Saturday, January 3, 2009

[HOWTO] Install Xubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex on Asus EeePC 900A

Amazon just offered a really good deal on the Asus EeePC 900A, which is very much like the original 701 (which I purchased for my trip to India last year) in outward appearance, but offeres a bigger screen with higher resolution and a much faster CPU. The internal SSD [solid state drive] grows to 8 GB, but it uses MLC instead of SLC, which makes is slower than the 701.

Anyways, I will not review the 900A in this post, maybe that will come later. Instead, I provide a detailed account of how I replaced the less than stellar Xandros Linux with the more than decent Xubuntu.

Caution: By following these instructions you will completely erase any data that may have been stored on your EeePC, including the Xandros Linux it came with, and any and all files you have created. Make a backup before you proceed!

General Disclaimer: I describe what worked for me. Your mileage can - and will - vary considerably. Consider this a travel report, not a guided tour. Know what you are doing, don't play with matches, and do not run with scissors! You have been warned. :-)

1. Download Xubuntu from I used Xubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex), which is current as of the time of this writing. You should be able to use Ubuntu or Kubuntu with no major changes to these instructions.

2. Copy the ISO image to a bootable USB stick. There are many ways to do this, I prefer to use the script from the command line from a running

sudo apt-get install syslinux mtools
chmod +x
sudo ./ xubuntu-8.10-desktop-i386.iso /dev/sdX1

Important: You have to replace /dev/sdX1 with the device for your USB stick. The easiest way to determine this is to plug in your USB stick and wait until it has been mounted on the desktop. Then use the 'df' command to display all filesystems:

$ df
Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1 7376592 3183768 3818112 46% /
tmpfs 1032220 0 1032220 0% /lib/init/rw
varrun 1032220 112 1032108 1% /var/run
varlock 1032220 0 1032220 0% /var/lock
udev 1032220 2784 1029436 1% /dev
tmpfs 1032220 0 1032220 0% /dev/shm
/dev/sdc1 7816212 2210024 5606188 29% /media/BIGFOOT

In this example, BIGFOOT is the name of the name of the USB stick on the desktop, so /dev/sdc1 is the device name. The correct command is therefore:

sudo ./ xubuntu-8.10-desktop-i386.iso /dev/sdX1

3. Insert the USB stick into the Eee and power it up or reboot, if already running. After the boot screen, press ESC and select the USB stick as the boot device in the menu.
After a few seconds, you will be prompted to enter what you want to do. Choose the live image option (i.e. "Try Xubuntu without changing anything".)
After Xubuntu finishes loading, play around with it to make sure that you like it.
Note: At this point, a number of things will not work properly. In my case, WLAN, a number of the hotkeys, and suspend to RAM definitely did not work properly. This is to be expected and will be resolved during further installation.

4. Once you are ready to commit yourself, click on the "Install" icon on the desktop. Answer the questions that follow and wait until the installation has finished. It is probably a good idea to remove all devices and memory cards from the Eee before you do this (except for the USB stick you are booting/installing from, of course.) If you don't, you may get some strange issues with GRUB, the bootloader. Fixing those is definitely beyond the scope of this post.
After the installation has finished, you will be asked to remove the USB stick and reboot. Do so. Then log in. Everything should be like it was with the live image (step 3), but changes that you make will now be persistent.

5. At this point, I connect an Ethernet cable to the Eee and start the update manager to get all the latest updates. The update manager is in Applications > System > Update Manager, or from the terminal:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Note: This works only with an Ethernet connection (remember, WLAN does not work until the next step has been completed) that allows access to the internet via DHCP. If you need to jump through more hoops for internet access, you are on your own ... try the Network Manager.

6. To get all the Eee-specific hardware to work, you need to install a new kernel. I use the one from In a terminal window, type:

sudo mv -v array-intrepid.list /etc/apt/sources.list.d/
sudo apt-key add array-apt-key.asc
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-eeepc linux-headers-eeepc

Reboot. Log in again.
I think you now owe Adam McDaniel some beer, see the website for details. ;-)

7. Power management and hotkeys are enabled by installing the ACPI scripts:

tar xfvz Intrepid_ACPI_scripts-EeePC.tar.gz
cd Intrepid_ACPI_scripts-EeePC/
chmod +x
sudo ./ install

8. [Optional] Replace the NetworkManager package with wicd if you need WPA/WPA2 PSK to work:

sudo apt-get install wicd

You may also want to clear up some space by removing unused stuff:

sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo apt-get clean

You are now done. Proceed by customizing Xubuntu you your hearts content ... mine has the classic Mac OS 9 "Platinum" look, for example. ;-)

Why did I choose Xubuntu?
It seemed the leanest and fastest of the official Ubuntus, which is the point of having a Netbook in the first place. Alternatives might have been eeeBuntu or UbuntuEEE. eeeBuntu did not work flawlessly out of the box for me, so what is the point? UbuntuEEE 8.04 has been working well for me on the 701, but as I write this 8.10 has not been released yet. I may switch to UbuntuEEE once they switch to 8.10.

What is wrong with the NetworkManager?
I run a WPA2 encrpted WLAN using PSK (pre-shared key) for authentication. The key is an ASCII password. The NetworkManager seems to think that all PSKs are binary keys and performs some weird conversion voodoo. The net effect is that the key does not work.
Searching the net brought no simpler solution than to replace NetworkManager with wicd, which seems to work immediately and without any fuss.

Are there any problems?
My Eee seems to like dropping the WLAN connection randomly (and far too often). It will reconnect. It looks like a known issue, but I am not sure it is being tracked anymore.
I have not had any other trouble otherwise.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks I was looking for that
    I only changed the way of load the OS into the USB pendisk,


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