Monday, 8 June 2015

Next up... the netbook... (Part one)

Flush with my successes on my Toshiba notebook, I dug out my old netbook, with it's catalogue of problems; the ultimate goal here was to replace the pain-in-the-backside operating system (Windows 7 Professional) with a low-overhead version of Linux.

Before I could do that, though, I had to fix a fairly major problem.

The keyboard was giving me all manner of grief before the machine was retired, and the Toshiba became my main machine. A lot of problems could be squarely laid at the door of a faulty keyboard, but at the time (a few years ago now), replacement keyboards were selling for silly money, so I shelved the idea until prices came down. Well, prices HAVE come down, and looking about, Amazon had them at around £35, and Ebay for less than a tenner. Guess who won ;-)

At £8.45 (including postage and packing), the replacement keyboard was sourced from Ebay. It arrived within 48 hours of ordering, which was a very nice touch indeed.

Removing the old keyboard, however, was... interesting. There are copious videos (you tube excells, of course) on this topic, so I consulted a couple of them, finding the advice to be pretty-much the same. The original keyboard, however, thought otherwise, and was a pig to get out. But, come out it did, and a managed not to damage the netbook in the process, which was nice!

Fitting the replacement keyboard was a doddle, compared to removing the original, and the power-up test of the Acer netbook went fine. It still runs under windoze 7, but at least all the problems I had with it could be safely traced back to the faulty keyboard as the original cause :)

Then, I looked at what flavour of Linux to use. The decision process was fairly logical, for a change (I intuit a lot, I'm not a programmer by any strech of the imagination!)

  1. I already use Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on the Toshiba notebook, and I'm reasonably satisfied with it.
  2. The netbook specs are markedly lower than the Toshiba (Acer Aspire One D255; Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz, 512kb cache, 1Gb RAM, 250Gb HDD, 10.1" screen, 1024x768 screen res, processor "64-bit ready"), other details at
  3. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS will not work properly on the Acer netbook due to these lower specs.
  4. A smaller 'footprint' of Linux, with a correspondingly smaller set of system resource requirements, was therefore required.
  5. Given that I was already familiar with Ubuntu from its installation on the Toshiba, a netbook version of Ubuntu would be preferred.
  6. Problem, Ubuntu for Netbooks did exist, but was folded back into the main development program a couple of years ago.
  7. Ergo: A different Linux product had to be sought.
  8. Research indicated that a distro incorporating the Linux Xfce Desktop Environment would be best for the Acer (specifies very low system requirements, good for so-called 'legacy' equipment), so it maked sense to make sure that this is used in the Linux Distro I eventually selected.
  9. Ideally, any distro should be a Long Term Service version (LTS), for ease of maintenance and support.

As a result of the above, and a litle further research, I came to the interim conclusion that Xubuntu 14.04 LTS ( was most likely to be the best choice for the Acer (and me!).

So, I downloaded an iso of it from, and unpacked it onto a USB Thumb Drive using Startup Drive Creator (a Linux program available from most Linux software repositries). It worked as expected, and the thumb drive was runing a 'live' copy of Xubuntu 14.04.2 LTS.

However, when plugged into a USB2 slot on the netbook, things did not go as expected.

It took forever - almost ten minutes, the first time I tried to boot it up. So, I saved the configuration of the session, and shut it down.

I then booted it up again, to see if this was a one-off problem. It took five minutes to boot that time.

In both cases, once up and running, Xubuntu ran just fine, even if it didn't recognise the correct characters whe  the "|" key was pressed (that's minor configuration issue, nothing for me to worry about at this point).

I thought that such a long time taken in booting might indicate a problem with the thumb drive, so to see if this was the case, tested it on the Toshiba notebook, via one of the two USB2 ports (the other is a USB3 port).

The Toshiba booted up from it in thirty seconds flat.

Hmph. Not the thumb drive, then.

Obviously, the netbook either needs a MUCH lower overhead version of Linux, or there's an issue with it booting from a thumb drive. Or both.

So, however you cook it, I'm only 50% accomplished on converting the netbook to Linux, which is a tad irritating, given how easy it was to switch over to Linux on the Toshiba (a Satellite C855-29M). In fact, "irritating" is not the word, but as this is a family show, I think it best not to use the words I realy think sum up this problem!

So, time to look for a version of Linux with an even smaller set of specifications than Xubuntu.

This may take some time...

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