Sunday, November 16, 2008


My new PC

Exciting stuff - after 10 or 15 years of commuting to London and reading books every day, I've decided I need a change. There's not much chance of a change of job at the moment so I've bought an Asus 901 to entertain me on the train instead of trying to find yet another book to read. It's a tiny little notebook with a 9" screen and a 20GB ssd.

I wasn't about to pay for XP so I got the version with Linux on it instead. The default interface Asus provide is fine, basically fixed sets of big icons for all the usual things like email and web browsing. However it was no good if you wanted to do anything else so the first thing I did was install enabled the more usual menu-based desktop.

The next problem was that the Xandros version of Linux supplied is based around, but not necessarily compatible with, debian. So you are either stuck with the very limited repositories provided by Asus or risk breaking something using debian repositories. Even something as simple as getting Firefox 3 installed looked non-trivial.
The solution was to install a cut down version of Ubuntu. This has certainly improved the PC (though the boot times have increased a bit) but wasn't as easy to install as it might have been. The first problem was getting the software onto an SD card and making it bootable. You can't do this on the Asus itself as the program to do it complains about needing GLIB_2.4, which you can't install without breaking something as its not available in the standard repositories. So you need another PC to create the bootable SD card.

Once you've done that you have the funn of getting the Asus to boot from it. Despite bios updates and playing around with the bios config to change the boot device order, I managed to boot once and then it refused to boot again from the SD card. The solution was to press ESC and not F2 as this brings up special "boot from device" menu.

Finally I had to get the wireless connection working. Toggling it on or off using F2 freezes the PC so don't do that. Even when it was on, it refused to connect. After playing around with all the various possible parameters, I found that you had to explicitly select ITEK in the connection dialog rather than leaving it on automatic.

So that's it, I finally have a working Asus and can start doing what I wanted to do in the the place, though I'll start with listening to the Archers podcasts.

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