LXQt – extending the life of my trusty old EEE PC (even further)

My old Asus EEE PC 900 is the oldest piece of hardware I own. With an old Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM it’s never was the fastest kid on the block (in fact I never considered the Windows XP version of the same unit usable as it was very sluggish). However after owning it for nearly 7 years I am very surprised I can still use it. Granted I only use it occasionally when I am at home, but thanks to LXDE it was still usable. I recently learned that LXDE is merging with the Razor-Qt project (great idea!) to create the combined LXQT – an ultra-low resource window manager.

Warning: LXQt is still considered a work in progress. So probably not a good idea on your prime work machine.

I started with a clean re-install of LUBUNTU LTS 14.04 – to add LXQt you need to add the lubuntu-daily PPA.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lubuntu-dev/lubuntu-daily
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gilir/q-project
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install lxqt-metapackage

Log out and log in back to LXQt desktop environment. Voilà !

LXQT Screenshot
LXQT Screenshot

After using it a little while it really is a joy to use and extremely responsive even on such a resource constrained old unit.

Great work !

Ideal OS for EEE PC – REVISITED

As a follow-up on a very old post I thought it’s worth providing an update. Despite it’s age (& only costing $350 at the time) my little Asus EEE PC 900 it is still a useful device. It has turned out as one of the better IT investments in my lifetime. However it’s not (and was never) the fastest kid on the block and recent OS upgrades have become increasingly resource hungry.

With the recent Ubuntu 12.04 LTS upgrade I was in the process of upgrading a few other notebooks and noticed that the release schedule for some of the Ubuntu variants (Kubuntu, Xubuntu & Lubuntu) has been brought in line with the main OS branch. So while waiting for the installs on the other machines to finish I thought about updating the EEEPC as well. I tried Xubuntu at first, but did not like the interface (and the default apps pre-installed) and there were hardly any performance gains.

But installing Lubuntu was a different story. I am very impressed by the LXDE desktop environment and the UI performance. The responsiveness of the UI is remarkably better than other desktop managers on a small netbook. And you still get the underlying strengths of the Ubuntu (Debian) based package management in it’s latest revision. That means most applications come packaged and there’s PPA’s for the rest.

Looks Lubuntu’s the new favourite. Hat tip to the Lubuntu maintainers and LXDE developers – excellent work in producing a no-frills but very functional, decent looking & usable desktop environment for devices that are getting a bit older … !

 

VoIP client for Ubuntu II

After upgrading to Ubuntu 11 (Natty) I did some further research on VoIP clients (SIP) for Ubuntu Linux as XLite seems horribly out of date now.

I came across QuteCom (formerly WengoPhone) and from first testing it seems to work quite well. The install is easy as it’s part of the Ubuntu Community Software (Universe) and that means it can be installed via apt-get, Software Center or Synaptic.

Qutecom configuration

So far the early testing has been very positive and the interface seems quite workable as well as having a number of other instant messaging options available.

QuteCom Account Configuration

Huawei K3765 on Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid)

Since I have switched my 3G data network from Hutchinson Three to Vodafone AU recently I also upgraded the USB modem from a Huwaei E220 (which used to work fine on recent Ubuntu NBR releases on my trusty old ASUS EEE 900)

Unfortunately the new Huawei K3765 would not be recognised as a valid modem by the network manager. After a fair bit of searching it turns out that you only need to install one additional package (usb-modeswitch) to make this modem work (be recognised) on the current stable 10.04 release:

sudo apt-get install usb-modeswitch

For the command-line challenged here is a quick screenshot on how to do it using Synaptic Package Manager:

Synaptic usb-modswitch - screenshot

Hope this might save some time for people trying to make this modem work on Lucid.

Happy roaming !

Finding the ideal OS for (my) EEE PC

I have been a user of an EEE PC 900 for over 10 months now and in general very happy with the form-factor and it’s portability. I has been very useful in public transport, waiting rooms, coffee shops,…

However – in terms of Operating Systems I am now on my 3rd OS (despite initially telling myself that I will stick with the default and avoid tinkering) and it looks like I still have not found what I am looking for.

With the XP version of the EEEPC not even on the list of choices because of the sluggish performance on models I tried I survived on the default Xandros install for about 1 month until it’s ‘Easy Interface’ just got too painful in the number of clicks it took to get anywhere.

So I changed the Xandros install to ‘Advanced Mode’ which made some things easier, however the lack of any locking mechanism and the fact that installing nearly anything that was not officially supported (via other Debian packages) broke something else, forced me to look for a more standard Linux distro.

Eventually I chose Ubuntu for EEE (now called Easy Peasy – ???) As I have started to use Ubuntu on my VMWare desktops for some cloud-app development. The thought of having the same OS on the desktop and netbook had a lot of appeal. Next to CentOS (our Server platform of choice) I don’t want to deal with more distros than absolutely necessary. However in hindsight this turned out to be missing the key differences between both platforms. They are after all very different animals. While it was nice to have the same interface on both Desktop and Netbook, running Ubuntu on the EEE ended up being painfully slow and the WIFI support was pretty ordinary (which is not something I could say about Xandros). Another issue for me was that the support Huawei USB Wireless Modem E220 was sometimes unreliable and took ages to get working. I often had to reboot the machine to get the Wireless modem working again. And time is a very valuable commodity for me these days.

Eventually (after some research) I ended up with PuppyLinux and at first glance I have to say it was the fastest user interface I have ever seen on the EEE. There are a few oddities, such as running everything as a privileged user (same as Xandros) and as having Seamonkey as it’s browser instead of Firefox (which is a bit annoying for me as I have a few very useful Firefox add-ons I like on the netbook as well). But at first I thought I have found what I had been looking for.

Puppy Linux 4.12
Puppy Linux 4.12

If it wouldn’t be for the problems with network drivers (and how much use is the fastest UI, best functionality without Internet access on a Netbook) I would have dumped all others and stayed with PuppyLinux. Its startup time, speed, no-frills UI is exactly what I need while ‘on the run’. But after a number of hours of tinkering with drivers and various patches reported to work on other EEE versions I gave up. Getting WPA encryption on the WLAN side and the Huawei E220 to work was just too time consuming. Note: I tried to get Puppy 4.12 working. There are some ‘Puplets‘ specificly for EEE’s but mainly for 700 series using and much older codebase .

Currently I am (reluctantly) back with Xandros (although the XEPC version of it) and using PuppyLinux as a ‘secondary choice’ from the internal storage drive in the hope the wireless driver problems will be resolved at some stage. I would love to hear from somebody that has it working on the EEE 900 as I really like this puppy. And I’d be even quite happy to donate some dollars for this purpose.

Conclusions

  • There is not yet an ideal distro for me :(
  • PuppyLinux without the networking issues would be the distro of choice
  • If you don’t have much time – stick with the default – the amount of time you burn finding something that works will by FAR outweigh the time savings in a fast UI (if you can actually find it)
  • And (just in case if Asus is listening and wants some advice) – look at what these guys are doing with Puppy – this is what an alternative Netbook OS should be like – FAST boot, FAST UI, No-frills ….
  • If you want to be as close to your desktop with ‘Windows-like ‘ UI – stick with the Original – at least then you can take the slow UI as a fact of life ;-)

Update: just found this link to an excellent article in the recent Linux Magazine on alternative OS´s for netbooks