Asus Eee-PC 901 OS recommendations?

This is the first blog post I’m writing from my Asus Eee-PC 901 netbook PC. In terms of hardware, I think it’s a marvel. It looks slick, is small enough to retain that true gadget factor and seems exceptionally sturdy. The Atom processor feels snappy enough and runs XP with ease. But I don’t. After more that a year of Vista it’s amazing how many things about XP bug me. It’s really one of the worst Windows versions when it comes to usability. And besides, all the security updates and stuff make my netbook less fun than I think it could be. This is why I find myself looking for a better OS for my tiny new friend.

Xandros?

The linux equivalent of my machine runs a purpose-built version of Xandros Linux. The restore DVD that comes with that machine is easy to find online, but since Xandros is a commercial distribution, the legality of installing it is questionable. It will have all the appropriate drivers, and should work out of the box. For someone like me who’s almost completely new to Linux, that should be ideal. On the other hand, The default distribution frustrates some power users, and I like feeling in control of my system.

XEPC?

There’s an open source project called XEPC that offers an improved version of the original Xandros restore disk. Definitely legal and made made for the Eee-PC. A 901 version is also available (the innards for the 901 are almost completely different from earlier Eee-PC models). Sounds like a great option, but I wonder if this open source project will last in the longer run. The last thing you want is to be exiled.

Ubuntu?

I’ve played around with Ubuntu in the past, and liked the interface, the easy installation and the huge support community. Unfortunately, setting it up on the 901 appears to be troublesome, with crucial things like network adapters not working until you enter long complicated commands into the console. Not my cup of tea I’m afraid. I hope there will be an easy to install Eee version soon, but for now I think I’ll pass… Shame, because the ´Netbook Remix`sure does look interesting.

nLite XP

This will not rid me of the malware trouble that comes with running Windows, but it will make it start faster and leave more room on the tiny little system ‘disc’. There’s a great tutorial on how to go about it here: http://www.i64x.com/eeexp.php.

OSX?

I´m not seriously considering this, but it´s fun that it can be done. OSX is a heavy OS, and the fact that this tiny little machine that costs less than half of what a MacBook wiill set you back can successfully run it is nothing short of amazing.

So, what do you recommend? Has anyone tried the original Xandros disc or XEPC on the 901XP? Is Ubuntu doable for a long/time Windows user? Or should I stick with XP until other options arise?

25 Comments

  1. Make sure you test any OS (by installing onto an SD card) before you mess up the default windows install. I tried a couple of linux installs, and the ubuntu option doesn’t get past 78% completion before it starts to spit out SQUASHFS-related errors, and the installer for Gentoo fails (that has always been glitchy). I’m going to try out that XEPC disc on my 901.

    Tip: buy an 8GB or 16GB SD or SDHC card for your 901 to improve storage capacity.

    Comment by Jason Cole — August 21, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

  2. Hmmm… XEPC installed just fine here. I indeed got a large SDHC card today, and I’ll probably use it to try different operating systems. It’s nice to have a machine I can play around with. My desktop has far too much important freelance stuff on it to mess with.

    Comment by Roy — August 22, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

  3. Have you installed the XEPC recovery onto the SD card?

    I have the XP version and I would like to preserve the original OS until a viable alternative arrives.
    It is not clear from the documentation if there is the chance to select the target disk during restore procedure.

    Comment by markov — August 28, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

  4. I’ve simply gone ahead and replaced Windows altogether. I did attempt to install Ubuntu to an SDHC card yesterday, but that didn’t quite go as planned. I’ll try and post my experiences about that later today.

    Comment by Roy — August 28, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  5. I installed a Mandriva One KDE 2008.1 on a 4 GB SDHC using it as an HD and booting from it with the menu at startup.
    It was simple and straightforward.

    Using this method the SDHC, after the boot, appears as /dev/sda instead of /dev/sdc as per normal startup.
    It seems that the BIOS re-maps the drives to place the booted one first.

    Comment by markov — August 28, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  6. When I installed Ubuntu to my SDHC card I lost the option to boot into Xandros. Grub basically took over. If I removed the card it would fail to boot, but tat meant it was installed on the SSD. I quite liked what I’d seen that far, so I decided to do a proper install on the 901′s SSD drives.

    Comment by Roy — August 28, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  7. Well, you have to select the SD disk as location to install GRUB.
    I you boot from an external usb drive, the SD will be the last drive, /dev/sdd.
    In Mandriva there is the possibility to choose the drive and/or the partition where to install to. I suppose Ubuntu has the same.
    But the default could be inappropriately chosen as /dev/sda, that means the Xandros (or XP) drive.

    Comment by markov — August 28, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

  8. I wasn’t really surprised to see it go wrong. I’m a total Linux newbie, so I was happy to even get it working…

    Comment by Roy — August 28, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

  9. So, are you satisfied by the xpc-recovery dvd?
    I read the release notes where it is written that the full desktop mode is not *yet* available for the updated version of the OS.
    Is it still true? With the 701 I feel a little constrained without the full desktop.

    Comment by markov — August 28, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

  10. Since I wrote this post I moved on to Ubuntu exclusively. The full desktop mode in Xandros felt a little clumsy to me, especially when compared to Ubuntu’s Compiz Fusion fireworks. Also OpenOffice Calc failed miserably in full desktop mode.

    Comment by Roy — August 28, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

  11. I had the same impression with the 701.
    That’s why I’m trying to install a *real* distro on the 901 and the preliminary works on Mandriva are developing well.

    Unfortunately there are still some issue open: acpi and the extra buttons for example.
    I fixed the eth, wlan and BT, but acpi modules refuse to compile with the 2008.1 kernel version.

    Comment by markov — August 28, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

  12. I’m so glad that Ubuntu is “Linux for human beings”… there’s a large and very helpful community, and I’ve not had to compile anything. Considering how the innards of the 901 are the same for every machine, there should be no need to do so anyway, right?

    Comment by Roy — August 29, 2008 @ 7:34 am

  13. Link: Bad Penny
  14. I dislike the Xandros disribution that shipped with my eee1000. It’s slow, clumbsy and unintuitive. I installed Ubuntu and was generally impressed; although all the lines of code I had to enter to enable the wireless adapter was a little cumbersome, it worked. The OS is generally nice to use. Codecs such as .avi and .wmv can be installed via the application manager with relative ease.

    Where, though, does it install? At no point does Ubuntu prompt for an install location. There are 6 partitions of my SSD for some unfathomable reason, one of which I’m required to format should I wish to install XP, but none of which I am able to without having to restore my eeepc from the recovery disk. It simply wont boot. Very irritating.

    Comment by Daniel — September 11, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

  15. Maybe you could try this:

    http://www.ubuntu-eee.com

    Ubuntu Eee is not only Ubuntu optimized for the Asus Eee PC. It’s an operating system, using the Netbook Remix interface, which favors the best software available instead of open source alternatives (ie. Skype instead of Ekiga).

    It seems to work (almost) out of the box with 901…

    Comment by Horakus — September 12, 2008 @ 6:52 am

  16. Hi Horakus. I currently have Ubuntu EEE running. Unfortunately, the latest version (which includes Netbook Remix) requires a full install, and I’m somewhat reluctant to reinstall my eee-pc for a fourth time since I got it.

    Comment by Roy — September 12, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

  17. You guys need to invest in a disc imaging utility before trying different OS’s.

    I use something called TeraByte Image. Boots to DOS, images my 901′s system to a USB2 hard drive in about 20 minutes. Restores in the same time. Probably a half-dozen similar ones out there, but this is the one I stumbled into years back. FWIW, it successfully runs from a memory stick – and some other imaging utilities are said to have problems there.

    I’m about to try putting XP on this thing (again)…. To recover from that, I’ll need to run the Asus recovery CD to get the partitioning back to Linux… but after that it will be only 20 minutes unattended to get my eee Ubuntu system back there exactly the way I left it.

    Comment by PeteCress — December 24, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

  18. If you think that “It’s really one of the worst Windows versions when it comes to usability” about XP..
    I think you have installed worst and oldest drivers for your own hands..

    Fix this up please, and read your post text again :-D
    I think you will change your mind =)

    Vista is a heaviest OS i ever seen. It’s not a system that may be installed on a device (Exceptions for cases, when you hate this device).

    Comment by Name (required) — February 16, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  19. @Name: I think we mean different things when we talk about ‘usability’. Vista is heavier, but by comparison, XP is harder navigate. Options are buried deeper and things like wireless networking are downright counter-intuitive.

    Comment by Roy — February 16, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  20. i know someone said 16GB sdhc card but they make a 32GB if anyone is wondering. its at newegg

    Comment by Austin — April 16, 2009 @ 2:36 am

  21. I own an Asus Eee and an acer netbook but i often use the Asus Eee because it is so much lighter and easily fits in my small bag.
    .

    Comment by Techgirl — December 23, 2009 @ 7:58 am

  22. i always use my Asus Eee PC when i am travelling. It is very convenient to carry on any place.
    `

    Comment by Caramoan Philippines — December 28, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

  23. I got an Asus Eee as a christmas gift. It is very compact but i wish that the LCD screen was larger.

    Comment by Yonica — January 2, 2010 @ 9:20 am

  24. I’m totally new to linux operating systems. I have an Asus Eee PC and the software version si EeePC 1.6.0.104
    dated 06/18/2008. I bought it at a thrift store. It had no charger no documentation, and found the battery to be dead. Now I’ve got it up and running. Since I don’t understand a lot of the Jargon with linux, I’m not sure what to do execpt use it as is out of the box. I would like to install either another OS (not microsoft related) I would like a look a like program like quicken etc. From reading the posts I assume the OS I have is a specilized OS from Xandros. any help would be appreciated

    Comment by David Ryser — August 26, 2011 @ 2:02 am

  25. I currently have WindowsFLP (Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs) running.Very stable and fast. No bugs.I tried several versions of Linux. I have not found one that is better than WinFLP.

    Comment by Daniel — January 17, 2012 @ 12:44 am