So the great moment has arrived. But how do I make the switch? I have horrible memories of struggling with new partitions, running into special bits of Microsoft code designed precisely to make it tough to switch to another operating system … Maybe there is a better way? Of course, you are supposed to be able to get EeePCs preloaded with Linux, indeed they are supposed to be cheaper that way, but the review machine is firmly preloaded with Windows XP.
Googling “eeepc linux install” quickly leads me to forum.eeeuser.com and thence to installing Ubuntu, which I seem to remember is claimed to be the most idiot-proof flavour of Linux. The advice is simple and to the point:
You could try downloading ubuntu and using WUBI to install it from windows.
I have never heard of WUBI but it sounds like an abbreviation for WindowsUbuntuInstaller. Sure enough I find:
Wubi is an Ubuntu installer for Windows that lets you install and uninstall Ubuntu from a Windows desktop. Wubi adds an entry to the Windows boot menu which allows you to run Linux. Ubuntu is installed within a file in the Windows file system (a loopmounted partition), this file is seen by Ubuntu as a real hard disk. That way the hard drive does not have to be repartitioned before the Ubuntu installation. The resulting Ubuntu installation is a “real” Linux system, not just a virtual machine. Wubi makes it easy for Linux newbies to play around with Ubuntu.
So I click on download. The installer downloads almost instantly. I run it and have to decide where to put it in the file structure. My machine is configured with the hard disk split between C:\ and D:\ with D:\ empty, so it seems natural to put it in D:\ which has over 65GB available. The download is apparently about 17GB. I am also asked to choose a username and password. I click go, and it fairly soon settles down to predicting about an hour’s download time.
While that is going on, I browse the web to see what Asus currently says about Linux. Looking first on AmazonUK, it is only available with Windows XP – at ¬£305. The Asus page on the 1000HE makes no mention of Linux, and indeed has a tagline at the top of the page:
ASUS recommends Windows for everyday computing
Linux Magazine in February 2009, as the 1000HE was being released, could only find an XP version. The forums at eeepc.net were also gloomy in early March. Several more sites the same. It looks as though this version of the EeePC is only shipped with Windows XP.
By this time Ubuntu has downloaded. I click to restart and get back into Windows. I try Start, but nothing obvious there. So I restart. This time I get a choice of XP or Ubuntu, so select Ubuntu. It now spends another fifteen minutes completing the installation and then goes back into Windows. A final reboot takes me into Ubuntu, or more specifically the Gnome desktop (shown in the picture).
The equivalent of the tray is at the top right. Initially the leftmost icon in the group is showing that WiFi is not connected, but that is easy. Click the icon, choose the relevant WiFi and enter the password. It connects as before. The battery indicator is either clever or needs adjusting: it indicates a percentage but says the time remaining is unknown. The date and time are correct. The rightmost icon is to turn off, restart etc. Choosing hibernate fails to work, so it needs some attention. The middle of the screen is blank, but the Applications menu at top left is similar to the Windows Start menu and offers a range of apps, including Firefox and OpenOffice. I select Disk Usage Analyser. It whirrs for a while and displays the result in the picture.
So subject to some minor fine tuning, it all works fine. Screen, touchpad, keyboard, WiFi, loudspeakers all work without any trouble at all. Magical. Maybe Linux is finally ready for prime time.