Debian-eeepc: the ideal mobile text editing device realized

The search for the ideal mobile text editing device is over. While the price was well over my original budget, we’ve since gone ahead and splurged on two new Eee PCs: one for me, one for my wife. In the end, I think it will be worth it because these systems are capable of far more than just editing text.

Now comes the challenging part. Xandros is the default OS and we want Debian on it instead. I have started supplementing the system with packages from Etch and Etch-backports using apt pinning, but already I have noticed some cracks beginning to develop: with pure Xandros, an SD card was automounted when it was inserted. Now it fails. Also, the Network utility no longer launches. I can work around these glitches for now, but it is plain that in the long term this Xandros/Etch hybrid is going to be more grief than it is worth.

To that end, enter Debian-eeepc. Building on the work started by timbobsteve and drawing from the collective experience of the community we will make a debian-live cd + debian-installer to install Debian (as pure as possible—obviously the kernel is going to be our most contentious issue) on the device. So stay tuned for more articles on that work-in-progress.

And how does my new toy shape up for mobile text editing so far? I’m delighted! For starters, this article was drafted on the bus home from work. The keyboard, while small, is still quite usable for touch-typing, the display is crisp and bright, and the size is just perfect for the cramped quarters of a public transit bus seat.

But beyond just editing text, I have loaded up the system with all of the tools that go around it: subversion, git, ruby, gcc, meld, etc. I’ll be able to manage a fair amount of development on the bus, with the exception being really large builds that will continue to be done on remote build systems.

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14 responses to “Debian-eeepc: the ideal mobile text editing device realized”

  1. How very very cool! I am following the permanent news about that little gadget as well, and although most people here seem to misinterpret it as a laptop, I think it has such a great potential…

    One point tho: the device lacks any physical drives (and for good reason; I love that!) – so why are you developing a “Live CD” for it? A “Live USB image” (or SD) would be cool to have – the device should be able to boot from USB, right?

    Finally, someone who is getting the idea! Keep up the good work, and please continue to letting us know about it!

    wjl aka Wolfgang Lonien

  2. Ultimately ath5k would be great. The trouble is, this is a new Atheros chip that is not yet in the official madwifi release, so I doubt if it is in ath5k yet.

  3. I’m hoping the installers will include an option for installing debian on top of dm-crypt (or something similar) with one or two factor authentication (password and/or usb-flash/sd-card). The laptop is so small that it can very easily be forgotten/stolen as you wouldn’t necessarily react to your pack weighing one kg less after sitting down for some time. I imagine Debian has a good infrastructure for security, now it needs to be put to work.

  4. Hi Guys the efforts of guys like you are fantastic
    Do you have any further on a stable OS for eeepc as xandros is somewhat usable but wont install debian packages and the synaptic installer is useless on Xandros
    I wwould love to have debian on my EEEPC and not ubantu as it is too boutique
    keep the work going
    Onya Bros
    Gary New zealand

  5. Thanks. We’re having a lot of fun with this little system and making progress daily. Keep an eye on our wiki, and in particular to which we are constantly adding improvements to get the most out of Debian on your Eee. For example, you may find the new eeepc-acpi-scripts package quite helpful. As for a “stable” OS, we have found Lenny (aka “testing”) to be quite stable enough for daily desktop use. Lenny even has security updates. Keep an eye on this blog for further updates on our progress. I tag all articles related to the project ‘eeepc’, so you can just click on that term to see them all or use it as a filter term for your feed reader.

  6. Thanks for your efforts, Xandros lasted one day on this little laptop, and now is running debian-eeepc, like a charm. I updated lenny everyday, without major troubles until the kernel changed from 2.6.24 to 2.6.25; then I couldn’t get wifi running, and the madwifi driver from standart repositories wasn’t able to bring ath0 up, no matter what I tried. So, I installed again debian-eeepc with your new installer furbished with the new lenny kernel (2.6.25) and everything is running again. Now, an aptitude upgrade claims it will install 2.6.25 image, I guess from standard repositories. I’m afraid that if I agree, I will run into troubles again. Do you recommend upgrades from standard repositories? Or we must stuck only on debian-eeepc repositories? Are upgrades from standard repositories safe, or I will run into trouble because of new standard kernels and madwifi poor support for atheros chipsed on eeepc (I recall you told this on a previous post)?

    Thanks again.

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