We bought an Asus EeePC 4G (701) in October 2008 as an inexpensive,
temporary replacement for my beloved Lifebook, whose motherboard had
died some months ago, after nearly five years of none-too-gentle use.
The machine came with a customised version of
Xandros installed. It was much
better than I had expected. It booted extremely fast, and gave me access
to an xterm. That, and the fact that other EeePC distributions all had
one problem or the other, was enough to keep me using it for some
The one big problem I had was with the package repositories. I followed
various instructions (which I no longer remember), but a couple of hours
wasn't enough to get vim installed, and I gave up. This inability to
install things kept annoying me at inopportune moments.
Eventually, I decided to install an Ubuntu derivative. This page is all
about my (surprisingly pleasant) experience.
Here's a brief overview of the EeePC 4G's hardware configuration.
- 7" 800x480 LCD
- 4GB SSD (soldered to the mainboard; i.e. non-replaceable)
- 900MHz Celeron-M processor underclocked to 630MHz
- 512MB DDR-2 RAM
- 4-cell Li-Ion 4400mAh battery
It has three USB ports, an SD card reader (I got a 2GB SD card free), a
VGA connector, and headphone/microphone jacks. There's an Ethernet port,
and an Atheros mini-PCI card provides 802.11b/g wireless connectivity.
There's also a 640x480 camera, which I've never bothered with; and an
RJ-11 port, which is not connected to anything as far as I can tell.
The VGA port can feed an external display at 1024x768, and I can plug in
a USB keyboard and mouse. The EeePC's own screen is quite good, but the
keyboard is much too small for my hands. I've learned to use it quite
efficiently, but extended use is always going to be painful.
The battery lasts me about three hours under moderate use. Thanks to an
extremely annoying hardware bug, the 4G slowly drains its battery even
when hibernating (or switched off, albeit more slowly still). I do not
know of any cure for this, though I hear newer models are not affected.
Apart from Xandros, there seem to be three notable choices:
- Ubuntu Easy Peasy,
formerly known as Ubuntu Eee.
- Install whatever distribution you want, then recompile your kernel
to add Wifi support and a bunch of other patches.
Both EeePC-specific Ubuntu derivatives add in the Array.org kernel and
the other required patches, and
apt-get install works fine
I couldn't bring myself to install something named "Easy Peasy", and it
was something of a relief to discover that it was based on Ubuntu 8.04
(while Eeebuntu is based on 8.10), and had a longer list of known
First, I downloaded
$ wget http://www.eeebuntu.org/downloads/iso/eeebuntu-2.0-base.iso
(None of the Bittorrent links on the
Eeebuntu download page
worked. I found the inspiration to write this page somewhere during the
eight hours it took for wget to finish.)
Next, I copied the ISO to a 2GB USB stick (pen drive):
$ sudo ./isotostick.sh eeebuntu-2.0-base.iso /dev/sdc1
(There are many
other ways to do this:
with UNetbootin, or the
Ubuntu Live USB creator,
or by hand. I've used them all, successfully, at different times.)
I booted the EeePC from the USB stick (by hitting
it was booting and selecting the USB stick from the menu).
The Eeebuntu installation process is identical to the normal Ubuntu one,
and it completed with no surprises. I allowed the partitioner to use the
entire disk, not bothering to preserve the default Xandros setup and its
nifty one-touch "restore to default install" feature. Wireless support
Next, I started the "update manager" and allowed it to install whatever
updates it wanted to (which amounted to some 50MB of downloads). Then I
installed the few packages that I need (vim, zsh, etc.). No problems.
Eeebuntu release notes
told me what to expect, and I was very fortunate to not run into any new
The most noticeable difference is in the boot time. It takes almost one
and a half minutes to from pressing the power button to having a
usable desktop (where Xandros took about twenty seconds).
Fn-F2 no longer toggled Wifi on and off. The
recommended solution is to install
eee-control, which I
apt-get install eee-control); and it worked perfectly.
I can toggle the Wifi, camera, and card reader, and switch between four
performance profiles (full, high, normal, powersave).
Just for the record, I had no problem with
Fn-F7 to mute
and unmute the speakers (another known problem). In fact, all of the
other hotkeys worked out of the box. (Testing this revealed that mplayer
was installed by default, which made the whole thing nicer still.)
The "Eee Config" program makes it easy to select and execute scripts to
fix some known configuration problems, but I didn't need the "Mute key
fix", and I didn't bother with the "Suspend on lid close" one. Suspend
and resume worked without any fiddling, but their utility on the 4G is
severely limited by the battery drain problem (see above).
Once I took the plunge, I had my EeePC up and running under Eeebuntu in
little more than the time it took me to download the ISO.
That, for the moment, concludes my very pleasant experience.