Acer Aspire One – Progress Report 1

It’s not quite four weeks since I got my sweet little netbook, but I’ve been using it quite a lot since then, so I thought it might be a good time to talk about how I’m getting on with it.

As it comes out of the box, it’s perfectly usable – there’s a simple interface which provides large friendly icons to launch the supplied applications, and it’s easy enough to get into the few settings that most non-geeky users are going to want – wireless network settings being the most obvious one. But being a geek, I wasn’t really satisfied with that. A bit of searching and reading led me to the very useful Aspire One User Forum, which led me to a long and detailed thread on how to switch to a standard desktop:

Get the Linux desktop you always wanted in 10 easy steps!

Following that with a bit of trial and error got me a proper desktop with a normal taskbar thingy. Much nicer.

I then decided that trying a few other species of Linux might be fun. Ubuntu is quite popular, and I’ve tried it out on full-sized machines where it works nicely. Would it work on the Aspire One? Well, yes. Quite well, really – though wireless networking needs a bit of manual tweaking to get working. But after a few days, I got a little irritated with the slower start up and what seemed like poorer battery life[1], so I popped in my recovery USB stick and reverted to the original installation[2]. Which I then tweaked again.

More reading led me to look at Mandriva. This installed beautifully. Wireless worked without tweaking. But on the 512MB Aspire One, it was sloooooooooooooooooooooow. Long lags between clicking things and anything happening, not just a slow start up.

So, it was back to the start again. I redid all my tweaking (upgrade to Firefox 3 and Open Office 3, standard desktop, disable automatic log in, etc) and got back to just using the computer. As all this tweaking takes a while, I needed a way to back up what I’d done, and more searching on the forum suggested a few methods of varying levels of ease. I settled on using PING (Partimage is not Ghost), which works with a bootable USB stick. Boot off the stick, and you get a moderately easy to use text-based interface that lets you take a compressed image of the whole 8GB SSD. This took about ten minutes on my not very full at all disk. I then deleted some stuff and used PING to restore the disk, which worked as advertised.

In between all this fiddling, I have been using the computer, of course. Mostly for web browsing, but I’ve had a bit of a play with the built in webcam, and I’m quite pleased with the image quality:

Tigger and Friend

Tigger and Friend

I’m now getting ready to do some more fiddling. A bit more reading led me to the discovery that the underlying version of Linux on the AAO (as its friends call it) is Fedora 8. Not the newest or fanciest, but particularly in its Linpus variant it works well on low power kit. But there is a potential problem: As Fedora 10 is about to be released, support for Fedora 8 is going to cease. Not all that important, but enough to make me give the pre-release version of Fedora 10 a go. According to a few reports, it works nicely. I’ll cover that in a future post…

[1] I didn’t actually measure it, it was just a (possibly incorrect) impression…
[2] Acer provide a bootable DVD for system recovery. Pop this into a PC with a suitable drive, add a 2GB USB memory key and you’ll have a nicely portable recovery “disk”

3 thoughts on “Acer Aspire One – Progress Report 1

  1. Les Post author

    To tell the truth, I don’t quite remember how I did all that when I was running Linpus. I’m now using Ubuntu 8.10 Netbook Remix, and it’s a bit different on that.

    The best place I know of for help is the Aspire One forum. Sign up there, and have a look.

  2. Mike

    Just bought an acer aspire one with linux and 120GB drive. The netbook is nice and when it starts up works very well. But the manufacturer states that a 30 sec start up is normal. My one straight out of the box took 3 mins and is now even slower – about 5 to six minutes to start. This can’t be right I think and I cannot find any answers online. Anyone any ideas. Thanks

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