Friday, 23 April 2010

Eeebuntu 701

My adventures with my two Asus Eee PCs continue. My old Eee, the very first netbook this world has seen - the Eee PC 701 - is now a bit of an under performer. Old in the tooth and equipped with too lesser a CPU and RAM to reach for the sky, it's now primarily my official computing testing environment.
More than a year ago I told you how I've installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix (NBR) on my 701, at a time before Ubuntu released their official NBR version. I liked it and it had served me well, but that particular Ubuntu version (Intrepid Ibex) is now too old for comfort: it's version of Firefox is so old the first thing you get when you start it is a security warning. The solution is to upgrade to a later version of Ubuntu but there's a rub: getting all the drivers to fit the operating system to my particular netbook's hardware is far from trivial, and I wasn't particularly looking forward to the ordeal of looking new ones up.
So, what can one do?
I decided to go for another Linux distribution, Eeebuntu. The current version (3) is meant to be based on Ubuntu and fitted with the Asus Eee PCs in mind (a newer version, 4, is expected soon; version 4 will not be Ubuntu based after a rift erupted between Eeebuntu's developers and Ubuntu, with the former claiming Ubuntu keeps on rewriting basic bits of the operating system too often for them to keep up).
There are two reasons for this choice of Eeebuntu. The first one is comfort: Eeebuntu is meant to work on the 701 out of the box, drivers and all, saving me that annoying search that is the bane of Linux. The second is directly related to the first: I have never managed to find the Ubuntu Netbook Remix drivers for my other Eee PC, an Asus 1000HE; if Eeebuntu turns out to be good, and if it does indeed work out of the box (as it also promises to do on the 1000HE), then I might replace Ubuntu NBR with Eeebuntu NBR on my more operational netbook, too.
With that in mind I went for the installation itself. The entire affair took me half an hour last night and was as smooth as - read that, Microsoft!
The pleasant surprises did not end there. First, it became obvious Eeebunru does have the drivers for my 701: wireless internet worked right away, and the same applied to the speakers and the microphone. Second, Eeebuntu comes with most of the applications I like to use on my netbook already pre-installed: for example, Skype and VLC are already there.
Indeed, the only setup work I had to do involved Skype. While the webcam was running well out of the box the microphone didn't. It's a typical problem for Skype's Linux version which I have encountered with all my previous Skype installations there. The solution is simple: change Skype's default sound devices to Intel, Pulse and Pulse.
And there you have it. This post has been written in Eeebuntu, proving that Linux can be stupidly user friendly - much more so than Windows - when it is specifically tailored with a particular PC in mind.

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