Last month i saw in the Myer catalogue an advertisement for a 7 inch Asus laptop for only $499!!.. so i rushed immediately to the store at 9:50pm (10 minutes before closing to get one). It was well worth it. This little Laptop comes pretty standard from the Asus factory, and is in stock form is very limited.. but with a little tweaks you’ll end up ditching your regular laptop and using it for every day tasks. I personally haven’t touched my macbook for about 1 week now.. and i’ve only picked it up now to write this blog post.
Although a lot of the specs are not officially listed on the box with some digging i’ve found out what the Eee PC 701’s specs really are:
CPU : 900mhz (although the stock Xandros linux from Asus limits this to about 630Mhz in a hope to keep it cool on your lap)
HD: Solid state 4GB (although 8GB will be at Myer in January, so will a vide range of colour choices.. including pink for the ladies.)
RAM: 512MB of the DDR2 kind (nice!)
Display: 7inch.. similar to what you’d find in a portable DVD player.. helps keep the cost down.
Camera: It has a build in VGA camera and mic.
USB: It has 3 X USB 2.0 ports, + a MMC/SD card slot.
CD-ROM – BYO… just plug in an external
Ok so once you’ve gone and bought one you have a few options to think about. Should you keep the standard OS and tweak it? or should you attempt to put a real OS such as Ubuntu on it.. and pray all the drivers work?
In my case i’ve tried both, and in the end to allow the laptop to have WPA Enterprise (to connect to the UOW network) I had to go with a fully tweaked Ubuntu install.
There are a lot of time wasting forums out there.. and none of them appear to be helpful especially if your interested in using wifi with WPA Enterprise. So here’s a really quick lowdown on how to get the most out of your Eee PC.
Upgrading Asus’s standard Xandros OS to Advanced Mode:
Basically you need a working internet connection, be it a non-encrypted network close by that you can connect to… on an ethernet cable directly. Plug it in now…
Ok the standard Xandros OS you get is great for someone that’s never used a computer.. but sometimes you want more….
This will bring up a terminal window…. a feature which is not listed anywhere by the way.
sudo apt-get install ksmserver kicker
let this run, if it asks you any questions just answer yes (ie. Y).
Now once that is done, you have converted your Eee PC into Advanced Xandros mode. Next thing to do is make it permanent.. find the icon called Personalisation, and tick the little box that says boot into Advanced mode (or similar). You will now also notice that whenever you hit the power button an extra “Advanced” icon is on the very left… handy if you like switching between the two types.
If your like me you’d at least want a C++ compiler, a VLC media player, GIMP etc.. and to do this we need to add some package sources.
and then make yours look like this:
deb http://update.eeepc.asus.com/p701 p701 main
deb http://update.eeepc.asus.com/p701/en p701 main
deb http://xnv4.xandros.com/xs2.0/upkg-srv2 etch main contrib non-free
deb http://dccamirror.xandros.com/dccri/ dccri-3.0 main
deb http://www.geekconnection.org/ xandros4 main
deb http://download.tuxfamily.org/eeepcrepos/ p701 main
Then when you run the Synaptic package manager from advanced mode you’ll have heaps of stuff to choose from… but don’t go crazy…. only install the app’s you need.. as some of them will break the entire system.. or at least kill the wifi…
THE BEST OPTION:
How to install Ubunutu 7.10 on the Eee PC 701
Again we need the internet to be on… this time an ethernet cable is required… as well as an external DVD drive…
Boot into Ubuntu Live Persistent mode—Start up the Eee and hit the Escape key (ESC). This will bring up a dialogue asking which drive you want to boot from. Choose your External DVD drive and hit enter. It will take very little time to boot to the Ubuntu Live option page. Select the first choice start/install etc… and hit Return. Ubuntu will start unpacking the kernel and this can take a few minutes. Then you’ll be in live ubuntu mode. Before we start the install we might want to do one more thing… as the screen is tiny.. a lot of the install box’s will be off the screen.. and we want to be able to see them.. hence the next step.. (otherwise skip the next step and just keep hitting enter.. fingers crossed.)
Make those windows draggable—The most important tweak to do is to make sure all the windows in Ubuntu are draggable, so that windows that default to a taller size than the Eee PC’s default screen can be moved into a useable position. Fortunately, there are some pretty useful instructions for doing this on the Eeeuser wiki that I found via this helpful blog post. Launch the Terminal by navigating to Applications—>Accessories—>Terminal via the menu bar at the top of the screen. At the command line type in gconf-editor and hit Return. This will launch a GUI window with a long list of items in the left side bar. Follow this path:
Then uncheck constrain_y
done, you may want to repeat this step once you’ve fully installed ubuntu.
As soon as you do this, you should be able to hit the Alt key while clicking on any window to drag it wherever you like.
At the partitioning screen choose manual.—Using the Guided option will work, but it set’s you up with an ext3 partition and some swap space. Since the Eee sports a flash-based drive, we want to avoid swap space, because it writes to the drive too much. Some people are saying you should avoid ext3 partition b/c it’s journaling and also does more writes. Most people advise ext2, Choose the internal drive (it’s the one whose partitions = 4GBs), choose to format it as a single partition , choose a format for the partition (go with ext2 or ext3. Some people are recommending JFFS b/c it’s good for flash drives, but I haven’t seen any “I did this and it works great” reports yet so I steered away from it). Set the mount point to / and ignore the warning that pops up about there not being any swap space, you don’t want a swap space so it won’t wear out your solid state HD.
Go with the defaults for everything else—Click on through, set up the defaults for your username and password and start the full install. After it’s done, run your Eee over to your wired Ethernet internet connection and the boot time off the internal disk is about 52 seconds. (not 12 seconds like Xandros simple mode.. but good enough).
Wireless internet using native Madwifi drivers
Atheros has been sporting enough to release a patch to the binary hal layer of the madwifi driver for the wireless card in the EEE. In short, this means to have a native working madwifi driver, all one has to do are some quick steps to compile new modules and install them.
Note: If you have previously followed the steps to use ndiswrapper, you will have to unblacklist the ath_pci module so that the kernel can use the new driver.
The quickest directions I have seen come from this madwifi ticket
[http://madwifi.org/ticket/1192#comment:186] and are presented below with some slight modifications.
sudo apt-get install build-essential
tar zxvf madwifi-ng-r2756-20071018.tar.gz
patch -p0 < ../madwifi-ng-0933.ar2425.20071130.i386.patch\?format\=raw
sudo make install
If that looks too much for you i’ve made life easier and done it all for you… just do these lines instead.
tar zxvf eeepcwifi.tar.gz
sudo make install
Now your wifi will work as soon as you reboot!!!
Note that if you run the standard updates.. and it decides to update anything relating to the network manager it will kill this patch.. so keep this tar file close by in case you need to re-install it later on.
Next thing i’d do is go and disable anything relating to the quick tracker (search) toolbar.. as its indexing will kill the internal solid state drive!
Then you might want a few other tweaks.. like re-assign the shortcut keys to the volume etc.. yourself using ubuntu’s menu’s.
There are other thing like enabling the internal mic, and video drivers etc.. which i can tell you about if you email me.. but i can’t be bothered typing them all out now… the main thing is that you now have working wifi, and a real OS running.