Saturday, 25 October 2008

Ubuntu 8.10 and the Aspire ONE

Ubuntu, perhaps the easiest distribution of Linux for those used to Windows who want to dip their toe into the world of Linux operating systems.

In the past I have successfully, without issue (or with little issue) installed Ubuntu on a variety of computers, however the Aspire ONE is different to most computers. It's small screen is not fantastic when using Ubuntu as many dialogue boxes are taller than the 600 pixels of the screen. The Atheros wireless adapter is not supported by Ubuntu's driver database. There are documented issues with sound upon resuming from standby and hibernate and there is no fan controlling software compatible with the ONE's BIOS.

Luckily though, there are plenty of guides online for those who want to use Ubuntu with their ONE.

The help documents over at the Ubuntu Community were of particular use. This guide provided almost everything I needed to sort out the above issues and a fair few more besides.

Of particular note is the creation of the driver for the built in Atheros wireless adapter. This guide has taught me a great deal about how the terminal works too, something which I have had very little contact with in the past because Ubuntu usually just works out of the box.

Setting up the desktop was also quite a struggle, although the above document does a good job of making suggestions as to what could be done to increase desktop real estate, my particular way of working with Ubuntu does not marry up to the guides suggestions.

In the end I enabled the 'hide panel' buttons on the top panel, and removed the bottom panel completely. I replaced the bottom panel with the excellent Avant Window Manager (AWN) which provides a Mac OSX style dock for programs to be launched from, and set this to auto-hide when not in use (hovering the pointer at the bottom of the screen causes is to rise in to view).

This still didn't provide enough usable screen space, so I decreased all the fonts by 2 points, then reduced the top panel from 24 pixels down to 19 (saves 5 pixels, not a lot but it's something!)

After installing AWN, and after a restart of the ONE, I noticed that AWN did not start up automatically when I logged in. This bothered me, but unlike Windows, whereby you simply copy the shortcut to the Startup folder in the Start menu, setting an Autostart program is not so obvious.

A quick search in Google produced a link to the LinuxScrew blog, and a fantastic little article on how to enable a program to do just what I needed. I suggest you read the comments for a bit more info on setting this up too.

As I use a range of different screen sizes each day, with differing resolutions, I have found it difficult using the ONE's tiny screen when working with multiple windows. As any Linux user knows, it is easy to set up multiple workspaces, which act as individual desktops, over which you can place your active program windows. Once you have placed a program in two or more workspaces you are able to easily swap between them using a key combination [Ctrl+Alt+Left or Right Arrow]

To pretty things up a little though, a quick download of Compiz Fusion allows you to set up Rotating Cube effect, which makes swapping between workspaces much more fun. Actually, Compiz Fusion enables tonnes of different cool effects, but the Cube is the most noteworthy and appealing.

So now I have a fully working Ubuntu 8.10 install on my Aspire ONE.

Did you notice I have been saying 8.10? 8.10 [Intrepid Ibex] isn't scheduled for release until 30th October 2008, but the Release Candidate is available for download now. Install doesn't take too long, but the required updates (partial upgrade) does, so be warned.

Have you found this article useful? Is there anything you'd like to share? Please leave your comments below.

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