I finally found some time to install Ubuntu on my Eee pc 901, and it’s a good thing I’ve waited for the holidays (if I can call them holidays — despite what some lady friends tell me, hunting for Christmas presents in shopping malls is hard work), because the entire process sure took a lot more time than I was initially expecting.

I’ve followed a a post over on tombuntu, while also referring to Rui Carmo’s post on the subject and to a series of other resources that address more specific issues:

  • Found out that noatime is actually a superset of nodiratime, so I only ended up adding the first one to fstab.
  • I hadn’t fiddled with the kernel’s I/O scheduler before, so although I’ve seen a couple of recommendations towards using elevator=deadline as a kernel parameter, I’ve only understood it better by going through this other post.
  • I’ve mounted /tmp as a memory filesystem, as instructed, but soon found it taking 500MB of memory (even though only 26MB where being effectively being used), which seemed more than reasonable, specially considering I’m not using a swap partition. So, what I did was to limit the size of /tmp using an extra parameter: tmpfs /tmp tmpfs defaults,noatime,mode=1777,size=250m 0 0. Got some insights on the use of tempfs on this article.

So everything was going great… that is, until I tried to establish a connection to my wireless router at home. Network Manager refused to cooperate — it kept asking for authentication credentials, even though he already had the right ones — and I took a while to understand I was facing some sort of bug in NM, and not an incompatibility with the Eee hardware (at least, this is my theory for now). This seems to be reproducible with hidden WPA networks, like the one I had at home. I just ended up changing the router settings to broadcast the SSID, and all is working fine now. Still, this worries me, I wonder if I won’t have trouble connecting to eduroam networks — will have to try it.

Btw, I have to say I now strongly agree that Network Manager badly needs a refresh feature.

Another difficulty I add was finding a convenient way to quickly configure VGA output, as I frequently need to connect to a projector, either for classes or the occasional presentation. Again, this has nothing to do with the Eee 901 specifically, although the fact that it uses a 16:9 resolution does add a bit to the challenge. I ended up using LXRandR, that is provided by the Ubuntu repositories, but also found two other promising applications that do mostly the same: uRandR and aRandR.

At this point, I realized I had very little space left on the 4GB SSD, as it was to be expect. I’ve done two things to get some space back: first, I’ve used this setting on synaptic packet manager: Settings -> Preferences -> Files -> Delete Downloaded Packages After Installation; second, there are loads of pre-installed documentation that typically never get used: /usr/share/doc told me what was taking too much space, and I got rid of some of these docs by using apt). I still have 1.1GB free now, which is quite reasonable, since I kept almost everything, including open-office, and installed texlive and several other smaller packages.