Mine the Harvest

Acer Aspire One Praise and Annoyances

by on Oct.16, 2008, under IT Adventures, Netbooks

(Update: See the post here for additional review comments, suggestions and other Aspire One info.)

A few weeks ago I got a new Acer Aspire One ultra mobile notebook (umpc). Very cool little device and I am essentially completely satisfied with the hardware itself. The screen is fantastic, great contrast and clarity. Wifi card (Atheros AR5006EG) does injection. I was holding off on buying a UMPC until ones with the new Intel Atom were available, so I passed on the Asus EEE series, etc. and held off until now. I just really wanted a multi-thread capable CPU, and over all I am very happy with this device.

However – the Fedora 8 Linpus OS it comes with never ceases to annoy me. If you are anything like me, you will likely encounter some of the following annoyances. Some of these are pretty corny, but definitely can stop you in  your tracks.

While the stock OS may be fine for those who will not ever venture beyond OpenOffice and Firefox, when you really start to use it, you can find a few land mines in your path. Here is my list of those I found most annoying and some suggested solution:

No SSD Boot

This was a killjoy. USB boots fine, but there is no BIOS option for booting to SSD cards. Bummer, as the two SSD readers are begging to have alternate OSes on them. While I sincerely hope a BIOS update will address this, I am a bit doubtful as there have been a couple updates already and this has not been added. Sure maybe you can just get around it with a chainloader in grub, but it is still a bit of a bummer and just adds complexity where none is needed.

Software Updates Fail

When you go to auto update you might get:

file /usr/share/desktop-directories/Internet.directory from install of gnome-menus-2.20.3-1.fc8 conflicts with file from package xfdesktop-acer-lp-1522.no_spot.mcs_patched
file /usr/share/desktop-directories/Settings.directory from install of gnome-menus-2.20.3-1.fc8 conflicts with file from package xfdesktop-acer-lp-1522.no_spot.mcs_patched

This blog site has some good notes on handling this and other dependency issues on the Aspire One. The solution to this particular one is to just yum install yum-utils and then use yumdownloader to download the two problematic packages, gnome-menus and redhat-menus and then rpm -Uvh –force them in.

He points out that many Acer modified packages will have lp in their name suffix, and these can sometime be problematic for resolving dependencies.

Update:

Wow – the dependency issue just keep showing up. Honestly, this is seriously broken. Forget about a yum update – it will never work, and even if it did your system would be converted to Fedora 8 and a lot would break anyway. I am going to make a new post on this with some suggestions, but my god man – the bottom line is that it is pretty crappy.

Kernel Modules

I was fairly surprised my Belkin F5U409 USB to serial adapter was not supported. The stock Acer build was missing the USB to serial modules. Humm . . . a bit weak in my book. I think people are likely to use USB to serial adapters and I was a bit disappointed to see no pre-built modules.

And so off to find the kernel source I went. After getting the wrong source the first time, I did locate the correct place to get it from. You can wget it using:

wget ftp://[email protected]/Aspire_One_Linpus_Linux/Aspire_One_Source/linux-2.6.23.9lw.zip

Or visit this site in your browser (Firefox should authenticate you automatically as guest)

ftp://csdftp.acer.com.tw/Aspire_One_Linpus_Linux/Aspire_One_Source/

It was then relatively easy to unzip, make menuconfig and select the modules to build. Look for the mct_u232 in menuconfig – this is most likely what you need if you require a USB serial adapter module.

Grub / Boot Issues

You do not get a grub splash screen by default, but if you hit tab immediately after the BIOS POST screen you will get it and can then change your boot arguments.

Oddly, booting into single user mode is surprisingly elusive, with most typical methods resulting in a kernel panic. I’ll post the solution when I figure it out.

Battery Life

I get about 2:00 to 2:30. There are newer ones now shipping with a larger battery. I would suggest this as I really do pine for more runtime. However, stand by works flawlessly and I use this all the time. Also, use the hotkey on the keyboard to kill the LCD back light when not needed, it will come back on with any activity (you don’t have to function key it back on) – and this seems to help. Still, 4:00 or 5:00 would be nice.

Pigin Messenger

Installing this should have be a straight forward yum install. Nope, it gave conflicts with libpurple. As best I recall I believe you can just yum remove libpurple and then install pidgin and that should work. Silly.

Xfce Desktop

While I think Acer did a very good job making their customer interface, I wanted a more standard desktop environment and so followed the great guide here to enable to full xfce desktop.

Better Solution?

Ubuntu. Seriously – every one of the above issues is pretty much nonexistent running a stock Ubuntu 7.10 Boot USB stick. However, I am awaiting Intrepid Ibix to do a full install, plus I am just trying to give the stock OS a good test drive. But I can tell you – Ubuntu is calling . . .  The official release of 8.10 is 14 days away. Sure I could just download the beta now, but this way is more like Christmas. Reports are though that wifi and pretty much everything work out of the box on 8.10 beta.

I’ll maybe install 8.10 to an SSD card and alter grub to boot it due to the One’s inability to boot to SSD cards. (How silly is that?)

5 comments for this entry:
  1. Marcus

    Hey, I have the same issues as you, how ever when i tried ubuntu on it i could not seem to get the wireless working, I am giving the fedora/linpus linux another try, seeing as it boots quick and works well with all the hardware, Still having problems with pidgin still though, how did you get the wireless working on ubuntu

    thanks marcus

  2. admin

    Hey Marcus,

    I was using a 8.04 bootable USB Ubuntu stick and the wireless was working okay for me. I have not tried 8.10, but from what I understand wifi works out of the box on 8.10 – did you find this not to be the case?

    I also found that on Linpus I had to recompile the wifi driver (for my custom kernel) using the 0.9.4 madwifi source. It it very easy to compile and install on Linpus – if you need help with it just let me know.

    Overall Fedora/Linpus on the Aspire is pretty good – I am sticking with it for now as I am having fun compiling new kernels with support for powertop and the new version of systat – both need kernel support that the default Linpus kernel lacks. Mainly I am just playing with it. I will write a wiki on how to compile a better Linpus kernel for others – I have a fun idea for a how to guide I would like to try.

    After that I may well switch over to Ubuntu soon now that 8.10 is out.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Pete

  3. enyone

    ftp://csdftp.acer.com.tw/Aspire_One_Linpus_Linux/Aspire_One_Source/ says:

    530 Sorry, no ANONYMOUS access allowed.
    Disconnecting from site csdftp.acer.com.tw

  4. admin

    Hey there,

    I have corrected the link above, you have to log in as guest. If you like you can wget it with this:

    wget ftp://[email protected]/Aspire_One_Linpus_Linux/Aspire_One_Source/linux-2.6.23.9lw.zip

    Or visit the original link in your browser:

    ftp://csdftp.acer.com.tw/Aspire_One_Linpus_Linux/Aspire_One_Source/

    (It should log you in as guest and show the directory contents.)

    Thanks for pointing it out!

    Pete

  5. Aspire One and Linpus | Mine the Harvest

    […] Comments admin on Acer Aspire One Praise and Annoyancesenyone on Acer Aspire One Praise and Annoyancesadmin on Acer Aspire One Praise and Annoyancesadmin […]

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