Think little

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 09/01/2008 - 22:36

Back from Argentina, back from DebConf. As always, the ~3 weeks I spent there were really great, in as many fronts as I can imagine or describe. But I won't go into that now - For the purposes of this posting, the single thing that I got out of DebConf was looking with envy at all the people that had something that used to be called a sub-notebook some time ago, and now morphed into the more modern(?) name netbook.
Several people were seen with their tiny Asus Eee machines, of various models. And I definitively decided I want one - I was quite close to buying one in Argentina, as they are readily for sale there (surprisingly, in Mexico Asus sells motherboards, but no netbooks)... But I've always prefered waiting or paying a little premium for having an on-country seller and warranty.

Back home, Pooka told me that several stores in Mexico do sell the Acer Aspire One. After a little research, I decided to go for it. Office Depot sells the AAO for MX$4500 (around US$450). The only model they carry comes with Windows XP installed (instead of Linpus Linux), which is a shame I thoroughly repeated to the vendor - But it does come with 1GB RAM and 120GB HDD, much better for my needs than the other model, with 512MB RAM and 8GB SSD. This is, after all, a full (although very small) machine. It has an Intel Atom 270 CPU - I haven't yet measured how it fares, but it feels quite responsive so far for typical desktop tasks.
But what made me really happy about it is the Debian support. The only tricky part was to get the installer going, as it does not have a CD drive to boot from (and I didn't want to completely overwrite my only available USB stick's data). Don't try installing Debian Etch, as its kernel will not support the built-in Realtek RTL8101E network card (maybe etch-and-a-half's kernel does?). My greatest ally in this was, of course, the wiki.debian.org article on the Acer One - I rebooted with Lenny's debian-installer, and everything was smooth from that point on. Propietary firmware is required for the wireless AR5007 card and webcam, but -exactly as documented in the wiki- they are covered respectively by madwifi and linux-uvc.
I did a very regular install, with basically the default desktop and notebook setup. I continue to be amazed... Everything just works! It is not even fun, there are no funny drivers to recompile, no bang-your-head-against-the-wall... Even suspend-to-RAM. It just works.
The only glitch I found so far is that, after suspend-to-RAM, the madwifi module must be removed and reloaded to have wireless network. This is a well-known glitch that can be easily worked around. But besides that, it is... as easy as it gets. And, at such a price, and under 1Kg weight... This computer will get used to go out with me quite often! Battery life is just 2 hours, but for most situations, it's more than enough.

( categories: )
RIVE's picture

Felicidades por tu compra,

Felicidades por tu compra, tengo una Eee PC 701 Surf que ya se quedó muy corta con las características de la Acer, pero bueno, quería una "netbook" para no cargar con mi pesada Dell, me sigue dando un excelente servicio, de hecho para lo que necesito de un equipo que voy a cargar hace lo que necesito y más, pero ¡claro! quiero algo más potente, mi idea es cambiar mi Eee hasta el próximo año, como va la tecnología ya tendremos Atom de doble núcleo.

Saludos.

alex_mayorga's picture

Did you...

rejected Windows EULA on first boot?
I assume you did, if so, please let me know how your reimbursement goes. I had little luck with Dell on this and would love to get PROFECO engaged, but other than my word, a little cell phone video and my recollection of the facts I don't have much to get this moving.
On a personal side note, I've got myself a free pass for http://congreso.seguridad.unam.mx and wonder if it would be possible to abuse your hospitality =)
I believe you live around the UNAM area. If it's OK with you please drop me a line by e-mail.
Thanks in advance.

gwolf's picture

Nope, I did not.

I intend to keep Windows XP installed. I am doing a couple of things that require me to have Windows handy - And besides, this computer is to be used not only by myself, but by my wife as well :-)
Regarding the conference - When is it? Call me and we will see :) I will not attend, though - and I live half a city away from it. It's usually held at Palacio de San Ildefonso, very close to the Zocalo, downtown Mexico City.

alex_mayorga's picture

Indeed

XP wives are serious road blocks to FLOSS adoption =) same thing happens with yours truly over here, she refuses to be "debianized".

You're right the conference would be held at http://www.palaciomineria.unam.mx but as little as I can tell it seems there are subway stations close to your home and the conference, anyway I'll give you a call today if you don't mind.

In your opinion, is it worth all the hassle? I would need to do about 16 hours of bus travel.

Thanks a bunch on your kind reply.

Geronimo Orozco's picture

Y que tal jala ?

Estoy por comprarme una nueva laptop dado que la dell inspiron que tenia paso a mejor vida.... Y he estado pensando en comprarme una maquina pequeña...

Asi que quisiera saber si tu usas esta acer one como laptop de batalla.. Es decir, pa programar para estar frente a ella trabajando todos o casi todos los dias ...

gwolf's picture

It is a nice machine, for what it's good...

It has a decent screen and keyboard size for using in the road, and it is as light as it gets. However, the keyboard is smaller than a regular keyboard and the screen is only 1024x600. The Intel Atom 270 CPU (appears to be comparable to the latest Pentium III or earliest Pentium 4 performance-wise) is enough for casual work, but I wouldn't want to compile much on it.
This machine is great for mobility. But I wouldn't ever use it as my main workstation, as you are apparently planning.
FWIW, I _did_ go for a good, small laptop when I bought mine. I have a Dell XPS M1210 (no longer available) - 12 inches, relatively light and small. But what can I say? I am just a kid. Give me some money, and I will buy me shiny toys! ;-) (and this toy was not all that expensive)

vernaides's picture

Struggling with Etch-and-a-Half on Aspire One SSD model

I'm currently struggling with installing etch-and-a-half on my Aspire One 8GB SSD. The network card detection seemingly hangs the installer, but Alt-F4 showed me that Linux didn't crash. it showed something about hwdetect.hotplug detecting a hotpluggable network interface...
I skipp the network card detection, and it hangs with the disk detection part, showing the same hwdetect message.
I skip that too, and end up not being able to complete the partitioning--it allows me to set everything, but stalls after I click "Finish and write changes to disk".

Granted, I'm using an unsupported installation method (USB flash disk with lenny 2.6.24 hd-media and etchnhalf netinst ISO), but I've never encountered crashing the partitioning part in any of my Debian installs before.

vernaides's picture

Struggling with etchnhalf install on Aspire One

I'm currently struggling with installing etch-and-a-half on my Aspire One 8GB SSD. The network card detection seemingly hangs the installer, but Alt-F4 showed me that Linux didn't crash. I skip the network card detection, and it hangs with the disk detection part too. I skip that too, and end up not being able to complete the partitioning--it allows me to set everything, but stalls after I click "Finish and write changes to disk".

Granted, I'm using an unsupported installation method (USB flash disk with lenny 2.6.24 hd-media and etchnhalf netinst ISO), but I've never encountered crashing the partitioning part in any of my Debian installs before.

Cae's picture

Does Acer/XP wireless works with Debian

I'm about to buy a netbook and (if you can help to confirm some detail) most probably the same ACER that you had bought.

Wanted to install Debain onto it and was wondering
- what is the wireless chipset used and
- if this ACER is supported in Debian by default.

btw, I am new to Linux and hopes that I can get it working with minimum "problem" :)

appreciate your help and advise.

gwolf's picture

Wireless does work

Yup, the wirless card is detected at install time. It does require non-free firmware to work (which is reported by the installer), but once the firmware is installed, it works perfectly. I found the Debian Wiki page about the Acer Aspire One an invaluable resource to get everything working as it should - Quoting from there,

Make sure you have a non-free and a contrib stanza in /etc/apt/sources.list - this is because madwifi is not considered free software according to debian. Then as root:

# apt-get update
# apt-get install build-essential module-assistant madwifi-source
# m-a prepare
# m-a auto-install madwifi

That's all there is to it. And, of course, to get the WiFi indicator LED (front-lower-right part of the machine) working:

you can enable the WIFI led by adding

dev.wifi0.ledpin=3
dev.wifi0.softled=1

to the end of /etc/sysctl.conf (or /etc/sysctl.d/madwifi.conf)