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.
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.
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.
* 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...
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- Astronomy for KDE
- Profiles and RC Files
- What's Our Next Fight?
- Maru OS Brings Debian to Your Phone
- Understanding Ceph and Its Place in the Market
- Snappy Moves to New Platforms
- OpenSwitch Finds a New Home
- Mark Geddes' Arduino Project Handbook (No Starch Press)
- Git 2.9 Released
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide