/posts/ 2008/experimentation-failure

Experimentation Failure

Oct 15, 2008

My grand idea of experimenting with various distributions for the EeePC went wrong, by quite a bit as well. As mentioned in the last post I decided to have a play around with some of the distributions specifically built for the Asus EeePC 701, I was wondering if something out there can beat Debian on this little work horse.

Oh boy was I wrong.

First I attempted to install Zeee (Zenwalk for the EeePC), the installation “media” came as a compressed disk image, nothing that unusual as most of the distros come in their own little installation media package. It turns out that this image is a raw dump of a file system, so I had to create the installation media on a USB stick with the various handy tools, mke2fs, grub, you get the idea. After about 45 minutes of fiddling I called it a day, for some reason the GRUB installation wasn’t detecting the ext2 partition on the USB stick, and couldn’t find the menu.lst file. While this is probably a simple issue it’s a bit more than I could be arsed with, the Zeee guys are doing well but the installation method need a little work, maybe a prepackaged ext2 dump

After the kerfuffle with Zeee I moved onto the latest Foresight Linux Mobile Edition, I’ve heard Dan & Fab mention Foresight on the Linux Outlaws podcast and I have downloaded a live CD previously, so I decided to get the image and have a go. This installation went a lot easier, the image was a precompiled usb installation so no hassle there, the installation took time but I put t hat down to the quality of the USB stick I was using. After about 30 minutes I had a working Foresight Linux install, and everything seemed to work out of the box, including the WIFI (which is the usual sticking point for most distros).

Foresight Mobile uses the clutter based launcher you can also find in the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, the mainstream applications are pre-installed and are usable. Within a few minutes I hit my all time pet hate, touchpad clicking, ever since i’ve owned a laptop I’ve never been able to use touchpad click to any degree of success and I don’t see any reason why it should be enabled by default. In previous distribution I know the way to fix this issue is to simply changing the settings in gsynaptics or modify the Xorg config, as I was trying to operate from a user perspective I went the simple route of using gsynaptics. It wasn’t installed. I went digging around in the package manager (conary) and didn’t find a related package. After about ten minutes searching I found the “synaptics” package, which proved useless as I had no idea of what it does.

Three hours in and my experiment with Foresight was over, people may complain that it’s a simple issue but having the option enabled by default and then hiding the configuration in a non standard package doesn’t help matters. I have to give Foresight kudos for being one of the first distributions to have a full “netbook” version, but it still needs a little refinement.

So, now I’m back on Debian, tried and tested. This time I installed using the updated Lenny installation media for the EeePC and it was a breeze, and since I’ve done this “fresh install” a lot more of the features work consistently. In the process of configuring my machine again I’ve noticed that the older guide for the E160G using Network Manager is a little wrong, so I’ll have to update that sometime. For now I’ll be sticking on ol’ faithful. Maybe when the “next big distro” gets released I’ll give it a try.