Installing Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) on Aspire One
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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:
- The little LED that tells you your wireless card is working—something that didn’t work at all under previous versions of Ubuntu either. This can now be fixed by downloading a single program and rebooting.
- The microphone stutters due to a conflict with pulse audio; apparently this can be fixed by removing pulse audio.
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.
- Download the netbook USB image
- Create a bootable USB key
- 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).
- 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).
- 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:
/– 10GB, EXT3 format
/home– whatever was left, EXT3 format
- When the installation is complete, reboot, removing the USB key when instructed to do so
- 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Posted: Friday April 24, 2009. 13:44.
Last modified: Thursday May 21, 2009. 09:53.