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[tlug] First impressions of the Acer Aspire One

I posted this to nylug last week--I thought it might be of interest here
too, especially since Japanese support is really quite good.

So, this is a cross post, and overly long at that, so anyone also
subscribed to nylug, please skip.  :)

I picked up an Aspire One last weekend.  I decided that as these things
are obsolete by the time you get home, I would go with the least
expensive model, the 8GB SSID drive and 512 megs of RAM.  If I were
going to seriously pimp this machine, I would have spent the extra
$30-50 for the WinXP version, wipe it, and probably put Fedora on it.
(It comes with a 120 GB normal hard drive and a gig of RAM.)

This thing is actually not bad for an inexperienced user.  The speakers
are on the bottom, so sound is pretty bad.  

By default, it creates a user named user, who can do everything with no
password.  (Easily changed by editing /etc/sudoers).  I haven't yet
figured out how to make it boot into runlevel 3, but it was relatively
trivial to at least have it ask for user name and password before
logging in. 

It has some newcomer friendly version of xfce.  Some folks have made an
rpm available that will switch it to a more normal xfce desktop.
Regardless, there's actually a bit of adjustment that has to be made to
be able to right click and get a full xfce menu, but that's also

Someone else has made a more advanced update script, that gives you the
xfce desktop and various other more current versions of programs.  It
comes with an older version of firefox 2.  That's relatively trivial to
fix as well.  

There's an extremely active forum, which is where I've found all these
"trivial to fix" answers without much effort.  

One can easily add a user, however, there are a bunch of files that are
owned by user, so, by default, the new user has no access to sound or
wireless.  Wireless can be fixed by adding them to the wheel group.  For
sound, at this point, I just a chmod on /dev/dsp--as I said, sound is
not very good at all, so I haven't put more effort into a better way of
doing it. 

They use an older version of NetworkManager--it worksfine with personal
WPA2 but has no option for Corporate WPA2.  Someone else on their forums
has made a script, however, to upgrade the NetworkManager so that one
can use it with business or academic networks. 

Using fluxbox was mildly problematic.  Although the ath0 card (the
Atheros AR5007EG--usable with MadWifi snapshots, and supported by the
2.6.27 kernel's ath5k module--though 2.6.27 seems to have either removed
or renamed the two sysctl values that enabled use of the LED) was
mentioned in dmesg, when I booted into fluxbox, I would get interface
not found.  No one on the forums had posted the answer--digging around I
found a /usr/bin/ script that does some modprobing--which,
oddly enough, seems to have already been done, judging from the output
of lsmod, but, at any rate, running that script (with an su - ) got the
interface recognized.  

However, by default, these are apparently tied to the xfce startup
scripts, which is a nuisance.  

Another mild oddity which I haven't yet deeply investigated is that
although the user's $PATH includes /sbin and /usr/sbin, if running the
script with sudo, one gets modprobe command not found.  Anyway, after
doing that, I just ran wpa_supplicant manually.  Playing around,
although NetworkManager will seem to start if requested, nothing
appears--however, doing nm-applet, though it gives various error
messages, will give you a gui config tool.

Something of probably limited interest to most, Asian languages work
quite well--scim starts at boot (another script that I haven't yet
found, it's not in any of the obvious places) and one can easily input
Asian text in most applications.  They enable several languages by
default--removing all of them (with a pirut like interface) gave me
another .3 GB--on an 8GB drive, which starts with about half of it free,
that's nothing to sneeze at. 

I often need Japanese input.  After installing scim-anthy, and
reconfiguring scim--one mildly aggravating thing is that the scim-anthy
README refers to my own page on Japanese input as a source--yeah, THAT
was a biggggg help--I could input Japanese in anything. 

Although it has some Fedora 8 repos, doing yum update will break things.
There are workarounds, also covered on the forum, but in the end, I
think I'd be better off either leaving it alone or installing
Fedora--however, it is worth doing yum upgrade cups as their version of
cups doesn't have the web interface, and their printer configuration
tool doesn't have an option for JetDirect.   After upgrading cups, I
used the web interface, and it was fine.  

Another rather esoteric nicety is that, like most RH systems, one can
print Japanese text files without having to pipe them through paps.
CentOS, Fedora and this Linpus Lite thingie, which is based on F8, are
the only ones I've come across that can do this.  (Such text files could
also be printed with firefox, or using openoffice -p, but paps is much
easier, especially if you're in console.)

Battery life isn't great--it comes with a 3 cell, estimated life about 2
hours, but again, adequate for my needs.  

One last highly aggravating thing is the RAM--to upgrade it, one has to
completely dissemble the machine.  That is, take off the bottom, a plate
under there (and remove the rubber feet to remove the bottom) the
keyboard and just about everything else.  I'm not bothering since this
was, as I said, meant for low end stuff--possibly for my wife who
travels at times, and the like. 

So, some good, some bad, but it's one of the cheapest avaialable right
now--at J&R it was $329 and with tax it came to about $357.  I think I
might have been able to save $20 getting it from NewEgg, but I wanted it
in my hands.  

Of course, a few days later, other nicer ones have come out. 

The trouble is, the nicer ones are almost the same price as a lowend
laptop, and unless one really needs the portability, it's hardly worth

However, I admit the portability can be handy--it's almost like a large
Palm, but easier to use.  

So, hopefully, this has been of interest to some and the ones who
weren't interested didn't bother reading very far.  :)

Scott Robbins
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Spike: Do I have anyone on watch here? It's called security, 
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