Computer Notebook Computer Notebook: EEEPC Updates

After buying an EEEPC in early 2008, I kept the same operating system that came with the computer for a while. The operating system was a custom version of Linux called Xandros and came in a tabbed interface which I switched to a full desktop mode (KDE) installation option.

After a while, I could see that the original operating system was difficult to keep updated, so I decided to install a new operating system. In 2010, I installed an operating system called EasyPeasy (based on Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system) and used that for a while. In 2011, I installed Linux Mint Release 11 (based on Debian and Ubuntu). (See the EEEPC Updates Old page for these previous updates.)

By 2014, although my Linux Mint installation was still working, it was no longer being supported, so I re-examined the issues involved in updating the EEEPC and installed Ubuntu as described below.

Issues in Updating the EEEPC

The challenge in keeping the EEEPC going has been to find an operating system that can be installed and continue to work within the 4 GB size of the solid state drive of my EEEPC. Further, the processor requirements for new operating systems have changed over the years. I looked at these issues:

  1. On my EEEPC 701, there is no way of replacing the 4 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) with a larger-capacity SSD without soldering. There are EEEPC models where you can easily take out the SSD and replace it, but my EEEPC 701 model is not one of them.
  2. Recent updates of Ubuntu cannot install on the EEEPC 701 for two reasons:
    1. They require at least 5 GB of disk space.
    2. They assume that the computer has a PAE (Physical Address Extension) processor. When I've tried to install Ubuntu on my EEEPC, the installation fails immediately because it says my processor is non-PAE (the processor on my EEEPC is a 32-bit 900 MHz Intel Celeron M ULV 353).
  3. I was able to replace the EEEPC keyboard. I had damaged the keyboard when I spilled water on it, but I simply bought a new keyboard and took out the old one and put in the new one. This helped tremendously! After five years of use, I realize the keys had become become mushy. The new keyboard really put the vim and vigor back into the feel of the computer itself.

After quite a bit of research, I found that the key pages to consult are the Ubuntu on the EeePC help page, and, in particular, the PAE help page. After consulting these pages, I decided to install Ubuntu 12.04. (There is another very promising option for an operating system for the EEEPC 701, Bodhi Linux--however I wasn't able to get that to install.)

Ubuntu Installation

To install ubuntu, I first made sure I got the correct ISO file for the EEEPC 701. Specifically, I made sure that I got the ISO file for xubuntu, alternate and 32 bit (i386). The alternate part allows it to be installed in the 4 GB SSD of the EEEPC, and the 32 bit (i386) part fits the processor. The specific release, 12.04 does not assume a PAE processor. I chose the 12.04 release also because it is a Long-Term Support (LTS) release which will be supported into April 2017.

Note that installing this version of ubuntu requires that you have a live Internet connection during installation. Note also that replacing the operating system will wipe out all your information on the EEEPC. I usually keep my own files on a separate SD card, so that I was all set to just wipe out the entire SSD on the EEEPC with a new operating system.

To do the installation, (you can see a "Cheat Sheet" of my compact notes on this installation toward the bottom of this section.) I started on my Windows 7 desktop computer to download and prepare the installation file.

  1. I downloaded the ISO file: ISO file for ubuntu 12.04, alternate and 32 bit (i386). This ISO file is an archive file that has the data contents for the operating system. When I downloaded it, it was 698 MB in size.
  2. I downloaded the UNetbootin (Universal Netboot Installer) for Windows from unetbootin.sourceforge.net.
  3. I started the UNetbootin software to put the ISO file onto an SD card.
  4. Once I had the ISO file written to the SD card, I removed the SD card from my desktop computer.
My next activities involved the SD card and my EEEPC.
  1. Installing this alternate release of the operating system from this ISO file requires a live Internet connection. My local public library has ethernet cables for laptop users, and so I was able to go to the library, plug in the ethernet cable from the library's network into the side of my EEEPC, plug in the ac cord into my EEEPC, and then begin the installation. I started with the EEEPC turned off, then I put the SD card with the ISO file on it right in the SD card slot.
  2. I then powered up the EEEPC and hit ESC when I got to the EEEPC boot screen. A screen came up that allowed me to boot to the SD card. I selected that.
  3. A menu came up which allowed me to install ubuntu. Make sure you have copied any of your personal files to a separate SD card, as this installation wipes out the all the SSD contents with a new file system!
  4. There was an initial error of on undefined video size. It prompted for a different size, and I chose the one for 800x480 (the resolution of the EEEPC screen) with 32 bits.
  5. There were a series of prompts about the keyboard, time zone, and disk partition. For the disk partition, I selected to use the entire disk (wiping out all the previous contents). It is important that you set aside a large working partition of as much of the 4 GB SSD as possible. To do this, I removed the swap partition, and made the working partition as much of the 4 GB drive as possible. I found this is necessary or the installation will crash.
  6. For the Software Selection part, you can have a choice of desktops. I first chose a Ubuntu LXDE desktop, as shown in the screens following. However, later on I realized that I could install Xubuntu desktop, which I think is a better choice as it uses fewer resources (disk space, processing power, battery power). See Xubuntu / XFCE update below.
  7. Less than an hour after starting the installation (about 52 minutes), the system was installed.

    After ubuntu installation

    The freespace on the system right after installation was 461 MB.

Once Xubuntu was installed, I did some customizations.

First, make sure that in the Settings->Settings Manager->Session and Startup, you must have the Authentication Kit selected for autostart and the Network selected for autostart. The Authentication Kit must be started in order to use the Synaptic Package Manager or the Software Center. The Network must be started in order to use the Wifi.

In the panel you have on your desktop, make sure that you have the Indicator plugin installed in order to use the WiFi. For example, if you don't have this installed, on a panel on your desktop: Panel -> Add item -> Indicator. This is going to show a small icon for volume, a small icon for mail (even though you might not use it) and an icon for the wireless network.

The Lubuntu Software Center (menu->System Tools->Lubuntu Software Center) is very easy to use, as it shows a clear, concise, cogent list of software you have installed, and it allows you to remove software or seek software from repositories for installation.

Lubuntu Software Center showing Installed Software

Using the Lubuntu Software center from the System Tools section of the toolbar menu, I removed quite a few software packages that I knew I would not be using: printing, burning disks, bluetooth, games, the personal organizer, the email client, xpad, scanners, and quite a few others. This was very easy to do.

Using the Lubuntu Software center from the System Tools section of the toolbar menu, I added firefox and the flash plugin for mozilla.

I customized the look and feel of the desktop and in particular the toolbar panel at the bottom of the screen.

Initial customization of the ubuntu installation

The next day, I took the computer to a neighborhood cafe with WiFi to test out how I would typically use it. After some further customizing of the bottom panel (increasing the size of the icons), I did some software updates:

Some software updates

I next put the machine through its paces by bringing up the music player, text editor, and firefox with 20+ tabs open at once. Finally, the system gave an error message:

Loading many applications, tabs, at once on the EEEPC until it can't add more

However, the computer did not crash. After closing about half dozen of the tabs, the system continued, although its CPU was near maximum, there was still memory left:

The EEEPC running many applications at once

This is a more typical load on the EEEPC.

A typical use of the EEEPC

The battery I have is the same one from six years ago, but it still runs well over an hour:

EEEPC test -- battery still at 29% after 1 hr 21 minutes

The result is an EEEPC that, I think, is even better than new!

The EEEPC showing operating system information

The EEE PC 701 Refreshed

Managing disk space in the ubuntu Installation

After installing ubuntu and customizing the system, I was able to see that I had only about 200 MB or so of disk space left. This is a very slim margin for working space on the 4 GB SSD, and so I wanted to see how I could make the best use of the space I have and perhaps even increase it.

A Great Cleaning Program: BleachBit

First, I wanted to make sure I routinely kept the system clean and didn't allow a variety of files to accumulate. While using the ubuntu system, many different temporary files are created: downloaded package files, package files no longer needed, disk cache, logs, and all kinds of files that eat up disk space.

After examining several options, I found and installed a very good cleaning program called BleachBit. You can install it from Menu->System Tools->Lubuntu Software Center. After starting up BleachBit, you can make selections in the left pane of what portions of your system to clean. I usually just leave them all checked:

BleachBit preview

After the preview, you can then click "Clean," and the software removes all sorts of files:

After running BleachBit

You can run BleachBit as root (superuser), but I found that running it just as a regular user is sufficient. I would run it as root after a big installation or session in which I deleted many pieces of software.

You can see in the above example, my free disk space went from 297.3 MB to to 318.5 MB--a savings of 21 MB. This isn't much, but it is a good feeling to know that BleachBit does quite a bit of cleaning so easily.

There are other cleaning techniques, such as Computer Janitor or using APT command lines, but I find that BleachBit takes care of these same things in one interface.

Remove extra Linux kernel files

As you update the installation, you'll find your disk usage increases. To address this, realize that you can delete extra linux kernel files. Find these using Synaptic Package Manager and searching for linux- among installed packages (use Preferences to make the package size column display; note also that I have the Gkrellm monitor in the lower left to show disk usage):

Searching for Linux kernel files

Then select the packages for removal that are older versions than the current versions:

Selecting extra Linux kernel files

Delete the packages:

Deleting extra Linux kernel files

Enjoy the disk usage savings--reduced to 61% usage from 70%.

Space savings from deleting  extra Linux kernel files

Examining the Disk Partitions

Cleaning up system files is only going to go so far, however, to manage scarce disk space. I looked at my system's disk partition using the Menu->Accessories->Disk Utility:

Disk partitions as installed

First, I looked at this diagram: my SSD has several partitions: a 2.9 GB bootable area which contains the installed operating system (labeled 2.9 GB in the diagram) and an extended partition that contains 1.1 GB of linux swap space. This adds up to the 4 GB of the SSD. I had mistakenly thought that there was an Extended 1.1 GB section in addition to the swap space--in truth, the Extended partition holds the 1.1 GB swap space-- the Extended Partition is just a holder.

Another way to look at the disk partitions is by using the program GParted (available in the Ubuntu Software Center):

Disk partitions as seen in GParted

The purpose of the swap space is to serve as a place to store computer commands and data that cannot fit in the memory. As my operating system was installed, this 1.1 GB of swap space takes up over 25% of the already-scarce disk space. Since I have installed more memory in the EEEPC than what it came with (500 MB) to bring it up to 1 GB, and since I've observed that my customary use of my EEEPC rarely taxes this space, I began to wonder if I needed such a big swap space. For example, this is a typical use:

A typical use of the EEEPC

Note that I'm using just 199 MB of 993 MB memory available. That is just about 20% of memory, and I've rarely seen the usage go over 50%.

Therefore, I looked into shrinking the size of that swap space and reclaiming more of it for working space and programs. I can't use GParted to resize the swap space partition on the EEEPC while the operating system is running, so I found a version of GParted that can be run right from the SD card slot.

To use GParted right from the SD card slot, I started on my Windows 7 desktop computer to download and prepare the installation file.

  1. I downloaded the ISO file from the download section of gparted.sourceforge.net for the i486 ("32-bit version runs on x86 and x86-64 based computers").
  2. I had previously downloaded the UNetbootin (Universal Netboot Installer) software for Windows from unetbootin.sourceforge.net.
  3. I started the UNetbootin software and put the ISO file onto an SD card.
  4. Once I had the ISO file written to the SD card, I removed the SD card from my desktop computer.
My next activities involved the SD card and my EEEPC.
  1. I started with the EEEPC turned off, then I put the SD card with the ISO file on it in the SD card slot.
  2. I then powered up the EEEPC and hit ESC when I got to the EEEPC boot screen. A screen came up that allowed me to boot to the SD card. I selected that.
  3. A menu came up which allowed me to start up GParted.
  4. There were quite a few instruction screens to follow, language selection, etc., but eventually, I got to the GParted software.
  5. I had to do these steps:
  6. With the GParted actions complete, I could turn off the EEEPC, take out the SD card with GParted on it, and restart the EEEPC.

I could then see that instead of having just about 300 MB of space free, I now had 1.2 GB of space free within the 3.9 GB allocated for the operating system.

Disk partitions after resizing linux-swap space with GParted

This additional space can provide more working space so that the disk doesn't get too fragmented, and I'll have room for more software. I will do another stress test to see how this well this works before the system crashes. I can always reverse the process using GParted on the SD card and bring the swap space back up to about 1 GB, but for now, I think having 1.2 GB of free space on the SSD after system installation and software installation (including both the Mozilla and Chrome browsers) is bigger benefit since I've observed that my typical use of the EEEPC consumes less than half the installed 1 GB of memory.

To test out the system, I installed GNU Krell Monitors (gkrellm) (available in the Ubuntu Software Center):

Installing GNU Krell Monitors (gkrellm)

A feature on GKrellm allows you to see the Memory and also the Swap space. I brought up both the Chome and Firefox browsers with multiple tabs (5 each), audacious media player, gedit, and a few other things:

EEEPC stress test: Memory use at 58%, swap space at 15% in use

Note the memory is in use about 58% (606 MB of 993 MB available) and the swap space is 15% in use (15 MB of 100 MB available).

To stress the system further, I opened more tabs (to 12 each) on the Chome and Firefox browsers, gedit, and a few other things running:

EEEPC stress test: Memory use at 84%, swap space at 100% in use

Note that at this point, the swap space (100 MB) is 100% in use. The memory still has 16% of its capacity left.

A much more typical use of my EEEPC is:

EEEPC with typical use

Note that memory is used just 32% and no swap space is used. My estimate is that the 100 MB swap space is fine for my normal use (which likely will not require any use of the swap space). For example, here is the Chrome Browser open with 24 Tabs, gedit, and a few other things:

EEEPC with heavy use: Chrome Browser with 24 Tabs, media player, gedit, etc.

Note that swap space wasn't used at all and memory was us was less than 50%.

Xubuntu with XFCE desktop

After installation, I found that the LXDE desktop failed to get an update. I was a bit frustrated also as the disk seemed to be filling up to 90% and more. So I reinstalled the system, using the same steps as above, but choosing the Xubuntu desktop (Ubuntu with XFCE desktop) for installation. I also removed the swap space entirely as I felt it really wasn't needed since I had extra memory. This seemed to be a better choice:

Installed xubuntu / Xfce desktop on EEEPC 701

The key customizations I made to the system were:

The result is a desktop that is faster, uses less resources (battery lasts 2+ hours, SSD disk used less than 70%)--all on an EEEPC I got in 2007:

Xubuntu / Xfce Desktop on EEEPC 701

Summary: xubuntu-desktop "Cheat Sheet"
These are the notes I keep to guide me when installing xubuntu desktop; they are a compression of the above discussion with just key points noted:

---------------------------------------------------
Setup of xubuntu-desktop on EEEPC
==========================================
INSTALLATION
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
BOOT TO SD
--------------------------------------------------------
* Have ISO on SD card and put it in the EEEPC SD card slot
* Turn on EEEPC
* Hit ESC until a screen allows you to boot from the SD card; choose that
* In the menu that appears, CHOOSE INSTALL

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
INSTALL Xubuntu Desktop
--------------------------------------------------------
* NOTE: this takes about an hour
* The display size is 800x480, this is choice 7
* For most of the choices, simply hit return--say NO to detect keyboard, just select United States
* It is important that the disk partition for installation be 4 GB; remove the swap partition and keep going back to the partition menu to resize the main partition, save changes to disk and proceed; do NOT proceed unless it is clear that there is 4 GB in that main partition--otherwise the installation will crash and mess up the file system
* If the file system gets messed up, go ahead and install Bodhi linux, then shut the computer down and start again with an xubuntu desktop installation; again, and make sure there is one 4 GB partition
* For installation software, just choose: xubuntu desktop

==============================================
TWEAKS TO DO ONCE INSTALLED
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Settings
--------------------------------------------------------
* Settings -> Settings Manager -> Workspaces=1
* Settings -> Settings Manager -> Session and Startup -> stop unnecessary programs from starting
Need: Authentication Kit
Need: Network (manage your network connections)
* Settings -> Settings Manager -> Notifications
disappear after 3 seconds
* Settings -> Settings Manager -> Appearance
choose and adjust style and font
* Settings -> Settings Manager -> Window Manager Tweaks -> TAB Compositor -> can
just UNCHECK Enable display composting --> seems to speed up menus and such
UNCHECK show shadows under popup windows
UNCHECK show shadows under regular windows
* Settings -> Settings Manager -> Windows Manager
style greybird-compact
* Settings -> Settings Manager -> Power settings
adjust to ASK when power is low on battery
* Settings -> Settings Manager -> Desktop - Items -> remove all Default Icons

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PANEL - I usually like one panel on the bottom
--------------------------------------------------------
* unlock panel first in order to to move: right click -> Panel -> Panel Preferences: unclick Lock panel; also make panel 100% wide and automatically widen
* grip panel by handle (on leftmost side) to move to the bottom; then relock the panel
* on the panel, add ONE launcher per application I want:
gkrellm
audacious
leafpad
firefox
* You must have the Indicator plugin to run the wifi network: Panel -> Add item -> Indicator -- this is going to show a small icon for volume, a small icon for mail (even though I don't use it) and an icon for the wireless network
* How to get windows list to just show icons
PANEL -> BRING UP LIST OF ITEMS then choose the GEAR icon to modify it

* Clock:
Date only
Verdana 12 or other font
custom format
%Y-%m-%d %a%l:%M %P
e.g.,
2015-03-08 Sun 4:34 pm
for more format codes, see man date

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Software I like to get through ubuntu software center.
--------------------------------------------------------
Gkrellm
Flash for Firefox
Audacious
System Profiler and Benchmark (Hardinfo)
Disk Usage Analyzer
xfce4-indicator-plugin

* Network
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
-- turn on wifi with f2
--- wireless interface = wlan0
--- wired inteface = eth0

* Gkrellm Tweaks
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Select and Press F1
+ Configuration->THEMES ->
tab FONT to Ubuntu 12
+ General
CLICK hostname display
CLICK remember screen location
Set to 1 for Krell and LED updates per second
+ Bultins: I want:
- CPU
- Net
enable: wlan0, eth0 charts
- MEMORY
Mem $u/$t = $U
182M/993M = 18%
- FILE SYSTEM
create on at / mount point call it Disk
click New
Setup TAB:
Disk $u/$t = $U
2.96G/3.67 G = 85%
- Battery
uptime no seconds
- Remove all other Builtins

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
* Run Bleachbit as root -- clicking on Localizations really helped reduced by about 148 MB; usage now at 66%

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Commands to Run in Terminal
--------------------------------------------------------
sudo apt-get install localepurge
I selected just en_US

-- to install microsoft fonts (core fonts) such as comic sans serif
sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Cleanup Techniques
--------------------------------------------------------
Synaptic Package Manager ->
Show by Status
installed (residual config) -> MARK ALL FOR DELETION and then APPLY

IN bleach bit --> as root, be sure to delete the localizations --> cleans out a lot

Synaptic Package Manager ->
show by Status
show by Installed
Search for linux-
after upgrades, look for old Linux Kernel image files -- remove oldest ones


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Reference Commands
--------------------------------------------------------
-- these are just hints for when these might be useful

sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends xubuntu-desktop

--- this removes the package synaptic and then installs it:
sudo dpkg -P synaptic
sudo apt-get install synaptic

===============================================

Bodhi Linux

There is another promising option for an operating system for the EEEPC 701: Bodhi Linux. I did try to install it, but I found it crashed, when during the installation, it turned on the EEEPC's camera and asked me to take a picture. I did, but then the installation just froze up. Perhaps I had some settings incorrect on my camera. However, Bodhi Linux looks great, and its requirements as of this writing (February 2014) are just 300+MHz CPU, 128MB RAM, and 2.5GB hard drive space! You can put Bodhi's ISO file on an SD Card, boot it in your EEEPC, and see a live demonstration of the operating system.

See also: ToriOS.

(See the EEEPC Updates Old page for older updates of my EEEPC.)

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2017-05-16 · John December · Contact · Terms of Use © December Communications, Inc.