Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Making Good on the Asus Eee PC

Day 63

During my recent attempts to begin networking my Eee with some other machines around the house, I decided to try and streamline the various operating systems that were in use. I have six machines running four different flavors of Linux, and two different versions of Windows. I read some release notes on Linux Mint, and thought to give that a go, but it was a catastrophic failure. I tried it on two different CDs as well as on a usb drive, but all of them froze up on each computer I tried. I was in the process of downloading the most recent Ubuntu .iso, when I stumbled upon Thinkgos. I have an older version of gOS on an old Compaq desktop, and it has always done the trick. The newest release, gOS Gadgets 3 looked fancier, so I figured I'd give it a go. And, since it's based on Ubuntu Hardy, I wouldn't be treading on entirely foreign soil.

The Download & Install
The .iso took much longer than I anticipated to download from the mirror link off the ThinkGOS site. Not a big deal – I left the laptop on overnight and started the install process the next morning. Using unetbootin, I created a usb for installation on the Eee. It let me take the operating system for a quick spin before commiting to the full install. I had pretty much bricked the Xandros install after tampering with some repositories and trying to install a Java player, so I just set Good OS, or gOS to install on the main SSD drive.

Replacing the Kernel
After installation, the only major glitch was the lack of wifi access. I found these instructions on how to customize the OS for the Eee by adding a new kernel. I was a bit intimidated by this (I equated it to fiddling around with a flux capacitor on a time machine), but the how-to was clear and surprisingly easy. After rebooting, wifi worked great – and actually connects much faster than it did under Xandros.

Updates and the Consequences
After enabling third party repositories in synaptic (settings → repositories → third-party), I was informed that there were about 200 updates available to my system. One of these was an upgrade to Firefox, which I soon found to be a bit much for the Eee. Firefox 3 (maybe because it's still in beta) was extremely slow and buggy, so I uninstalled 3.0 for the more stable 2.0 (instructions here). I also installed Opera – it's lightening fast, although not as reliable as Firefox. I'm finding myself using it for everything but the sites I know it doesn't load properly (my school email for example – the menus disappear).

The whole purpose for switching Linux flavors was to get the Eee to communicate with other computers. After installing gOS on two other machines, I decided to test out the networking capabilites. First, I had to allow myself permission to share a file. I went to system preferences → administration → authorizations and added myself to the list. After restarting, it was as easy as right clicking on a folder and choosing “sharing options.” My Eee was able to find and transfer files between the other two machines running gOS as well as the laptop with Windows XP, although the XP couldn't find the Linux machines. And to my advantage, gOS comes with VNC. This is an extremely easy-to-use remote access program. With it, I set up a computer with songbird and some external speakers and the Eee became a remote control for a stereo loaded with MP3s.

Final Thoughts
I gave myself a few days to test drive gOS before writing this, and I'm really enjoying it. Since it's based on Ubuntu/Gnome my comfort level is higher than it was initially with Xandros. Plus, because it's based on a major distrobution, I haven't had any problems finding packages that will run smoothly. It's not without some flaws, however - Firefox and wifi are examples. Because of this, gOS may not be the best choice for all you folks who received an Asus Eee PC for Christmas and are looking to do some revamping.

A view of the Asus Eee desktop running Good OS, or gOS

1 thoughts :

  1. cybormoron said...

    gOS is cool. i should use it more often though. i'm waiting for that "cloud" version to be released. looks like the founder is going to show it off at CES.
    http://www.betanews.com/article/Good_OS_founder_Cloud_on_netbooks_to_be_shown_at_CES/1228516356 i have the "gadgets" version in virtualbox and it runs good.
    here's an old screenshot tour i made a couple of years ago of version 1.0.1.