Ubuntu On The EeePC, Part 5 – It’s Alive

See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

With the recent release of Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope (the number means April 2009, and the name is an alphabetical progression – the last release was Intrepid Ibex, with Hardy Heron before it) I was able to grab the Netbook Remix version. This has a few extra bits and pieces to make working on a slower computer with a smaller screen more comfortable. My Asus EeePC fits this bill perfectly, it being a “child’s toy laptop for baby girls” according to Cassie, user of a creaking and lovingly browned Apple iBook G4.

My previous attempts to replace the OS on the netbook met with no success whatsoever. It seemed like there was a problem with the 4GB internal flash drive, which borked the install each time. I don’t know why I expected it to work this time. But it did! I downloaded the (frankly huge) IMG file, followed the clear and straighforward installation instructions, loaded the IMG onto my panda-shaped USB stick, and set it on it’s way. No errors on the drive, all fine. I restarted. Ubuntu loading screen!

One of the big sells for the Netbook Remix is the netbook launcher,  a configurable launcher program that fills the screen with a nice interface for your applications. But it seemed very slow on my box. Too slow to use, in fact. So on the advice of this page I switched it off and installed XFCE instead. That works nice and smoothly. Another good trick is the package maximus, which forces all windows to fill the screen. I like this, even when it blows up a small dialog with just ‘yes’ and ‘no’ buttons. With such a small screen, why bother showing 2 things at once? (This may well come back to bite me.)

To replace the launcher thing, I will install a keyboard launcher such as Launchy or Gnome-Do. I like to avoid the trackpad as much as possible, and plug in a mouse when I have to. Launchy is great on my desktop, and Mercury was fine on the original EeePC Xandros installation, but I want something more slick now, and I’m not tied down to the Xandros repositories any more.

I also removed OpenOffice because it’s quite a hefty suite, and this machine won’t be used for slide presentations, or databases. To replace Writer I installed Abiword, a much more lean but still high-functioning word processor which I can tap away on. To replace Calc I installed Gnumeric for the same reason. I don’t need to replace Impress, Draw or Base.

When I first tried it, the built-in webcam didn’t work, but a quick search told me to check the BIOS setting. I did and I found that it was disabled. I switched it on, tested it and it works fine with Cheese and Skype.

All looking good… then down to earth with a bump. When I tested the sound for Skype, I found that I couldn’t get the sound to work at all, not with music or video or anything. There are some bugs listed regarding this, so I’ll have to check those out later.

At least the damn thing boots into a usable interface now.