Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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Installing Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) on Aspire One

Posted by (Last Modified: May 21, 2009 09:05)

Table of Contents

Introduction

Ubuntu, one of the more popular and user friendly Linux installations, has an awkward release schedule. They release in late October (the x.10 release) and late April (the x.04 release). In late October I have essays to mark and need to prepare for the annual conference and meeting of the Text Encoding Initiative. In late April, I have final exams and essays to mark, and need to prepare for going to the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo.

A wise and moderate person would wait to install the newest version of an open source operating system if the release came at a period of high professional demands; but I’m neither wise nor moderate; and installing a new operating system gives some thrills that help break up the monotony of marking.

In this case, with the latest release (9.04 Jaunty Jacaklope), the thrill of installing a new operating system, with what used to be its inevitable mess-ups and desperate attempts at recovery is almost completely gone. Jaunty worked on my Acer Aspire One Netbook immediately. Even such notorious bugbears as notebook wireless cards and power management operated right away, with no tweaking. Only two things seemed not to work perfectly right away:

I’m also not that crazy about the special netbook desktop. This uses maximus, a program that ensures that all windows are run in their maximum size. But I am somebody who leaves a lot of files on the desktop and run with multiple windows open. Fortunately, Jaunty comes with a desktop switcher, meaning you can actually change desktop layouts for different tasks.

I did have one major issue arise—my BIOS crashed soon after I completed the installation, making my computer temporarily unusable. But this appears to be an Acer issue, rather than an Ubuntu issue, and it turned out to be relatively easy to fix.

So all in all, the result is a superb new version of Ubuntu that works perfectly on my computer: while the netbook version of Ubuntu doesn’t come with some of my favorite software pre-installed, the software is easy to get using the usual installation methods (and, of course, free). And most importantly, Jaunty is blazingly fast to boot: I had a cold-boot-to-internet time of just over 25 seconds on a clean install; even with the usual gnome desktop, a number of panel applets, and all my desktop files installed, it is still going from cold-boot-to-internet in about 30 seconds.

This really is a superb new release. It is the first one where I would recommend Linux to a non-hobbyist/computer-specialist for their daily computing. It is that much better and more reliable than the Windows XP my Aspire originally came with.

Installation

  1. Download the netbook USB image
  2. Create a bootable USB key
  3. Backup any content or user settings on the Acer you want to preserve (to a different computer, of course, you are about to wipe out the hard disk on your Acer).
  4. Cold boot your Acer with the USB key inserted into the computer. At the bios splash screen (the black “Acer” screen that comes up immediately after the power button is pressed), select f12 (change boot order) and make sure that the USB key is the first boot option (It won’t be unless you’ve changed this before).
  5. Follow the instructions. As usual, I did a manual partition using the whole disk, using the following distribution; whenever I was asked I chose EXT3 rather than the new EXT4 format, since I am enough of a chicken to wait for the new format to be thoroughly tested before I play around with my data:
    1. / – 10GB, EXT3 format
    2. swap – 6GB
    3. /home – whatever was left, EXT3 format
  6. When the installation is complete, reboot, removing the USB key when instructed to do so
  7. Use your computer.

That was it. The computer rebooted in 25 seconds and told me immediately of the available wireless networks. I was able to work right away.

Tweaks

I made a couple of tweaks to get things the way I like them. These seem to have had very little (approx. 5 sec.) effect on bootup time.

Wireless LED

Getting the LED light to work is not crucial, but it is satisfying. The solution is to download linux-backports-modules-jaunty (see https://help.ubuntu.com/community/AspireOne).

sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-jaunty

Reboot and the light should be flashing when the wireless is working. If you can’t install these backport-modules, check your backports repositories are enabled using synaptics or by editing /etc/apt/sources.list. If you are able to download the modules but the light doesn’t flash after a reboot, then try a cold boot (i.e. turn off; wait; turn back on.

Switching between “Classic” and “Netbook” Desktops

I generally prefer to work with the regular Ubuntu Gnome desktop. There is a desktop switcher utility available under System > Preferences > Switch Desktop Mode.

You can also add this to your gnome panel as an applet: in the regular gnome desktop, right click on the top or bottom panel. Choose “Add to Panel.” In the dialogue box that comes up select “Application Launcher” and click on “Forward.” Then in the next dialogue box, choose System > Preferences > Switch Desktop Mode and click on “Add.”

Customising the “Netbook” Desktop

The new Netbook Desktop is useful for some types of work. Since you can switch back and forth, you may want to customise that as well. You can add new launchers to the top menu bar.

To create space to do this, right click on the existing applet immediately to the left of the place where the active applications appear. Deselect the option “Lock to Panel.” Then right click again, and select “move.” Move the applet to the right so that it goes on the other side of the place where active applications appear. Let it go. From now on, you can add new items to the top menu bar by right clicking on the bar to the right of the applet you just moved and selecting “Add to panel” in the usual way. When you are finished, move all the applets back to the left of the place where active applications appear.

I’ll post some screenshots showing how to do this when I have the time.

Disabling Maximus

Those who don’t like Maximus, don’t like it at all. Many people who fall into that camp recommend removing it from your system. An easier method is to turn Maximus off by ensuring that it is not one of the programs that that is loaded when you log in. Select System > Preferences > Start Up Applications > Maximus Windows Management and then uncheck the checkbox. When you reboot, Maximus will be off.

It is also apparently possible to create exceptions and the like within the GK dialogue. But I’m one of those who don’t like it, so I just turn it off.

Since turning it off means that it doesn’t run under the Netbook desktop either, I’ll need to see if maybe I really couldn’t get used to the netbook interface for daily work.

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Posted: Friday April 24, 2009. 14:44.

Last modified: Thursday May 21, 2009. 09:53.

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Comment [9]

  1. Guevara (Mon May 4, 2009 (09:44:04)) [PermLink]:

    thanks for the heads up on Maximus, I was getting tired of that “maximize everything” behaviour. Also, the tip to add things to the panel while in netbook mode was great, thanks!

    Cheers from Costa Rica!

  2. samba (Mon May 4, 2009 (15:15:29)) [PermLink]:

    Thanks for your comments! good laptod and good Operating System!!

    regards!

  3. Rob Kemp (Fri May 15, 2009 (17:43:00)) [PermLink]:

    I sympathise about the marking, me too.

    Did you say 6 GIGABYTES of swap space? Whatever do you need that much for?

    I should have thought a bit more than whatever RAM you’ve got (i.e. enough to hibernate into, if you wanted to bother hibernating) would be enough?

    Personally I use 2×8GB partitions for the OS (one for using, one for testing new OS-es on while still having a fallback – because those essays have to be marked some time) and a 1.5GB swap partition (because I filled up the extra RAM slot).

    (Maybe you don’t have the hard disk version though.)

  4. J Bryson (Tue May 19, 2009 (16:38:11)) [PermLink]:

    Superb, nice piece of work, will try it on my machine.

  5. dan (Thu May 21, 2009 (09:46:45)) [PermLink]:

    Rob,
    That’s a good point about the size of the swap. I don’t remember why it is so big—maybe I took a percentage off one of my earlier computers or maybe it just ended up that way at some point. Before I wrote the ratio down here, I derived it by looking at one of my other installs. Which of course allows for inflation.

    I like your idea, since in fact, I don’t have a second partion for the OS and it would be good to keep a space for experimentation.

    I have an AAO with the 160GB spinning drive and two HD media card slots. and only about 500 RAM, if I remember aright. I’m intrigued by what you mean about the RAM slot: Is there an extra RAM slot somewheres? Or do you mean one of the HD slots?

  6. Rob Kemp (Sat May 23, 2009 (03:36:59)) [PermLink]:

    My model is the A150, which came with a 120GB hard disk. I believe there were some versions of this model sold with 160GB hard disks, but they seem to be churning out new models now as well.

    If your model is the same as mine, then yes, there is an additional RAM slot. Unfortunately, getting at it involves completely disassembling the machine. It’s not a job for the faint-hearted or the ham fisted. There are various helpful tutorials on how to do it on Youtube and elsewhere: e.g. here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EfzckyZMTk.

    My model came with 1GB RAM to start with – half soldered onto the motherboard, the other half as a memory module in the (inaccessible) slot. I swapped the 512MB module in the slot for a 1GB module. The maximum you can usefully install is 1.5GB (The machine will recognize up to 2GB but you can’t get a 1.5GB memory module).

    It sounds like you have one of the models with just the soldered-on 512MB module, meaning your expansion slot is empty. (Over here – in the UK – the version that had Windows preloaded came with that amount of RAM for some reason, while the Linux version had double. Maybe they sell different configurations in Canada.)

    As a matter of fact I upgraded the RAM mainly so I could comfortably run Windows XP in a Virtualbox virtual machine. It works well. (I only want Windows so I can test web pages for compliance with Internet Explorer.)

    Anyway, sorry to put a blog-length comment on your site. Greetings, by the way, from the University of Essex. It’s nice to know there are other Linux geeks in the non-computer-science academic world.

  7. dan (Sun May 24, 2009 (10:30:54)) [PermLink]:

    I saw a video that showed how you could put OS X on it as well. Involved a similar disassembly. I’m not faint hearted (I’m finding I’m having to put more and more warnings on my blog entries, because I generally don’t care if I wreck something working on it, but others out there seem to). But in this case I really like the machine and it is now my daily use computer. Did you get the sound working decently?

  8. Rob Kemp (Mon May 25, 2009 (16:48:21)) [PermLink]:

    Sound seems to work well for me – certainly now that (after reading your post above) I’ve installed the netbook version of Ubuntu. I haven’t had any problems that I can recall.

    When using other distributions the sound is not always OK even when the correct driver is loaded with the right options. Sometimes it seems impossible to get it to work up to an audible level. Ubuntu seems to have it cracked, though – for me at least, and for now …

  9. dan (Tue Nov 24, 2009 (10:03:05)) [PermLink]:

    Re Comment 3

    My experience after reducing the swap space seems to be that I hang up and lose internet connection more frequently when moving around large files. I don’t have any control data except my memory, so I’m going to test things when I install 9.10.

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