Eeedora Impressions

Being the long-time Linux user that I am, there was no way I was going to be satisfied with Xandros, which is the stock Linux that ASUS ships with the Eee PC. I was stuck for choice between Ubuntu and Fedora, and after some careful evaluation, I decided that Fedora, was right for me.

Getting Eeedora, was pretty straight-forward. The installation wiki is pretty accurate when it comes to the “how” of installing Eeedora. For me, it was made easier that I had a Fedora system already, so I could run the tool to create Live CDs from the livecd-tool package.

One snag I noticed, and this is more with the Live CD script, is that when you don’t have a bootable USB thumb drive, it tells you that, but doesn’t quite tell you it didn’t make an installation on the thumb drive. I guess the script could be more idiot-proof. Anyways, making the drive bootable is easy.

Now, once that was done, it was on to installing on the Eee. I ensured that in the BIOS (accessed via pressing F2), the first boot device was the USB thumb drive attached to the system at boot-up. However, it was never booting into Eeedora, and I only managed to see the Xandros start up. Highly disappointing.

Turns out, that hitting the Esc key was the magic sauce, during boot-up. Only when doing that, was I given a boot menu, and then I could choose if I’d like to boot off the internal SSD, or the USB thumb drive. Once that was sorted, I was pretty happy to see a familiar Fedora-looking screen (sure, it said Eeedora, for legal reasons, but I think its a pretty darn good spin :P).

The installation process went on pretty smoothly. During partitioning, I was pretty much rid of Xandros – the chosen default was actually the most sensible. Just one / partition, filling up the entire disk, with no swap. As usual, anaconda (the Fedora installer) will warn you that not having a swap partition will be detrimental to performance – I wonder how many newbies might decide to create a swap partition (kind of a big no-no, on these SSD based devices).

One thing I did notice was the use of ext2 partitioning as opposed to a journalled filesystem like ext3. The natural question then comes to mind, as to why not just use jffs2?

Once the filesystem partitioning was sorted, and GRUB was chosen as the default bootloader, anaconda proceeded to install packages. This was a fairly speedy process, and once that was complete, it was a simple reboot, and I was booting off the SSD before I knew it.

You’re logged in by default as the eeedora user. You get a stock XFCE4 environment (or stock, that I would think anyway), and it comes with the basic utilities you need to get working (Firefox, wireless, etc.).

There were some things I obviously did not like, so decided to poke a little further. First up, was creating a user, that was not”eeedora”.

Dissecting the .bash_profile of the eeedora user, I noticed some things:

  • pulseaudio -D – pulseaudio as a daemon for the user? Why, sound seems to work just fine on my Eee without it
  • xsetroot -solid steelblue – seems OK, but not actually required anyway
  • startxfce4 – if you want a GUI the moment you login, this is useful. But it only really works out well, because of the hack in /etc/inittab that says c7:12345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty --autologin=eeedora tty7. Seeing that I disabled autologin for the eeedora user, I pretty much see a login screen, and startxfce4 manually. Sometimes, I can actually get away with working in just a shell… However, I can see this from a usability point of view, I guess. Of course, the other issue is that the eeedora user, does not actually have a password!
  • Logging out of XFCE4 and going back to the console, immediately triggers a machine shutdown. This seemed counterintuitive.

Needless to say, I disabled all this, in my new user account, as well as disabled autologin in the inittab.

Why XCFE4? Its a 900MHz Mobile Celeron processor, deliberately underclocked to 600MHz, with 512MB of RAM. This is the kind of environment, that can run GNOME. And when we notice problems with GNOME, its time we fixed it. Heck, I have an almost similarly configured IBM laptop, without PAE, that runs GNOME just fine!

I must commend WiFi Radar – this is something that pretty much, just works. And its small. It looks unmaintained, sadly, so its probably time to take an interest in it. Fn+F2 enables and disables wireless very well. I do however notice that even with the wireless disabled, the WiFi light (in blue), remains turned on. I find this to be rather quaint, and must prod it further.

Brightness control (Fn+F3/Fn+F4) seem to work well in Xandros, but I can’t seem to replicate such joy in Fedora. There is absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t work. It does annoy me, because its sucking precious battery life, from my usage of the Eee, by keeping it nice and brightly lit, when I’m on the battery.

Suspend and resume, just work. And because we’re dealing with an SSD, it just works, really fast as well. Sure, when I open up the screen of my Eee, I actually need to press the power button to get it to resume, but this kind of behaviour is perfect for me.

Do I like recompiling all the magic in /root/eee-setup, everytime I get a new kernel? No. Speaking with Dave Jones though, there is an expectation that all the drivers will be available in F9. Kudos.

Webcam? Works fine when I run lucview. Doesn’t work with the Skype beta that I get from the Skype download site. No idea what is missing, I just feel a bit bummed that I’ve got to find the solution to this issue at some stage soon.

As an install report, I think this does, just fine. Its now just time to hack on the distribution, to get it to the way I want it to work.

  • With my Inspiron 1500 with camera using uvcvideo (er, can’t login now to check details — killed the network remotely!) driver on debian, luview also worked, but I had problems initially with other viewers.

    I think the solution in the end, for gnomemeeting’s successor (sorry about the sketchy details!) was one fo the gstreamer v4l or v4l2 plugins, which apt wasn’t pulling in for me because the dependency was only a “suggests” or “recommends”.

    I haven’t yet tried skype. Because I have no friends, I haven’t tried actually using the camera yet, mind you.

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  • Actually, in newer versions of eeeDora the Fn-F3/F4 for brightness works. Download the latest version from the eeeDora site and you’ll see. One caveat though, for me in the 20080125 build I have firefox sometimes crash randomly… not sure yet, what causes that…

  • Xandros’ brightness/sound control is actually not always fine on my Eee. But it’s heavily hacked. Same thing with firefox crashes, I get that often, especially with YouTube.
    Pulseaudio: that’s a Fedora thing. Don’t know why they put it, but it looks like they seem proud of including it.
    XFCE: XFCE isn’t really a desktop for the slow computers, although it is generally a good choice for this kind of machine; it’s more of an easy, transparent, no-nonsense thing with software that opens instantly. Not everyone want to wait for nautilus to load, even if it’s just 10-20 seconds, and sometimes Gnome gizmos are just too much distraction.

  • Filippo

    Thanx for the post. What about skype video and audio? solved? I cant get it to work. Help!

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  • willie

    i want to like eeedora, i really do… alas, on a 1000 40g linux eee pc the truth is that eeedora is not ready for prime time for folks wanting wifi (have not tried it with my 900, but it *should* work)…