My goal is to be able to charge the battery for my computer with my Shimano Dynamo hub via the e-werk from Busch & Müller. For that reason when searching for a computer to buy, I limited myself to netbooks that are able to charge on 12 volts. Of course other considerations when bicycle touring are size and weight. But 12 volt limitation automatically limits the choices to small, light netbooks that don’t use a lot of energy. The only choices I found actually were the Asus eee series. Perfect. I don’t like having too many choices.
I bought the Asus eee pc 900ha on ebay factory refurbished from a computer shop in Newark, California. US$180 included taxes and shipping. Did I also mention that these things aren’t too expensive? I paid less for the silly e-werk (€108), but not a lot less.
The netbook came shipped with Windows XP. Since I don’t want to pay for or pirate/steal software, I downloaded the Ubuntu 10.10 netbook remix. Using Universal-USB-Installer-220.127.116.11.exe on my old windows laptop, I made a bootable USB stick to install the OS. Even though the BIOS indicated that it ought to work, the netbook didn’t want to boot from the USB drive. Had I been able to do that I could have avoided booting into Windows at all. In the end though it probably makes sense to boot into Windows to look at the hard drives and get an idea of how to repartition the drives for Ubuntu. Plus since I couldn’t boot off the stick, I needed to install Plop Boot Manager.
Using Plop Boot Manager I booted from the USB stick. Note that when using Plop to boot from the stick, data is written to the stick, and you won’t be able to boot off that stick again without recreating it. I got burned with this because when I got to the drive partitioning part of the Ubuntu installation I wanted to boot back into Windows to make sure that I know which partitions were which.
There were four partitions: c:/ and d:/ on windows totaling about 134GB, the recovery partition with Windows XP, and a small leftover bit. For Ubuntu I took the two big partitions and created three partitions:
- 8GB swap
- 8GB /
- the rest on /home
In retrospect I wonder if I shouldn’t have made / bigger. I’ve already used half of it, but of course I have the OS, wordpress, shotwell, mysql. What more am I going to need? And I’m guess I’m not positive that all apps end up in /
By leaving the recovery partition untouched, I can always reinstall Windows exactly the way the machine was when it arrived at my house.
Ubuntu worked fine after the installation without futzing although I notice in this photo I should probably get a little penguin sticker to replace the Microsoft one:
It came with OpenOffice, gnome desktop, Nautilus, shotwell, firefox, and certainly other things that I haven’t found yet. The gnome desktop on the netbook remix is a bit different from the regular desktop or servers editions. Two annoying things so far:
- I haven’t figured out how to make the launcher disappear. It’s a column on the left side of the screen with large icons taking up valuable screen real estate.
- There’s no menu anywhere, e.g., system–>administration–>preferences or any normal way to get to all the applications and tools like I would with the desktop edition. Not being able to find these tools in the way everyone else does is particularly annoying when finding answers on the internet. The terminal works as expected so that’s something.
A somewhat amazing thing is that every single hardware bit seems to be working after the Ubuntu installation without having to futz with a single driver. This includes the wireless internet access, the wired network access port, the built-in microphone, the microphone port, the camera, the headphone jack, the SD card reader, the 3 USB ports, and the VGA 15-pin serial monitor port or whatever it’s called. Uh, yeah, I guess that’s all the ports.
And just a note on the battery:
I checked at BatteriesPlus, and they can order another battery for this computer for US$85. There’s nothing wrong with this battery, but I just checked the price as long as I was in the store. I am concerned that the unusual charging regime with the e-werk (start and stop trickle charge and not waiting for the battery to get too low before because of the limited times when charging is available) may wear out the battery more quickly than is normal.