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New Operating System for Asus EEE 900A

One of my children bought an Asus EEE 900A. Its a very attractive little machine. 9 inch screen that is surprisingly easy to view, a small but ergonomic keyboard, and, because this device uses solid state storage, it is silent and has excellent battery life.

The downside, the disk drive is only 4 Gb.

Before we bought it 4 Gb seemed small, but after all, it wasn’t that long ago that I paid about $500 for a 120Mb drive for my IBM desktop, and 4Gb still holds a lot of word processing documents. Or so we thought…

When the Asus arrived it included a handsome Xandros operating system. The “Easy” interface was ideal for someone used to MS Windows. The trouble was, it was shipped with a huge number of applications that took up virtually all of the disk space (like 95%) and there is no way to remove unwanted applications. Since we left the auto-update switched on we soon ran into problems of using up absolutely all of the disk space. We could have used an external disk drive to store documents, but in the shipped state the device did not run YouTube videos or Facebook chat. Of course, it might have done if we had been able to update packages but this was impossible because there was not enough free disk space.

Searching the forums it appeared that it was possible to remove applications. Some said this could be done by running in Advanced mode which required manifold changes and tweaks to operating system files (especially for the 900A). Others insisted that you had to mess with the disk partitions to allow changes to be made to the system partition (which contained the backup data and most of the available disk space). I believe you need at least  PhD in computer science to follow these conflicting instructions or at least a lot of patience. As with most advice for Linux, it roughly divided into 40% that conflicts with other advice, 40% written to make the person writing it appear very clever and to obfuscate information for everyone else, and 20% useful. And you never know which is which until you have spent many fruitless hours.

I eventually gave up and turned to http://www.eeebuntu.org/ This site is definitely in the useful domain.

EEE Ubuntu is a subset of Ubuntu that is designed to run on EEE machines ‘out of the box.’ At least that’s what the Web site says.

I followed the install instructions for EEEbuntu Base, which is the smallest of their downloads. I downloaded the ISO and then went to http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/ to download a program that runs under Windows XP to create a bootable USB stick.

I adjusted the Asus to boot from the USB stick (by pressing F2 on bootup and changing the order of boot devices).

The real beauty of using the USB is you can boot up in the new operating system and test it out without touching the old. In other words, you can check that everything is working properly before you commit to installing the new operating system on the Asus disk.

After checking that the wireless driver was working properly and that it was possible to watch YouTube (which required downloading Flash, which was easy), I clicked the install link and installed EEEBuntu.

Having installed the operating system, the system recognized my wireless network. I just had to enter the password to connect. I quickly installed OpenOffice Word and Spreadsheet, and also Thunderbird for email.

Connecting to a Windows networked printer was extremely easy.

Overall I wish we had gone down this route months ago.

Asus make good machines but they need to be a little more thoughtful when they fill their computers with unneeded applications without a way to remove them.