Thursday, October 15, 2009

Acer Aspire One and Ubuntu Linux

I just bought an Acer Aspire One Pro A531H N270 netbook and immediately went on to install Ubuntu Linux (Jaunty Jackalope) on it (while keeping the original Windows XP installation available through dual boot). On the whole this was painless but there are a couple of snags.

Installation: I used the UNetbootin tool to create a bootable SD card to perform the installation, and this was painless. Normally I install from CD, but since the Aspire doesn't have one and I don't own a USB one, this was not an option.

Screen: Crisp and sharp, and with the right resolution immediately.

Webcam: Works fine out of the box. However, getting the microphone to work seems to require some manual installation that I haven't bothered with yet since I don't normally use my computers for anything that requires a microphone. Update: After upgrading to 9.10, the microphone works without any special tricks.

Sound: Works fine, but I wouldn't mind the volume going a bit higher. Update: It would be nice with a hardware volume control.

Network: The wired network worked fine immediately. The wireless didn't, but the instructions in this post fixed it, and I have since then had no problems with it.

SD card reader: There are two. The left one works fine, detecting cards inserted on the fly. I haven't tried the right-hand one.

Touchpad: Works fine. Ubuntu had sideways scrolling disabled by default, but that's just a matter of changing a checkbox in the settings.

External display: I haven't tried this connection yet. Update: I've tried once to get it to work and failed using Ubuntu 9.04. After a reboot to Windows XP it worked fine, so it seems like a software issue. Pressing Fn-F5 in Ubuntu did nothing at all.

Suspend: Works fine.

I've only used this machine for a few hours yet, but so far it feels nice and I don't have any real quibbles about it. Update: A few months later, and I'm still happy with the machine.

Update: The update to Ubuntu Karmic Koala was painless.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dual booting Ubuntu Linux and Windows Vista on a Toshiba Satellite L300D 13J

For christmas last year we got ourselves a Toshiba Satellite L300D 13J laptop. The idea was mostly to get the kids off Camilla's company laptop. The reason I got this particular model was that it was available locally for a reasonable sum and filled the requirements we had, not that it was very much better than anything else. As far as I could tell, most of the machines in a given price bracket were pretty much the same.

It turns out that it's impossible to get a laptop over the counter here without paying the Microsoft tax, and to make it worse you get stuck with Vista. Since our kids occasionally want to play Windows stuff I wanted to leave Vista on the machine, but still install Ubuntu Linux 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) on it as well. I thought that this was something that about a million people would have done before so that information about how to do it would be all over the internet, but that turned out not to be so. One of the places I found that had something was this, but it wasn't very useful for me since it assumed that you had real Vista installation media.

The machine we got was kind of preinstalled with Vista and we got no CD or DVD with the OS. Instead, when you first boot the machine, it performs various post-installation tasks and then offers to burn a restore DVD, so I let it do this.

Since I now had a disk that could take me back to where I started, I felt a little braver. I put in a Ubuntu installation CD and booted from that. It booted happily and showed me the partitioning tool. This showed that the disk already had more than one partition. Apparently, about half the disk was used by some mystery partition that I assume is where the Vista installation came from. The other half of the disk contained the actual Vista installation and user files. Thus, a normal user will only get half the disk space they paid for. I didn't feel like messing too much with the partitioning, so I simply let Ubuntu shrink the Vista partition to about half its original size (i.e. a quarter of the total of the disk). I then proceeded to install Ubuntu on the new free disk space that I had just created. The installation process was totally painless.

After finishing the Ubuntu installation, I rebooted to Vista. It said something about the system changing and then started something that looked like the same initialization process that happened the first time I started the machine. True enough, I had to redo all the settings I had done previously. Since I never created any files I don't know it it would have wiped those as well, but at least any settings seemed to be lost. It seems like a good idea to do this after a good backup or even better on an unused machine.

Once Vista was happy again (including after a reboot), I restarted the machine again and started up Ubuntu. This also came up without any problems, including working wifi and webcam.

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