Spectralcat's Blog

July 1, 2009

Part I: Liberating the Asus 1000HE: Overview

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — spectralcat @ 6:20 am

This is my account of configuring a new 1000HE EEEPC netbook as a Linux-Windows dual-boot.  I am assuming that my audience has little if any knowledge of Linux. To Dual-boot a computer is to install two separate operating systems on it at the same time. While this does not slow down the computer, it does require you to dedicate certain parts of your hard drive to each operating system. When I turn on the computer a menu pops up asking me which operating system I would like to use. I can switch between operating systems simply by restarting the computer. 

Just arrow up or down to select the operating system

Just arrow up or down to select the operating system

This is what my finished Linux operating sytem looks like.  I'll explain all the steps to get to this point in my next several blog posts.

This is what my finished Linux operating sytem looks like. I'll explain all the steps to get to this point in my next several blog posts.

Hopefully someone will find my account of this process useful. I’ve been happily using GNU/Linux for around four years, and I’ve installed several dual boot operating systems before, but I study literature for a living (not computers) so if you follow my instructions and mess something up, it’s your own fault. Always remember to back up all of your important data before doing this kind computer surgery.

My chosen victim, the 1000HE EEEPC, is a cheap light-weight netbook with an incredibly long battery life (supposedly around 9.5 hours); it comes with Windows XP, a 160 gig hard drive, a 10 inch screen, 1 gig of RAM, a webcam, and it only weighs 3.2 pounds.  Amazon is currently selling these netbooks for around $385.  Because of its larger hard drive and screen, the 1000HE is a reasonable replacement for a normal (more expensive) laptop. I wish it were a little lighter, but it’s still much much lighter than those ridiculous ibooks so many of my friends lug around with them.

New 1000HE Eeepc Netbook

New 1000HE Eeepc Netbook

Best of all, Acer designed the EEEPCs to be GNU/Linux friendly, as they originally shipped them with Linux with pre-installed to keep their cost down. The threat of losing the emerging netbook market to a free and better quality operating system caused Microsoft to panic, and they started literally giving away copies of Windows XP on these netbooks. While the open-source software community generally saw this as a blow to the spread of GNU/Linux, I think it’s great news as Redmond isn’t making any money off the EEEPCs, but they are making it very easy for people to have dual-boot netbooks! Even though I hate Windows, I do like the idea of having a Microsoft operating system laying around for the rare emergency situations in which I need access to Windows-only software. (Since I can now run Microsoft’s lousy Office software under Linux using Wine, I’m not really sure what those emergency circumstances are anymore, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll someday need to use some Windows junk that Wine can’t run.)

There are some drawbacks to the 1000HE, though. In particular, it’s atom processor is not good at doing processor intense activities like encoding movies or music or compiling programs. Nor does the 1000HE come with a dvd burner; it’s designed for portability, not for lugging the kitchen sink around. It can, however, play music and movies, search the internets, do word-processing, read pdf files, connect to skype, etc. just fine. If you’re like me and you need to edit and copy music and movies, it’s a good idea to have a second more powerful computer around to take care of these tasks. Fortunately, desktop computers are dirt-cheap today (even cheaper than the EEEPC), and they’re also very easy to build yourself. (Build a desktop computer with a dual-layer dvd burner, a terrabyte harddrive, a linux-compatible tv card, an Ubuntu operating system on it, and connect the desktop and netbook via a good cheap DD-WRT compatible router like the Asus WL-520 GC and you can have a powerful open-source home network for well under a $1000.)

There are several different versions of GNU/Linux that are specially designed to run EEEPCs (Ubuntu Netbook Remix and EasyPeasy, for instance) but since I’ve already had good luck installing it on my friend’s netbook, I’ve chosen to use the customized version of Ubuntu called Eeebuntu. The current version of Eeebuntu has fixed the wifi problems that were plaguing the 1000HE (no need to compile the wifi driver yourself) a couple of months ago, and it looks stylish as hell. Everything on the 1000HE works right out of the box, though I would still recommend replacing gnome’s default network manager with wicd. To install Eeebuntu you only need a EEEPC, a decent connection to the internets, and an external 1 gig usbstick. The process is fairly simple though it will take you all evening.

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3 Comments »

  1. Great document! I’m awaiting my EEE pc, so this is bookmarked and ready as soon as it arrives ;)

    Comment by Marco — July 14, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  2. Does anybody know how to backup the recovery partition on the 1000HE? I’ve tried a few netbook distros and so far I have managed to install them successfully in a dual boot fashion alongside XP. At one point I restored the XP image by booting into the recovery partition which appears to be using a pre-configured Norton Ghost to restore the 1000HE and does not allow any user input as to where to restore the image to. After restoring XP I noticed that the partition table was untouched so I assume Norton Ghost is configured to restore the first partition on the disk. So what I would like to do is backup the restore image in case I accidentally delete its partition during a linux install. If I accidentally wipe out XP then I won’t be able to watch on demand movies from Netflix anymore. Any suggestions? Thanks

    Comment by chris — July 20, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

    • Well I can access that XP Ghost image by going to Places and selecting PE. I wonder if you could just directly copy the image to your linux partition or to a different computer over a network. Otherwise, Clonezilla might help you back it up, but I’ve never used it myself.

      Comment by spectralcat — July 20, 2009 @ 6:16 pm


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