eeePC tips and tricks

 

This page was written for the eeePC 4G model in February 2008 and applies to the operating system versions that were supplied with the UK eeePC at this time. Information presented on this page may not be applicable to non 4G models, newer revisions of the 4G, different localised versions or the UK 4G model where software updates have been applied. This page details my own experiences with the UK 4G model around February 2008 and is provided for information only.

Okay, so you've had your shiny new eeePC out of the box for a while and you've had a play around with the Xandros operating system. Wanna do a few fun things??

This page is based on the eeePC 4G and contains information on:
Opening repositories and installing software;
Enabling Full Desktop (KDE) mode;
Compiz desktop effects;
Huawei E220, E272 and E172 3G modems;
Battery saving tips;
Factory restore;
eeeDora alternative OS WiFi fix.
Enabling Bluetooth and creating a mobile dial-up connection
Stopping the SD card detection dialogue box
Full Screen Firefox
Installing Twhirl for Twitter


Related articles on this site:

eeePC Disassembly guide;
eeePC Bluetooth and USB mods (fitting internal Bluetooth and an extra USB port);
eeePC model 4G review;
Trust BT-2400p ultra small Bluetooth adaptor review

Opening repositories

There's a world of Linux software out there that you can install for free on your eeePC - you just have to tell your new toy where the software repositories are so it can go and find it. By default, only two eeePC specific repositories are enabled. To open up other repositories for installing extra applications, you'll have to do the following (ensure you have a working Internet connection first):

Press CTRL-ALT-T to open a terminal window

Type the following (press Enter at the end of each line):

sudo su
nano /etc/apt/sources.list


Add the following lines:

deb http://xnv4.xandros.com/xs2.0/upkg-srv2 etch main contrib non-free
deb http://dccamirror.xandros.com/dccri/ dccri-3.0 main
deb http://www.geekconnection.org xandros4 main

Press CTRL-O to save changes (Enter to confirm) and CTRL-X to exit the Nano text editor. Note that other repositories are available and the more you open the more software you're likely to find.

Now type:

apt-get update

Congratulations! You have now added some extra repositories and your eeePC knows what's on them. Now if you know what applications you want to install, you should be able to find them with these commands:

To search for an application:
apt-cache search [appname]

To install an application:
apt-get install [appname]

As an example, try installing the Streamtuner internet radio application along with the XMMS media player (answer 'y' to any confirmation messages during install):
apt-get install streamtuner xmms

Once complete, open Streamtuner by typing it's name on the command line. Select a station from the tabbed list and a genre from the explorer window then double-click a stream to tune into. It will then open using the XMMS media player we also installed.

An easier way to search for and install packages is to use the Synaptic package manager. This can be launched from the terminal using sudo synaptic (or just synaptic if logged in as su), or if you enable Full Desktop mode (see below), you'll find Synaptic under Launch / Applications / System. Note - if you get an error when using Synaptic along the lines of 'Unable to parse package file' and 'Unable to lock the download directory', click on Edit / Fix Broken Packages twice and it should resolve.


Enabling Full Desktop (KDE) mode


Is the default interface too basic for you? You can have a full KDE desktop running if you want. First, add the extra repositories as described above then do the following

Press CTRL-ALT-T for terminal window and as superuser type:
apt-get install ksmserver kicker

Restart the eeePC. To switch between the two modes, simply press the power button and select the appropriate mode from the left of the menu. You'll need to shut down your applications before switching! You can set your preferred mode from cold-start by clicking Settings/Personalization and choosing the login mode you prefer.

With Full Desktop mode available, press the power button to switch!

 

 

Compiz desktop effects

The graphics chipset in the eeePC is capable of running the Compiz package quite nicely and can provide some good visual effects such as wobbly windows and 3D workspace switching.

First, follow the above steps to open repositories and enable Full Desktop (KDE) mode. When in KDE, open a terminal by clicking Launch/Applications/System/Console and follow the steps below.

Enter the following to start editing your X-server configuration:
sudo su
nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf


Under the section "ServerLayout" add the line
Option "AIGLX" "True"

Under the section 'Module' add the line
Load "dbe"

Under the section "Device" add the line
Option "XAANoOffscreenPixmaps" "True"


Under the section "Extensions"
Change the line Option Composite to "Enable"

Now save your xorg.conf file and exit Nano (CTRL-O, CTRL-X)

Install Compiz
apt-get install compiz

If you try to start Compiz at this point, it attempts to load a Metacity window decoration theme which isn't present by default on the eeePC so no window decorations will appear. This can be corrected by placing a suitable theme where Compiz expects to find it. To do this, go to www.gnome-look.org and download a Metacity theme from the Metacity link on the left side of the gnome-look.org page. Pick one you like the look of and download it. The theme will be in a tar.gz archive so once you have downloaded it to your eeePC, double-click it to view the contents of the archive. You should find a directory called metacity-1 within the archive and this needs to be dragged and dropped to a suitable location (I'm assuming it's in My Documents for the purpose of this guide). Do not rename the metacity-1 directory.

From your Console window (and assuming you're still a superuser):

Copy the metacity-1 directory to the location that Compiz expects to find it in:
cp -r /home/user/My\ Documents/metacity-1 /usr/share/themes/Clearlooks/

Create a configuration file to run at startup:
nano /home/user/.kde/Autostart/compiz.desktop

Type the following entries into the configuration file:

[Desktop Entry]
Encoding=UTF-8
Exec=compiz --replace &
StartupNotify=false
Terminal=false
Type=Application
X-KDE-autostart-after=kdesktop


Save your changes and exit Nano (CTRL-O, CTRL-X). Remember that Linux is case sensitive - ensure the commands and config files used above are entered as shown!

Press CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE to restart the X Window manager and switch back into KDE. Compiz should now be enabled. The whizzy effects will be active but you will notice some ugly thick black borders around your windows and menus. This can be fixed thanks to the following steps passed on to me by Berthold Barth - thanks Berthold!

Install the gconf-editor application:
apt-get install gconf-editor

Press ALT-F2 to open a Run window. Type gconf-editor and click Run.

In the folder list down the left of the gconf-editor window, drill down the folder structure to apps/compiz/plugins/decoration/allscreens/options. In the window on the right, change the shadow offsets, opacity and radius all to zero (see screenshot below).

 

gconf screenshot

 

 

The changes made in gconf-editor should take effect immediately.

You should have wobbily windows and menus and the ace cube workspace switcher. Use CTRL-ALT plus left or right arrow cursor key to see the cube in action switching between the four desktops or to be really cool hold down CTRL-ALT-LEFT MOUSE and then drag your mouse/trackpad to rotate the cube. Compiz also jazzes up ALT-TAB application switching and places a hot corner in the top right of the screen which shrinks down open windows allowing you to select one. Use ALT-F10 to 'snap' windows to full screen.

If that top-right hot corner annoys you (it can kick in while you're trying to hit the close window button), you can disable it in gconf-editor by going to Compiz / Plugins / Scale / allscreens / options and remove the TopRight entry from Initiate Edge.

You may also want to activate the Alt-Drag function as some windows such as the Control Center will be larger than the eeePC screen which will stop you getting to the buttons at the bottom of the window. In gconf-editor, go to Compiz / Plugins / Move / allscreens / options and untick the 'constrain_y' box.

To deactivate Compiz, remove the configuration file from the Autostart directory and reboot the eeePC.


For those who don't want the compiz whizzyness, a better 2D window manager than the default is Metacity. To try it, install with apt-get install metacity and edit or replace the compiz.desktop config file created above so that the Exec line reads Exec=metacity --replace &

 


Huawei E220, E272 and E172 USB 3G modems

I've talked about the Huawei E220 before - a great product that provides 3G functionality to Mac and (certain) Linux users. You'll be pleased to hear that it works pretty-much out of the box with the eeePC as does the newer (and funkier looking) E272 and the super slim E172, providing a quick and easy way to access the Internet from wherever you can get a mobile data signal. To get it to work, plug the modem into one of the eeePC USB ports. The first time you come to use it, you will need to create a connection profile for it. In Easy Mode, this can be done in the Network application under the Internet tab, or in Full Desktop (KDE) mode click Launch/Control Centre/Network Connections. I've described two methods of configuring a connection below although you may need different settings for different operators (I'm using Vodafone UK). The second method is the preferred as it should do most of the configuration for you but if you have problems you can fall back to the first method to enter a configuration manually.

Dial up connection method
Click Create;
Select Dial Up and click Next;
Select Serial - modem /dev/tty/USB0 and click Next (this option won't be available until several seconds after the modem has been plugged in so if it isn't there, close the Network application, wait a bit longer and then try again);
Enter the data connection number of your provider (my connection is Vodafone UK and they use *99#) and click Next;
Enter the username and password of your provider (Vodafone UK use 'web' for both username and password), then click Next;
Give the connection a name and click Next;
Click Finish.

Your new connection should now be listed as a network connection. To use it from now on, insert the modem, wait for it to initialise, then open the Network app, highlight the connection and click Connection/Connect.

GSM/3G (UMTS)/HSDPA connection method
Click Create;
Select GSM/3G (UMTS)/HSDPA and click Next;
Select huawei-Exxx /dev/tty/USB0 and click Next (this option won't be available until several seconds after the modem has been plugged in so if it isn't there, close the Network application, wait a bit longer and then try again);
Click Search;
Assuming you have a suitable signal, your search should list your mobile operator and their data service. Select it and click Next;
Select your operator from the drop-down list or enter the access point and authentication credentials manually if you know them. For Vodafone UK (which is in the list), the APN is 'internet' and the username and passwords are 'web'. Hit Next when done;
Give the connection a name and click Next;
Click Finish.

Your new connection should now be listed as a network connection. To use it from now on, insert the modem, wait for it to initialise, then open the Network app, highlight the connection and click Connection/Connect.



Battery saving tips

There are a few things you can do to maximise battery life when on the road - and they're not specific to the eeePC as most can be applied to pretty much any laptop or PDA.

Hit F2 at startup to enter the BIOS and disable any hardware you don't use (for example turning off the wired network interface, webcam, modem - anything not needed during that session);
Turn down screen brightness (Fn F3 keys);
Minimise the external hardware - USB drives, mice, 3G modems, etc. all draw power from the eeePC battery;
Turn off WiFi (Fn F2) if not using wireless networks;
Don't leave the webcam running longer than necessary;
Set the screen to turn off after five minutes of inactivity;
Don't follow the various guides available on the 'net to overclock your eeePC if battery life is more critical to you than speed;
Close the lid or put the machine to sleep during periods of inactivity.

 

Factory restore

Made one twek too many?? Buggered up your eeePC? Hit F9 on the Power-On-Self-Test (POST) screen at startup to kick off a factory restore. Be warned - this will erase any user data and settings from the internal drive and will remove any user-installed applications. The F9 option opens a boot loader from which you can also perform a disk scan (an fsck on your solid state drive).

 

eeeDora alternative OS WiFi fix

There's a bit of waffle on this topic so it has a whole page of it's own here!

 

Enabling Bluetooth and creating a mobile dial-up connection

Another topic requiring a page of it's own. This is somewhat specific to my Vodafone Contract connection and my Nokia E90 but may prove useful.

 

Stopping the SD card detection dialogue box

If you have an SD card inserted, you may get annoyed by the dialogue box that appears whenever you start up your eeePC informing you the card was detected and asking what application you would like to use to view the card's contents.

There is a 'fix' for this behavior detailed below, however be aware that if you have updated your eeePC from Settings/Add Remove Software with USB Storage Applet v1.1.53 or v1.1.69 (as I just have), this 'fix' below no longer works. I don't know why there can't just be a menu option to turn the annoying removable hardware notifications off. Anyway, if you have updated the USB Storage Applet and, like me, you don't want the removable hardware dialogue box appearing whenever you boot up or insert a flash drive/SD card, you can put things back to how they were by downgrading the package. See below for further information.

Disabling the dialogue box on USB Storage Applet 1.1.33 or below just involves removing execute permissions from a particular file. In Easy mode, use CTRL-ALT-T to open a terminal window (in Full Desktop mode use Launch / Applications / System / Console). Enter the following to prevent the dialogue box being executable:

sudo su
cd /usr/bin
chmod a-x xandros_device_detection_dialog


For those of us who want to downgrade our USB Storage Applet back to v1.1.33, do the following....

Open Synaptic (sudo synaptic from command line or Launch / Applications / System / Synaptic if in Full Desktop mode);
Search for usbstorageapplet;
Highlight the usbstorageapplet package;
Click Package and select Force Version;
Select version 1.0.33-1;
Apply the update.

Reboot the eeePC. You can use either Synaptic or the eeePC Add/Remove Software function if you ever want to upgrade usbstorageapplet back to the latest version.



Full Screen Firefox

Press F11 to maximise your Firefox window to full screen allowing you to cram as much as possible onto the display.



Installing Twhirl for Twitter

Seems to me that Twitter micro blogging is something a portable micro gadget like the eeePC is made for so it's a shame there isn't a native Xandros client for the lil' fella. Fortunately it is possible to install Twhirl to meet your tweeting  requirements as Twhirl runs on Adobe AIR which does have a Linux installer even though Xandros isn't supported. To install AIR and Twhirl, follow these steps:

1. Switch to Full Desktop mode (it's just easier)
2. Open Firefox and go to the AIR download page here: http://get.adobe.com/air/
3. Save the 13MB installer file to your Home directory (home/user)
4. Open the console and switch to root by typing sudo su
5. Change directory to the location the AIR installer is saved to: cd /home/user
6. Make the installer executable: chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller
7. Run the installer: sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin
8. Follow the GUI installation prompts
9. In Firefox, go to the Twhirl download page: http://www.twhirl.org/download
10. Download the latest installer to the home/user directory
11. Open the AIR Application installer from Launch/Applications/Utilities and point it to the Twhirl .air file downloaded above. Follow the prompts to install.
12. Twhirl can now be run in Full Desktop mode by clicking Launch/Applications/Utilities/Twhirl or in Easy mode by opening a command window (CTRL-ALT-T) and running the executable: /opt/twhirl/bin/twhirl



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