Mine the Harvest

Aspire One and Linpus

by on Dec.04, 2008, under Linux, Netbooks, Sago Labs

I’ve been tinkering with my new Acer Aspire One for a while now, long enough to give some more feedback on it in addition to my earlier post.

I continue to find the hardware delightful. Love the screen and keyboard and the dual sd card readers, etc. Really, from a hardware perspective I can’t find much to fault, other than the crappy 2 hour batter life on the 2200 mAh. Also you do have to disassemble it completely for a memory upgrade, not a big deal for me but certainly not something every user would want to do. If you do, as might as well upgrade the SSD / SDHD 8GB drive while you are at it as you must remove it to access the SODIMM slot. There are YouTube videos to guide you.

I find I do like the narrow open separation between the keyboard and screen. At first I didn’t like the look, but I found it perfect to slip your fingers through when holding it, making it extremely easy to hold in one hand when standing.

Now, as to the software. After giving it a very honest trial, I have to say the default Linpus OS simply has to go. It is not that I don’t like Fedora. And the Linpus GUI is actually pretty good. But given that most people who buy the Linux one are going to likely use XFCE, you are going to have trouble – guaranteed. Even if a user stays with the Linpus GUI, the software updates are going to be a problem.

Software Updates

This is silly. There are numerous Linpus modified packages, but no Linpus repository. If you try to use the built in updater after your first round of updates you will get a dependency problem with gnome-menus, which is easily resolved, but it seems odd that out of the box the update breaks almost immediately.

The next round of updates you will likely discover a problem with Firefox and gecko-libs. Now, this takes manually removing Firefox as it is not a yum package, but an rpm and then sym linking the new Firefox so the other packages think the old version is still there. A new Linux user is expected to resolve this? Right.

After you get the first batches of updates you will find you can not then keep the system updated. Without a repo for the Linpus packages you will have unresolved dependencies, and a yum update will try to update everything to a stock Fedora 8 system, but will break when attempting this.

There is an excellent guide on resolving many dependency issues on the Aspire One that Macles has written up here. However, I think that for a lot of people, expecting them to go though these efforts is not really reasonable. Heck, system updates usually even work on Windows and of course Linux package managers are far superior. But giving a new user a broken update system is not a good thing. If nothing else they could have their own repo and exclude all the non critical and base packages in yum and get the updates at least functional.

Wireless Disappears

At some point I can pretty much assure you that your wireless will stop working – specifically, the XFCE panel applet will disappear after some updates. Great. Now to get it back you have to connect via Ethernet (or manually configure a wifi connection with iwconfig – again outside a newbies knowledge)

If you loose the NetworkManger and need to manually connect, you can issue the ifconfig commands in bash – or just make a little script to run such as this:

#!/bin/bash
iwconfig ath0 mode managed
iwconfig ath0 essid “YourSSID”
iwconfig ath0 key 57:e3:5e:07:5a:8d:39:1e:ce:18:42:cb:d8
iwconfig ath0 channel auto
dhclient -d ath0 &

Save this in a text file and run with #bash filename or make it executable with chmod +x filename and then run it locally: #./filename

This example uses a WEP key, remove that line if you are using no encryption. If you use WPA, you must use the wpa_supplicant, which is installed already in Linpus.

A good guide for wireless commands can be found at the wireless defense org site and of course the madwifi site.

Fixing NetworkManager

Just do a yum update NetworkManager This will update the packages and the nm-applet panel applet will work again.

Be aware there are two programs you may need to kill and restart: NetworkManager and nm-applet – you can kill them and restart them from bash with:

#killall NetworkManager (or NetworkManager restart)
#killall nm-applet
#/etc/init.d/NetworkManager start
#nm-applet &2>/dev/null &

Note: the new version of NetworkManger does not seem to remember encryption keys, but otherwise works quite well.

Again, I found this wireless issue, which came up twice after clean reinstalls after no more than some simple updates, to be annoying – new users would be very frustrated at their wifi just disappearing, and having to fix this on their new computer.

aufs Filesystem

This is a two edge sword. It is cool because it combines your internal SSD and one SD card slot into one virtual file system, essentially pooling the storage. How it works is that your internal SSD in mounted as /home and the SD card /dev/mmcblk1p1 is mounted as /media/disk These two separate mount points and then merged into one virtual home mounted at /mnt/home. Only the directories under /home are pooled, you do not get more space on the root directly, but you can move stuff to the SD card and thus free up more space on the internal drive.

Okay – that is pretty slick. Note that this is really just the aufs file system and not hardware dependent – as far as I can tell there is no reason this could not be implemented on any netbook.

You can also upgrade your SD card if you run out of room. You move the existing one from the left to the right SD slot, then install a larger one in the left SD card slot, and it copies over your data. A warning indicates when the pooled one is nearly full, and walks you through the upgrade.

Wow! That is all pretty great. What’s not to like about that? Well, I found it does not really work without a few kinks. After my last restore, I have yet to get it to recognize my SD card with my directories from my last install, it will not pool them. It did however start giving me warnings EVERY MINUTE that I was out of space on the SD card. By watching top I caught the LDNotify process and traced out that it can be disable in /etc/macles.cfg by commenting out the NOTIFY_LOWSIZE=”LDNotify” line.

There are various scripts that control the SD card upgrade process, you will find them in /usr/share/smanage such as:

/usr/share/smanager/SDUpgrade.py Controls the upgrade of the SD card when it is full

/usr/share/smanager/LowDiskSpace.py The little beastie that was plaguing me every frigg’en minute

/usr/share/smanager/doc/en_US/manual.xml Documentation on the Storage Expansion system

Note: The expansion SD card is formatted vfat, so moving files to it results in a loss of some file meta data such as ownership and permission info. This is not usually a huge deal, but something to be aware of. Of course the advantage is you can remove the SD card and read it in a Windows PC for moving files, etc.

USB Adapter & powertop

I had to compile the mct_u232 kernel module to get my Belkin USB to serial adapter to work. I will expand my wiki article for others that may need this.

Also, if you want to use powertop and the new version of sysstat with the cool new pidstat tool, you will need to compile a custom kernel as both require kernel level support. Too bad, as powertop is very handy to fine tune your power usage, especially with such limited batter capacity. It would be good if Acer came out with a kernel update for these this, and included the USB serial module as I am certain that will be a hitch for some users.

Summary

With the amount of trouble on the above points, I must say that Ubuntu is looking pretty good at this point. I am going to give that a shot and after I’ve test drove it a while, give an update. I would like to finish my guide on compiling the custom kernel in Linpus first however, maybe I will make it an rpm with powertop and pidstat support and upload it and the modules so others can just install the rpm.

10 comments for this entry:
  1. Acer Aspire One Praise and Annoyances | Mine the Harvest

    […] Comments Aspire One and Linpus | Mine the Harvest on Acer Aspire One Praise and Annoyancesadmin on Acer Aspire One Praise and Annoyancesenyone on […]

  2. Gedeon

    Good contribution. I was especially worried by Wifi disapearing.
    By connecting by eth and updating NetworkManager things went right again.

  3. Kevin Andres

    Pete, I was trying to find the wiki you mention reference building the driver mct_u232 for the Belkin USB to RS232. I am at the same point. Aspire finds the adapter, assigns it a port,no driver, only 1 offered. If you expanded on that and it is still out there, could you point me at it? I get “fire stats unavailable” or something like that from your blog link.
    Kevin

  4. Nebojša

    Problem with newer NetworkManager and keys that are not remmembered is because of bad xinitrc script linpus uses.
    It starts gnome-keyring-daemon as a root…
    Here is a quick fix:
    just remove “sudo” from the “eval `sudo gnome-keyring-daemon`” line in /etc/xdg/xfce4/xinitrc and gnome-keyring-daemon will be started as user, which solves that problem.
    However, after waking from hibernate, nm-applet does not start automatically, so you have to kick it yourself, but that is another problem

  5. admin

    Hi there,

    Thanks for your comments and the solution to the gnome keyring daemon. I’ve switched over to EEEBuntu and so far have been quite pleased with it. I am sure other using Linplus will find this tip handy.

    Cheers,
    Pete

  6. admin

    Hi Kevin,

    Sorry about that, I was playing around with Firestats and it broke my wiki for a few days. It is back up though and you can find the article I was referring to here. I had intended to polish this more, but it remains in mainly draft mode as my interest in Linpus waned and I ended up moving to EEEBuntu which runs quite well on the Aspire One. However, if you still need to compile the USB Serial adapter you might find some helpful info there. Essentially you need to enable the following in menuconfig and then recompile:

    Device Drivers -> USB Support-> USB Serial converter support = M
    USB Generic Serial Driver = Y
    MCT Single Port Serial Driver = Y
    (provides mct_u232 used by many USB serial dongles.)

    You can then copy the mct_u232.ko file to your /lib/modules/kernel_version/ directory and run depmod -a and then modprobe mct_u232 and you should be good.

    If you want to unsure it is detected correctly run udevmonitor (or udevadm monitor) and plug it in and you will see the kernel and udev messages and it should show you how it is detected, say for example at USBS0 for example.

    If you need help just let me know – I likely still have the kernel module on a flash drive and could email it to you if you need.

    Cheers,
    Pete

  7. Webvince

    I tried to change the initrc file, but I have no line launching the gnome-keyring-daemon. I discovered I have 3 “xinitrc like” files :
    – xinitrc
    – xinitr_later
    – xinitrc.backup
    – xinitrc.rpmsave

    I tried to add the lines launching the daemon in the xinitrc, but with no effect…

  8. admin

    Hi there,

    Sorry for the delay in responding, I have been pretty busy lately. Were you ever able to get this resolved? Can you post the contents of you xinitrc? I have actually moved to EEEBuntu on my Aspire one as I grew tired of the continual issues with broken dependencies with Linpus. I highly recommend moving to EEEBuntu or even just going with the latest Ubuntu release – Jaunty. With the modified packages Acer has used, and without them have a repository to support them, it really just becomes dependency soup and is not worth the fight when other distros run so flawlessly on the Aspire One. If you still need help fixing your gnome keyring issue on Linpus let me know and I will see if I can assist.

    Thanks for visiting!

    Pete

  9. Jancis

    Yeah, my friend gave up pretty soon and I installed ubuntu netbook remix..

  10. Oli71fr

    Hi

    I have another ACER running with Ubuntu light and it works well but it ia little slower and it does not recognise the SD slot (you can by-pass that with a card reader)

    The Cam also does not work as well.

    So I have one with Linpus that does not update anymore but I can live with that and one with Ubuntu.

    Just thought I would share this info so that people know what happens with ubuntu.

    Cheers

    Oli71fr

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