The Eee PC 901 is an Intel Atom-based laptop, with 1 GB of RAM, a 20 GB SSD, and a 9 inch display. Since I bought mine, it’s been running Ubuntu 8.04 rather than the default Xandros-based OS. The laptop is surprisingly unfriendly to Ubuntu despite being preloaded with Linux. Ubuntu 8.10 has delivered some improvements for Eee PC laptops, but it still doesn’t work perfectly out of the box.

Eee PC 901

Here’s my guide to installing Ubuntu 8.10 on the Eee PC 901. Most of the instructions will also likely be relevant to the other Eee PC models.

  1. Boot the Ubuntu installer from a SD card or USB drive. If you have another Ubuntu 8.10 system around, the easiest way to create a bootable SD card or USB drive is using the USB Startup Disk creator tool (click the link for more details). Alternatively, you can use the UNetbootin tool (click the link for more details) to do the same thing.

    To perform a USB boot on the Eee PC, press the escape key during startup and select the USB option. Once the live system is running, if you have trouble with windows not fitting the screen turn desktop effects off for now so you can use the Alt key to pan windows.

  2. Install Ubuntu normally. The only special consideration to make during the installation is partitioning.

    partitioning the Eee PC

    The Eee PC 901 actually has two solid state drives: a 4 GB drive, and a 16 GB drive. I’d recommend putting root (/) on the smaller drive (yes, 4 GB is enough space for Ubuntu and some additional applications) and /home on the larger. I’d also recommend formatting these with the Ext3 filesystem and to not create a swap partition to avoid shortening the drive’s lifespan.

  3. Reboot into the new installed system. You’ll need to get an Internet connection working to continue. Wireless is not working at this point, so you’ll need to plug in to a wired network.
  4. Install the custom Eee PC Linux kernel. The Eee PC kernel adds wireless networking support to Ubuntu on the Eee PC, as well as some other fixes depending on your Eee PC model. See this page for details on supported models.

    Open a terminal and run the following two commands to install the key for the new repository:
    sudo apt-key add array-apt-key.asc

    Open System->Administration->Software Sources and select the Third Party Software tab. Add the following software source:
    deb intrepid eeepc

    Close Software Sources and when prompted, choose to reload the repositories.

    Install the Eee PC kernel from the package linux-eeepc (click the link to install), or by running the command below in your terminal:
    sudo apt-get install linux-eeepc

    Alternatively, you can try the faster but experimental lean Eee PC kernel in which drivers for non-Eee PC hardware have been removed. Install the lean Eee PC kernel from the package linux-eeepc-lean (click the link to install), or by running the command below in your terminal:
    sudo apt-get install linux-eeepc-lean

    Optionally, you can remove some packages to stop the stock Ubuntu kernel from being updated in the future now that you won’t be using it. Remove the linux-generic, linux-image-generic, and linux-restricted-modules-generic packages to do this:
    sudo apt-get remove linux-generic linux-image-generic linux-restricted-modules-generic

    Reboot to load the new Eee PC kernel.

  5. Enable Bluetooth and webcam. The Bluetooth radio and webcam both work after they have been enabled in the BIOS. Install Cheese for an easy way to take pictures and video.

That’s it for installing Ubuntu 8.10 on the Eee PC. For the most part, everything works fine with Ubuntu. GNOME reports 4.5 hours of battery life, and with the lean Eee PC kernel the system boots in 35 seconds (from Grub to GDM, with SSD tweaks).

You may also want to check out Four Tweaks for Using Linux with Solid State Drives to increase performance and extend the life of your solid state drive.

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