back to article The Netbook Newbie's Guide to Linux

Considering that Linux netbooks are designed to present a simplified interface that can be used by complete newbies, it's amazing how buzzy hackers have become about them. Even people who wouldn't consider themselves hardcore techies love to tinker under these machines' hoods. Eee Simple Mode Yes, from the hardended hacker's …


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  1. Mark
    Thumb Up


    Would not Ctrl-Alt-Backspace work too? It reboots the X Server (rather than rebooting the OS: this is why it is good to have the UI outside/above the OS).

    Depending on how the Asus launcher works, you may not log out with your script, whereas Ctrl-Alt-Backspace effectively logs you out.

    Nice article and hopefully those who complained about using the command line will see why such things are used and useful

  2. paul

    Obligatory Comments

    "linux is crap , rah rah rah. "

    Well with that out of the way, linux comes in many many different flavours. yes the xandros supplied linux on the eee pc isn't that great. But its reasonably stable and trouble free.

    I installed ubuntu netbook on my eee pc - looks great. But wireless problems are ruining it for me. Im waiting for ubuntu 8.10 version of netbook remix with better hardware support (open source version of wi fi driver meaning problems fixed in days not months/years)

    Meanwhile my HP 2133 netbook with FULL ubuntu 8.10 is superb (it has 1280x800 9 inch screen) - No wi fi problems :)

  3. Pierre

    Nice BUT

    Quite a good article, but for the line "the real hacker solution is to take the supplied OS off altogether and start again with a fresh full distribution like Ubuntu". There are words that should never be used in the same sentence, ever. "hacker" and "Ubuntu" are such a pair.

  4. David Hicks

    As a non-newb

    I recommend the Debian Pure Blend for eee

    All the hardware works out of the box and you get the full power of Linux. It's just as responsive as the Xandros that came preloaded.

    But then that involves an operating system install, which is not for newbies.

  5. Steven Knox


    "...the real hacker solution is to take the supplied OS off altogether and start again with a fresh full distribution like Ubuntu..."

    No, the REAL hacker solution is to install Slackware 1.x from floppies...

  6. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)


    Moderation note. To stop this thread degenerating into a 'Linux is rubbish... no, Windows is rubbish... no, Linux is rubbish... no, Windows is rubbish... etc... etc...', all such comments will be zapped.

    This is a feature about using the Linux on netbooks. If you don't want to use Linux, don't read this feature.

    Oh, and if you're the sort of person who's already downloaded Ubuntu/Debian/Fedora, installed it on your Eee/AA1, it's not for you either. This is for users who haven't/don't want to/can't.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  7. FRLinux

    ASUS netbook newbies guide

    You might want to add ASUS there, as I also own a netbook, but an Acer one (running LinPus) which is not the same hardware and distribution...

  8. Dave

    Tips Welcome!

    As someone who is capable of putting Fedora/Ubuntu onto my Aspire One but has so far refrained, keep up the little tips. Some I've already worked out or found on-line, but occasionally a new good one comes to light. So far I'm living with the Acer-supplied interface because for my use, there aren't that many programs I need to open regularly and the full menu tweak describedf here and elsewhere caters for the less-frequent ones.

    I've never used xfce before, so that's a useful learning experience in itself.

    On the subject of rubbish, my vacuum cleaner sucks.

  9. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Hackers and netbooks

    "it's amazing how buzzy hackers have become about them."

    Yep. Because:

    a) No Microsoft tax. I'm *not* saying Windows is rubbish (it is..but I won't flame on about it..), but I don't want to pay for it when I am NEVER going to use it... and have Microsoft count me as a Windows user when I am not.

    b) Nice size and power. Linux distros are efficient, I don't want or need a multighz multicore machine just to take care of business. My *current* notebook is a Celeron M 1.4 with 512MB, I plan to get something like a Mini9 very soon. If I run out of CPU power for extended time, I will find what's least important and renice it to low priority (Note: this might be a nice point'n'click tool to add, some GUI method to turn down some apps' priorities.)

    Nice article btw. I think it's nice to have a nice article that digs under the hood a little. People'll say Linux is too hard while thinking nothing of digging into the windows registry on a regular basis (or doing actual file editing on OSX to adjust stuff the GUI doesn't let be adjusted), this shows that even if you have to edit a text file it's not usually too bad.

    "No, the REAL hacker solution is to install Slackware 1.x from floppies..."

    Hahaha yeah. I did the full diskset slack install back in the day. A full system (for the time... openoffice, netscape (let alone firefox), etc didn't exist yet) in about 20MB of disk space, I ran in 8MB of RAM.

  10. Cosmin Roman


    No, as a hacker you'd start working on the linux kernel by hand, make the C compiler, and compile all the extras as you move along (nod to Linus)

    I, personally, got to the X part (that's where the caffeine effects ended ...)

    Coat is the one with the Assembly book in the outer pocket, thanks.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    No, the real hacker thing to do... break into switched-off computers over the electricity wires and radiowaves and steal my blood and kidneys by email to fund drugs and terrorism via the transplant black market.

    I read it in the Mail.

  12. Viet
    Thumb Up

    Thank you...

    While I certainly qualify as someone able to install ubuntu on an eee (in fact it's already done on a bootable usb key), or even tailor build a lfs for it (been there, done that some years ago for another machine, would need some more free time to achieve such a project now), I appreciate to use my eee as an appliance, and welcome you for the quick and concise review of the simpleui insides.

    Keep on the good job !

    Next assignement : how to merge the update patches with the ro system disk partition, instead of shrinking the rw user part of an eee ? :-)

  13. Jay

    As per Roger Ubuntu EEE

    I've got Ubuntu EEE 8.04.1 running on my EEE (sans the evil Netbook Remix front end) and it's ace. The only slightly down side is that the wifi is a bit flaky (it works eventually), though that should be fixed in the forthcoming 8.10 release. Will also be nice to get Lightning 0.8 for Google Calendar sync too.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Another good episode

    Thanks for this - it's useful to see how far the out-of-box OS can be tweaked to fit better. And that might save the 'need' to reflash with Ubuntu, SUSE, Debian and so on!

    I find it a little strange that no-one seems to have tried adding a "proper OS" (see the list above) to run alongside of the factory supplied one (dual booting). I'm thinking myself that maybe trying to cut a bootable USB "Live CD" of Ubuntu Remix might be a good idea to at least try an alternative OS before committing it to disk. But a dual-boot (with the default being the factory OS) would be nicer - especially when there's plenty of space (120GB disk on my Acer!)

    Meanwhile, I look forward to the next instalment of this series...

  15. matt

    The best upgrade I made to my netbook was...

    to get a high speed SD card and move /home to it. Before I did that I was getting lots of application hangs while stuff was written to the ssd. Now apps open and close MUCH faster and nothing hangs any more. Firefox was pretty much unusable, now it's just a bit sluggish!

  16. Viet

    @R. Cross

    As mentionned, I did install a "proper" OS on an alternate usb key, with dual boot. But I noticed I simply wasn't using it ! In fact, it was just a dedicated ScummVM platform, that allowed me to store games outside my regular, work related stuff.

    Asus simpleui fits my bill. YMMV.

  17. Maty
    Thumb Up

    why not...

    Just replace the fisher-price interface with a proper linux gui and leave the underlying Xandros intact? Done that with my eee, and now don't leave home without it. Did £120 worth of work while waiting to see the dentist once - the thing has paid for itself several times over.

  18. W

    Nice to see that...

    ...we've essentially reached the concensus that these "broken" netbook Linux GUIs are doing no favours for anyone and a "proper" GUI would give a much better account of.

    Shame my comments to that effect on the previous two installments of this series were flamed to high heaven by two persistent individuals. No matter - the good will out.

  19. Anonymous Coward


    I manage to get Mandriva 2009.0 going on my girlfriends AAO (she'd had enough of Linpus Lite!). To say that it was arduous would be an understatement - you have to install it via an external CD/DVD Drive or net install. Seems, though, to be the only distro whos wireless works out-of-the-box(ish). I have found that with each different distro there is a need to be initially 'hardwired' to the internet as the wireless device drivers rarely work straight away. To be fair wireless support is the only real problem I personally have had. Oh, and Mandriva takes an age to boot compared to Linpus. Still, it reminds me of the early days of hacking Linux to work! To be honest, the best way to get a distro up and running is to compile an up to date version of the kernel on the intended device and clear-out all the chaff so that you are only left with the module you need. If your device has an Atom processor, Intels C compiler is free for NC use...

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