Installing Ubuntu on Eee PC 1000

Published April 27th, 2009

I decided the other day that I wanted to try to install Ubuntu on my Eee PC 1000. I’d already replaced the default Xandros Linux that comes pre-installed with Windows XP (because my other half needed it) but recently I’ve become annoyed with its tendency to seize up every now and again for no apparent reason.

So I downloaded the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and set about installing it as a dual-boot option. It was very simple, following the instructions took around 40 minutes for the entire process and it all seemed to be going fine. But when I came to reboot, there was no sign of Ubuntu.

Now, the Eee PC 1000 has a 40GB SSD (Solid State Drive) — which is in fact two drives, one of 8GB and one of 32GB. The 8GB is the ‘primary’ drive, and that’s where Windows is installed, but there wasn’t space for me to install Ubuntu alongside it so I created a small partition for it on the ‘secondary’ drive.

I guessed that the problem was probably related to this fact so I had a poke around to see what could be done. Checking the Eee’s BIOS, there’s no distinction between the two drives so you can’t choose to boot from the secondary drive. I was tempted to give up at this point (I didn’t seem to be able to find any useful info on the web), but since the install process is so quick I decided to have another go and see if I could spot anything along the way that might be of use.

Sure enough, right near the end of the setup process (after creating/assigning partitions) there’s a little button labelled ‘Advanced’. Clicking on it popped up a dialog window with a drop-down list that allowed me to assign the boot loader to the primary drive (/dev/sda) instead of the secondary drive (/dev/sdb) that it had defaulted to. So I let it go ahead and install, and one reboot later there it was: a list of boot options. Success!

So, is it any good? Well, it certainly looks good and I like the ‘remixed’ desktop/interface which organises applications in a sensible and easy-to-find way. Boot time isn’t noticeably quicker than WinXP, which is disappointing but could be explained in part by the fact that it’s running on the slower secondary drive. From what I can tell after one day’s use, once started it runs very smoothly with apps launching very quickly and no unexplained ‘freezes’.

As far as compatibility is concerned the wireless, sound, touchpad, camera, display, USB and SD ports all worked out-of-the-box with no configuration required. I have my doubts that Bluetooth is working but haven’t had a chance to test it yet. The one serious gripe is the time it takes for the wireless to establish a connection — it suffers here even in comparison to Windows, which would (re)connect almost instantly where Ubuntu can take 40 seconds or more. I often use the netbook for a very short time (say, to do a quick web search) and then put it into hibernate, so a slow restart is a definite annoyance.

If you’re interested in checking out the Ubuntu Netbook Remix but don’t want to go to the trouble of installing it, then you can run it from a USB stick (1GB or bigger) without any installation. Startup is slow but once it’s going it’s fine and if you decide you do want to keep it, then you can install it from the same USB stick.

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