6 months.”) and prepared the one half of the harddisk to be my gaming ‘rig’. Albeit a rather ancient one, but for Morrowind it works beautifully, and as its completely off the net with all connections disabled, it’s probably the safest XP machine in the neighbourhood. But it also should be hooked up to net, print and do some decent wordprocessing¬† so a more secure option was necessary.

“Use what you know”, so a Debian derivate it needed to be. I previously ran Ubuntu on my last ‘real’ gaming rig, but that was an enormous, up to date thing with quad core cpu and a bloody expensive new GPU, so I was hesitant to try it on this machine with specs from 2003. Nevertheless I am happy to say that Hardy Heron is performing well. Better than I thought, actually.

To check how the dear old Duron was coping with an OS from 2008 and the new breed of ajaxified websites with their rich content and online streaming I had three desktop windows open: Window one ran the resource hogging Open Office,¬† window 2 had Evolution in all its glory, while Window 3 was filled with Firefox running the BBC’s iplayer, showing me the installment of that weird archaeology show ‘Bonekickers’. The 5 year old beige box performed absolutely flawless. No hickup with the playback on the iplayer, even though the machine connected to the internet via a Asus usb plug-in wifi thingie (that was instantly picked up by Ubuntu and hooked up without any problems to my WPA-2 network). LastFM is playing nicely, printing works out of the box, and my non DRM’d songs on my itunes collection are picked up as well.

I would put the value of this machine at, what, 20? 30? pounds?

Don’t fall for the hype of always buying the latest multicore machines. The only reason I would ever buy a new, ‘pushing the envelope’, PC again is if I wanted to play the latest games on Vista. But as I have a Playstation3 and would rather eat my coffeecup before running Vista I’ll stay with my beige box for now.