First Thoughts of Ubuntu On My EEE PC

As I am sure a lot of you know already I got an eee pc a couple months ago.  It is a great little computer that really has everything you could possibly want for about $300.  While the hardware was great and cheap, there was always something to be desired from the OS.  The eee ships with Xandros which is an offshoot of Debian linux.  Out of the box the OS is in what I call “stupid user” mode.  There is no desktop or start menu or anything like that; there are only a bunch of really big buttons that are marked with Internet, or word processing, and things of that nature.  So as soon as I got mine I knew I had to get myself into “smart user” mode. I played around with the eee for a while and after some help from the Internet and a hour or two of cursing, I was able to unlock a normal desktop.  The reason that this took so long was that the eee shipped with the wrong default package repositories (always fun), but once I figured that out it took me about 5 minutes to convert to full desktop mode.  This mode was a lot better for me then the “stupid user” mode since now it seemed like I had a real computer!

While this was good for a while, I soon found some annoying quirks.  First, the eee had real problems connecting to a new wireless network.  It would always take several tries and many restarts of the wireless, but eventually it would connect.  After that it was generally okay with connecting to an old network again.  It would also do stupid things like mount my SD card 5-6 times for no apparent reason other then to put more icons on my task bar.  Additionally, it never asked me for a password when I did sudo commands, which did not make a whole lot of sense to me.  So with these quirks, and the real need to re-partition my drives to make use of my 8GB SD card, I decided to try out a version of Ubuntu that had been designed specifically with the eee in mind.

The installation was not all that bad after I got a little help from my friend Karl.  I started by converting a flash drive into a live CD thingy using the unetbootin utility, which pretty much consisted of me clicking two buttons and waiting (so very, very easy).  The only real problem with the installation itself was that the default partitioning of the drives did not work.  After a few tries using the default options, I switched over to manual mode which worked perfectly once I got some advice from Karl on how to set it up.  So now I have a working Ubuntu copy on my eee (applause)!  The first difference with Ubuntu is that it takes a little longer to boot up then Xandros, but not so long as it would be a deal breaker.  Once the OS is up however, Ubuntu is noticeably better then Xandros.  To begin, the default desktop is clearly better set up for the smaller screens and does not try to imitate a windows desktop like Xandros does.  The screen is of course still small, and only so much can be done about that.  The first somewhat surprising difference I found was that Firefox runs noticeably faster and smother then it did under Xandros.  Since I think most people (well at least I do) use the eee primarily as a way to surf the net, this is certainly a great change.  Also, the wireless seems a lot less retarded then it did before.  It now connects to new networks with no fuss at all.  What was completely unexpected however, was the very noticeable increase in battery life!  Before I could get about 1.5 hours, give or take, out of the eee.  Now with Ubuntu it is at about 2.5 hours!! This was certainly not a result that I was expecting.  The new OS was not flawless however.  There have been two problems that I noticed already, one being that the machine did no properly turn off (you had to hold down the power button to actually get the eee to turn all the way off) and the other being that the volume control was foo-bared.  They were not much if a problem though since they were both fixed by taking a look at the wiki for the OS.  It took less then two minutes to find and implement the fixes for both of these problems.  So all told, I am very happy with my move so far, and I will be sure to give you all an update once I have had time to play around with my new toy some more!


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