Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the Acer Aspire One

In preparation for this year's annual motorcycle trip, I purchased an Acer Aspire One Intel Atom N450 netbook. I'd been looking at netbooks for a while, and finally made my choice. I picked the Acer because of its decent price, reasonable battery life, the fact that it was powerful enough to do everything I needed for mobile blogging, and because it will fit nicely in one of the BMW's saddle bags. What follows are a few notes and suggestions for installing Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) 10.04 on this model.

Being the M$ anti-fanboy that I am, I did not even boot the netbook into the Windows 7 Starter's Edition that came pre-installed*. Instead I booted off my USB flash key into UNR 10.04. Why UNR? I tried it on my laptop and decided that it would be a good ergonomic match for the small 10.1" netbook screen. I run Kubuntu on my other desktops and laptops, so I made the UNR boot flash drive using Kubuntu's Startup Disk Creator. Ubuntu has this utility as well -- it's dirt simple to use. Just download the UNR iso image and follow the Startup Disk Creator instructions.

Here's a brief outline of the process:

  • Insert the flash drive, power on the netbook.
  • Be ready to hit the F2 key to enter the BIOS.
  • In the "Boot" section of the BIOS make sure the flash drive is shown before the hard drive on the list of boot devices.
  • F10 to save and exit the BIOS.

UNR will now boot off of the flash drive. Once it has booted you can choose to take it for a test drive, or you can elect to install. If you decide to take it for a spin first, there will be an "Install" icon on the desktop which you can click on after you have finished poking around.

The installation took about 10 - 15 minutes. When I rebooted everything seemed to work, right out of the box. The Network Manager found my wireless network and connected to it without a hitch. After installing the Adobe flashplayer plugin (sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree) I was able to stream Hulu.com full screen with no jitter.

If you want to be able to play other video formats, like mpeg or avi or mkv you will need to install another package: sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras.

The next day, however, I noticed that the wireless connection would get dropped maybe once an hour. A bit of research turned up a fix: install the linux-backports-modules-wireless-lucid-generic package. See this useful blog for details.

The day after that I decided to install the 2GB memory DIMM that I had purchased. Not that I needed it, as it turns out, since everything worked well with the 1 GB of memory that came installed. But I'd already bought it. So, I removed the memory cover, unplugged the 1 GB DIMM, plugged in the new 2 GB DIMM, and powered the Acer up. It wouldn't POST. Maybe the new memory was DOA?

A bit more research suggested that the version of the BIOS that came with the Acer was sufficiently outdated that it could not recognize more than a single GB of memory.

Ok.

I went to Acer's support site. I noted that the latest version of the BIOS available for download for my model Aspire One (AO532h) was V1.22; mine was running V1.08. So I downloaded it. Then I read the instructions.

Crap.

The BIOS is only flashable from DOS or Windows. By installing Linux *before* flashing the BIOS, I had created one of your basic Joseph Heller Catch-22 situations.

Don't worry, there is an easy fix, outlined here. In a nutshell, you make another bootable USB flash drive that boots FreeDOS. Once you've done that you copy the BIOS flash files to it, boot into FreeDOS, and flash away. No muss, no fuss. AND, you can reuse that USB drive for any machine whose stupid Windoze-centric BIOS wants you to be running M$ just to flash it.

With the updated BIOS installed the 2 GB DIMM was recognized, and all was well in Linux Geekland.

With all of that all out of the way I am happy to report that the Acer Aspire One is a lively, functional netbook. It boots quickly, and has enough power to run Firefox, the Google Chrome Browser, the F-Spot photo editing application and Google's Picassa -- all I really need for it to do. I get about 5 1/2 - 6 hours actual battery life with fairly heavy usage. I did notice that watching movies on Hulu drops the battery life significantly, however. You can expect maybe 3 1/2 hours of movie watching time. Also, the keyboard has a nice feel -- it's a bit smaller than a standard notebook, but it does not take long to get used to.

But enough Linux'y stuff. On to the motorcycle stuff. Here's the trip blog that I maintained during last year's ride. This year I plan to shift my turn-around point about 650 miles southwest to Campbell River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. This year's ride should be about 4,000 miles and I'll be keeping the trip blog here, via the Aspire.

Stay tuned.

--

* Side note: It is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures that if I have to purchase a laptop with M$ OS installed on it, I feel absolutely no compunction to allow that OS to see the light of day. It gives me great pleasure blow it away with a big, bodacious Linux installation. I sort of view it as a mercy killing...

______________________

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nice engine

martyrsoul_'s picture

mirc indir mirc I wonder what features?

nice engine

martyrsoul_'s picture

mirc indir I wonder what features?

Similar Choices

sstakes1's picture

I got the 0532H for my motorcycle trip as well. I ride a ST1300. It will be interesting to compare notes on how this thing holds up.

That’s fine, but medibuntu

Mona's picture

That’s fine, but medibuntu will take up a lot of place on a 701′s 4GB disc. I could do without google earth and adobe reader on a netbook, but skype makes sense (since you can call ordinary phones, i e calling home and talk to your kids when travelling abroad). However, it seems that ubuntu netbook remix simply can’t get the microphones running. Ideas about that, anyone, please.

how about your mic

lionex's picture

hi doug, I've recently bought the same netbook but my one is running the n475 1.83Ghz
after I've installed UNE my mic doesn't seem to be working properly. have you tried your one? thanks!

Microphone not working on 0532h

Anonymous's picture

I had the same issue with UNR 10.04. Basically the microphone works under ALSA, but not under pulseaudio. So if you're using Skype which now only uses pulse it is busted. See this post
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1379587
The fix suggested in post #4 there works for me.

In terminal:

sudo apt-get install pavucontrol
pavucontrol

Then:

* Click the "input devices" tab. Click the lock icon to unlock channels. Set the front right channel to silence.

Microphone not working on 0532h

Anonymous's picture

I had the same issue with UNR 10.04. Basically the microphone works under ALSA, but not under pulseaudio. So if you're using Skype which now only uses pulse it is busted. See this post
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1379587
The fix suggested in post #4 there works for me.

In terminal:

sudo apt-get install pavucontrol
pavucontrol

Then:

* Click the "input devices" tab. Click the lock icon to unlock channels. Set the front right channel to silence.

microphone not working

wvzamora's picture

thanks, it workked for me in a Acer Aspire One

It works for me

Doug.Roberts's picture

Hi,

My microphone works -- did you left click on the sound icon at the top and check the preferences to make sure the mic was not muted?

--Doug

Wifi and Ubuntu (any Linux) versus Windows

John Crout's picture

Earlier comments refer to using Ubuntu/Linux even more than it is used today, as driver support increases. The statement is true in my view. Other comments talked about Wifi. This triggered thoughts of the use of Linux because of the simplicity through which a user can responsibly admin their machine.

Remember though, using Wifi requires access via an Access Point (modem/router). Since this device can hijack a request before security tokens are created they can be used to eavesdrop. They manage the exchange of keys when the connection is first set up, so using SSL or SSH depends on its cooperation. The best we can do is to be sure we know who owns and admins the AP and that it is physically secured from public access. The physical side isn't always sound, particularly in SoHo installations.

Many of us overlook the ease in launching an MITM attack via an Access Point and failure to do so can undermine the other steps we take to run a secure system.

FreeDos idea was cool

johnny's picture

I enjoyed the post. How about some tips on the Freedos USB tool or a link for instructions?

Good idea

Doug.Roberts's picture

Thanks, I'll do a post on that.

--Doug

Acer Aspire One ZD5 and Ubuntu 10.04

Muonman's picture

I have used the AA1 for over a year and its a useful little device to have on your lap in the living room. Any question can be answered with a quick Google. However the supplied Linpus plus the bits I have added failed me in a few areas - audio and usb support for serial devices. Ubuntu runs Apache 2 on our web server and I have no real complaint with it so I made the USB drive for 10.04. It looks good, the audio seems to work and the interface is more conventional etc BUT the WiFi does not work, the LED does not light, and failure to be able to define a default router means that a wired connection can only talk to local hosts. I am sure there are fixes - I hope so because Linux gets more and more friendly and could rule the World ;-)

Muonman

Acer Aspire One ZD5 and Ubuntu 10.04

Muonman's picture

I have used the AA1 for over a year and its a useful little device to have on your lap in the living room. Any question can be answered with a quick Google. However the supplied Linpus plus the bits I have added failed me in a few areas - audio and usb support for serial devices. Ubuntu runs Apache 2 on our web server and I have no real complaint with it so I made the USB drive for 10.04. It looks good, the audio seems to work and the interface is more conventional etc BUT the WiFi does not work, the LED does not light, and failure to be able to define a default router means that a wired connection can only talk to local hosts. I am sure there are fixes - I hope so because Linux gets more and more friendly and could rule the World ;-)

Muonman

lack of codecs is due to

debby's picture

lack of codecs is due to licensing issues with proprietary formats such as flash and mp3. Yes, companies own them (adobe and fraunhofer institute respectively), they might appear to be free for the end user, but that does not make them free (as in freedom or beer). Lack of codecs has been a long debate in linuxland. It’s not a short coming, per se, you just need to know what you are dealing with.

Ubuntu and Netbooks

jcrout's picture

The faint-of-heart should probably go ahead and boot into Windows 7, then download and run Wubi. I found a Samsung netbook previously used as a display unit, running Windows 7. After installing Wubi it runs Ubuntu as though this was its purpose in life. (The plum-colored background looks great, by the way).

As an aside, the boot menu surprised me. On boot-up I see what looks like a Grub menu: A choice of Operating Systems to boot from. Two are for Ubuntu, of course, but there are two more: One for Windows 7 and another for Vista. The word is that only one or the other are installed when the machine is first run.

Just a couple of minor

Anonymous's picture

Just a couple of minor comments: The 'menu' or Super key ought to be pre-set to return you to the desktop, but neither is. The 'tools' menu for Chromium does not fit in the 600 vertical dot screen and has no scroll option (This is true for other programs, too). The trash icon is too deeply hidden for most casual users. The locked toolbar precludes adding some nice items (such as a current weather site) without getting deeper into the system than most users can do.

A lot of Ubuntu stuff is like this: really nice for the first 99 yards, but not quite together. I think the developers move on to the next 'big' thing too quickly.

Google Chrome

Doug.Roberts's picture

I had also noticed that the Google Chrome Tools --> Options menu is too large for the Acer's window, with no scroll tool bar provided. However, I don't believe we can attribute this as an Ubuntu shortcoming. It is the client application's responsibility to provide a UI that accommodates various screen resolutions.

BTW, the Google Maps web interface does handle the smaller netbook screen resolutions by changing the map window frame scrolling method. On larger screen resolutions Google Maps provides a scroll bar. On smaller screens the UI switches to a mouse scrolling method to save on screen real estate.

--Doug

Moral of the Story

WearyDBA's picture

Great write-up.

Moral of the story: always check your BIOS is up to date before wiping your OS!

I'm not so sure that I would be SO anti-M$ as to wipe it off a 160GB drive. It's not like you need the space. Much easier to keep it as a dual-boot option than to have to carry "another bootable USB flash drive".

Curious about dual booting

Anonymous's picture

If i get one of these aspire ones and install ubuntu straight away is my windows 7 OS still going to be there as a dual boot option? or do i have to jump through hoops to get dual booting to work? Really enjoy using both operating systems.. How can i make this work?

UNE

OtakuN3rd's picture

First off, to be technical the 10.04 edition is no longer called Ubuntu Netbook Remix, it is Ubuntu Netbook Edition.

Anyways, I wanted to mention that I run it happily on my Acer Aspire One model AOA 150. Its an 8.9" model with the Atom N270, 1GB RAM, and a 120GB hard drive. I got it in November of 2008 so it shipped with Windows XP.

Great post Doug!! I too am

LinuxD1's picture

Great post Doug!! I too am an M$-Anti Fan boy. I installed UNE10.04 on my EEEPC 901 and it runs very well. I too would not allow Windoze default OS on any new pc I purchase to see the light of day.

Thanks.

Wifi

R's picture

It's a nice operating system. The interface fits the screen very nicely. Problem is there's no native support for the wifi adaptor. Once the hardware companies are 100% behind Linux, I think you'll find more people switching to Linux as well as less expensive netbooks and low end laptops because there's no need for the manufacturers to pay for Windows licenses.

Native Open Source

Doug.Roberts's picture

I may be a bit of an oddball in the Open Source community, because I don't care if a device driver is open source, or if it a closed source binary-only kernel module, as long as it works. If Intel is willing to provide their graphics drivers and Atheros is willing to provide their wireless drivers to the Linux community then I'm perfectly happy. I can connect to a wireless network and watch Hulu. Hardware got sold, customer is happy, everybody wins.

--Doug

BIOS Flashing

WolfRage's picture

I would like to recommend FlashROM I found this ubber handy tool when I had already install Ubuntu on my Desktop and it too had a out-dated BIOS. FlashROM is very easy to use and works from with in the userspace or another words from the terminal after you have logged in.
The FlashROM guys on their IRC channel are really helpful.
FlashROM Site: http://flashrom.org/
Nice How-To: http://www.hermann-uwe.de/blog/flashing-a-bios-the-linux-way-tm-using-flashrom

Flashrom

Doug.Roberts's picture

Thanks for the reference. Flashrom sounds like a very powerful utility. However, I just checked their site and found that the Acer Aspire One is not supported. There was this comment regarding the Acer Aspire One:

It seems the chip (25X40VSIG) is behind some SPI flash translation layer (likely in the EC, the ENE KB3310).

I wonder if the developers of Flashrom will ever be able to keep up with vendors' ever-changing hardware configurations.

--Doug

Testing Flashrom

Doug.Roberts's picture

Out of curiosity I tried Flashrom on one of my main servers here at the Parrot Farm. Here's the result on a system running an Asus M3N78-VM motherboard with an on-board NVIDIA GeForce 8200 graphics chipset:

root@igor:# flashrom
flashrom v0.9.1-r946
No coreboot table found.
Found ITE Super I/O, id 8712
Found chipset "NVIDIA MCP78S", enabling flash write... This chipset is not really supported yet. Guesswork...
Mapping MCP67 SPI at 0xfce80000, unaligned size 0x544.
Please send the output of "flashrom -V" to flashrom@flashrom.org to help us finish support for your chipset. Thanks.
SPI on this chipset is not supported yet.
OK.
This chipset supports the following protocols: None.
Calibrating delay loop... OK.
No EEPROM/flash device found.
If you know which flash chip you have, and if this version of flashrom
supports a similar flash chip, you can try to force read your chip. Run:
flashrom -f -r -c similar_supported_flash_chip filename

Note: flashrom can never write when the flash chip isn't found automatically.

This is a motherboard and chipset that has been on the market for quite a while -- I wonder how successful the flashrom maintainers will be at providing support in the ever-changing hardware arena. I went ahead and sent the developers the results of flashrom -V for this machine.

--Doug

Amazing

Eduardo's picture

Hi,

I'm working with computers since 1984, using Linux since 2001 and do, almost every day, a search for news from many tech sites as LinuxJournal.

After a while, you may think you know a lot of about these stuff...
But, for sure, every single day I need to learn something new!

So, know about Flashrom is absolutely fantastic, I'll give it a try later and tell you the results. Who knows I could keep my "defunct" desktop alive little more after a bios upgrade!!!!!!

Eduardo

Running the Full Desktop Version

Don Stokes's picture

I run the full desktop version of Ubuntu 10.04 on my Aspire One and all is well.
Ubuntu is super!

Ubuntu / UNR

Doug.Roberts's picture

I considered doing that as well, but ultimately decided on UNR because I felt that the UNR UI made better use of the limited real estate provided by a 10.1" screen. Both UNR and Ubuntu Lucid (and Kubuntu and KNR) use the same base repositories, so whichever interface you choose will not impact or limit which 10.04 packages you will be able to install.

--Doug

Hello !!

Eduardo's picture

Hey Doug!
Amazing!

My old desktop doesn't want to work anymore... I think they are going to a near suicide!!! :)

So, since I have a Acer Aspire One with an Aton N370 inside and I think, even small this machine Acer is able to do all the things I'm doing right now with the big piece of trash.

Of course they come with M$Win XP (extra prayer :) and I do want to put a Ubuntu in it.

But I have two big concerns:
1) Ubuntu or Kubuntu???

2) I recently bought a Monoprice 4 doors-hub-to-network, that works fine, primarily as print server (PS) on Win environment. I've made a fresh installation of Ubuntu 10.04 on the almost "defunct" desktop and they was able to find the printer, allow me to install the drivers but... doesn't work.

Any one knows what can I try to get this PS working on Ubuntu?

This is the main reason I can't move forward and let the old desktop to rest in peace........ ;-)

Eduardo

Choices

Doug.Roberts's picture

Hi Edwardo.

I run both Kubuntu and Ubuntu, they are both quite good. I would probably recommend that you run Ubuntu on the older desktop, as it is a bit more light weight than Kubuntu. In fact Ubuntu UNR would be a good fit for the older hardware as well.

I'm afraid I can't help with the Monoprice hub problem...

--Doug

Thanks!

Eduardo's picture

Doug,

Thanks!

Yes, the hub is a problem! I'm still searching for the solution.

But the old one are definitely going to a grave !

That Said, I'll follow your steps and install Ubuntu/URN. I agree this would be the best fit for the Acer.

Best regards,
Eduardo

Doug "All the necessary

Harry's picture

Doug

"All the necessary hardware drivers for the Acer Aspire One come with the Ubuntu Netbook Remix live"

Harry/Me

"Also looks possible to do a dual boot XP, Linux"

I did a test run using a bootable USB UNR worked OK

Made a bootable USB gparted stick

Resized XP partition and created / , /home , swap

Installed UNR... both OS's work in a dual boot setup

Doug
"the version of the BIOS that came with the Acer"

Unable to find my Aspire version on Acres' web site..D250-1585
And what sort of performance to you get , upgrading to 2Gb memory

Harry

Acer Aspire D250-1585, Memory upgrade performance

Doug.Roberts's picture

Hi, Harry.

I found this Acer download site for your Aspire D250:

http://support.acer-euro.com/drivers/notebook/as_one_D250.html

As to performance after the 2 GB memory upgrade -- I cannot tell any difference. 1 GB was probably sufficient for the work I am doing on the machine. The extra 1 GB made no apparent difference in performance.

--Doug

Doug "All the necessary

Harry's picture

Doug

"All the necessary hardware drivers for the Acer Aspire One come with the Ubuntu Netbook Remix live"

Harry/Me

"Also looks possible to do a dual boot XP, Linux"

I did a test run using a bootable USB UNR worked OK

Made a bootable USB gparted stick

Resized XP partition and created / , /home , swap

Installed UNR... both OS's work in a dual boot setup

Doug
"the version of the BIOS that came with the Acer"

Unable to find my Aspire version on Acres' web site..D250-1585
And what sort of performance to you get , upgrading to 2Gb memory

Harry

Picasa

pavithran's picture

Of all the free software you mention why use picasa ?

Since you are already using KDE . I would suggest you to use gwenview which IMHO does more than being an alternative and integrates very well with the KDE desktop .

http://introducingkde4.blogspot.com/2007/12/gwenview.html

I dunno if you have tried it out recently because the have added a good no of export /import options which include picasaweb and flickr

Photo editing software

Doug.Roberts's picture

Actually, I use gwenview as well. And the GIMP. And Picasa. And ImageMagik. Each package has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. What I particularly like about Picasa is the ability to export a selection photos and resize them all at once as part of the export process. Also, I like Picasa's UI and how it allows you to navigate your photo collection.

--Doug

Asus eee900

ronmet's picture

Have an Asus eee900 Netbook which came with Windoze XP, and was absolutely unusable. Tried Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 from a flash drive as a complete Novice. It picked up my wireless network and seemed to run much faster, so I did the complete install. Some learning curve with my Windows Network, Printers, etc, but solved with the help of the Ubuntu Forums. Have since upgraded to 10.04 without incident.

More importantly have been installing Ubuntu 10.04 on desktops as dual boot. Windows in rarely booted.

Netbook remix rocks !

Ludo's picture

I've just replaced the original Xandros on my eeepc 701 by UNR too ! Xandros had a faster boot time (20s vs 30s), but the number of packages available on UNR is awesome !

U netbook

methuselah's picture

Just got an Aspire one 532h at CostCo. Want to dual boot it, as I have clients using windoze. Finding the drivers after a clean install of windoze isn't easy on their website, but is possible. Just came here to see if there is any problem with the new grub and the netbook version of Ubuntu.

I've had Ubuntu netbook on my eeepc 701 for a while now, and like it very much.

Grub

Doug.Roberts's picture

There aren't any problems with grub2 that I know of. Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Edition which uses the new grub installed without a hitch.

--Doug

SD card

Shane's picture

Hello doug,

I bought one yesterday. Nuked the HD with UNR! Bye bye win!! - brilliant - except I can't get the card reader to work. Have tried easypeasy 1.5 and 1.6, Linux Mint (Isadora), Lucid, Meego. All are fun,but no cardreader action yet. I know this is heavily Ubuntu oriented and I should try some unrelated flavours, but haven't got to that yet. Have you had any issue with this?

Have a great trip. I'll keep track.

Shane

Card Reader

Doug.Roberts's picture

Hi, Shane.

This blog: http://subbass.blogspot.com/2010/05/howto-ubuntu-1004-lucid-post-install.html

Suggest the following for the card reader:

Media Card Readers
You need to edit /etc/default/grub (as root ofc) and find the
line that starts:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash"

Change it to read

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="pciehp.pciehp_force=1 elevator=noop quiet
splash"

The pciehp part fixes the card readers to be hot swappable and the
elevator=noop improves SSD performance, we'll add that now while we are dabbling in the right place. Anyone with a HD version who may be following this should omit the elevator=noop.

You shouldn't need the "elevator=noop" part if you don't have an ssd drive.

Can you see if this works?

Thanks,

--Doug

C Reader Update

Doug.Roberts's picture

Shane,

I did a bit more research on this. The proposed fix that I mentioned above does not work, at least with my Acer Aspire One 532h. The media reader hardware in this model is not yet supported by Lucid. I expect this will be fixed in an upcoming kernel/modules update.

--Doug

Card reader

Shane's picture

Thanks, Doug,

I did come across the blog you mentioned and tried it with the same result. I suspect you're right. It isn't a huge inconvenience as I can pop cards into a reader. Hopefully the kernel will catch up.

Cheers,

Shane

Do the Fn keys work?

Surja's picture

Do all the Fn keys work? e.g. for increasing brightness, the backlight Fn key, to increase and decrease volume.. etc.

Yes

Doug.Roberts's picture

All the function keys you mentioned work. The "Print Screen" key even does a screen grab!

--Doug

Thanks for the info Doug. I'm

Surja's picture

Thanks for the info Doug. I'm looking into buying this one. I have a Samsung N150 which needed a bit of configuration before the Fn keys could work in Ubuntu Lucid 10.04. The Samsung N150 is a good netbook though and works very well with Lucid :)

Thanks for this ...

Craiggybear's picture

I, too, have recently got myself a natty little netbook and like you I *hate* M$ OS's with a vengance.

I originally hackintoshed it very nicely to run OS X Leopard (everything worked) but that was just because I could. I downloaded UNR and now have it running as the main OS and again, everything works fine.

Thanks for a fun review and look forward to following the blog.

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