Sunday, 7 September 2008

A new distro for my Asus Eee PC

For a while now, I've been dissatisfied with the Xandros installed on my Asus Eee PC. It's quite easy to use, but for an intermediate Linux user such as myself who's a bit more comfortable with getting my hands on the command line, it's a bit frustrating. It's slow and unwieldy, lacks many of the development tools I wanted such as gcc, and just doesn't meet my needs, so I was considering alternatives. Unfortunately, I went for the cheapskate's 2GB version, so my options for a replacement were severely limited. This is too small to run Ubuntu, which would be my first choice, so I had been tinkering with Minibuntu, customising it to add everything I want, but it was difficult to get it installed on the Eee without a USB CD drive.
I'd been tinkering with Sidux, a live CD based on Debian Sid. Being Debian-based, it's quite accessible to someone familiar with Ubuntu, and it also has great hardware detection thanks to the great fw-detect utility. It also has easy installation of the Madwifi drivers for the Atheros wireless card (as used in the Eee). While the regular KDE version of Sidux was too big, it also offers an Xfce version that clocks in at around 450MB on the disc, which when installed comes to around 1.3GB, which is enough to fit on the Eee 2G AND leave around 512MB for a swap partition. Also, it has an easy-to-use USB installer, so there was an easy way to install it on an Eee. So for a while I was considering putting it on the Eee.
This morning I finally decided to bite the bullet and install it. First of all, I used the dd command to image the Eee's flash drive and save a copy of the image to my 4GB SD card so I can restore it if necessary. Then I plugged in my USB pendrive with Sidux Xfce installed on it, and ran the installer.
Once it was installed it booted fine, and I connected it to my wireless router via Ethernet, then ran fw-detect, which told me to run the m-a a-i madwifi command as root to install the Madwifi driver. I then rebooted it and used the Ceni tool to get my wireless connection working. And that was it - it's now working flawlessly, and starts the wireless connection every time it boots up!
Sidux Xfce works great - Iceweasel is a lot faster than Firefox 2 in the default Xandros install, which is the main reason I wanted to switch. I'm very happy with Sidux Xfce, and it makes my Eee a lot more responsive and powerful, it's just a great distro for the Eee. I just wish I'd done this ages ago rather than struggling with Xandros for so long.
Has anyone else got a distro they've been using on the Eee that they want to recommend?


Andrew Min said...

Submitted to the xfce reddit.

m.lettner said...

Look around here and there ;)

Also you should read about best use of a flash drive in the ubuntu-eee docs.

I've tried it so hard but i got no other OS running perfectly (wlan, sound and mic, hotkeys, performance, etc.) on the Eee701, even with this customized kernel...

Neil said...

I have successfully used Mandriva 2008.1 Free Edition on my Eee 900.

If you install with a wired connection it will download and build the wireless driver for you.

All features of the Eee work and it even provides an OSD for Fn key feedback.

I am expecting that Mandriva 2009 will maintain this excellent level of Eee compatibility.

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