September 07, 2010

Ubuntu and Asus EEEpc: Optimizing your netbook experience

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Asus EEE"]Asus EEE PC[/caption]

I recently became the owner of an Asus 1005HA netbook. It's a nice lightweight little machine, that runs spiffy, and looks good.

It came installed with Windows XP by default, and I replaced that with Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Well (EasyPeasy, actually.. but it's just UNR + some additional apps). Below are various mods I made to make the netbook interface much better, and more useful.

  • The gnome-panel in the Netbook interface is locked.. so you cannot add additional items, nor remove unnecessary ones. To fix this follow the instructions on this page.
  • The applet I wanted to add was sshmenu. As a lot of my work is on multiple remote machines, this applet is a must have. apt-get install sshmenu-gnome should install this applet.
  • A Thinkpad T61 being my other machine, I missed the dedicated middle-click a lot on the Eee. Follow the instructions here to map the useless menu button to middle click (Need to add a script to startup applications).
  • Multitouch. Though the Eee has a multitouch capable touchpad, it is not enabled by default. Just append the following to the startup script you wrote in the previous step:

# Now setup multitouch
sleep 2
xinput set-int-prop "SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad" "Two-Finger Scrolling" 8 1
xinput set-int-prop "SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad" "Synaptics Two-Finger Scrolling" 8 1 1
xinput set-int-prop "SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad" "Synaptics Two-Finger Pressure" 32 10
xinput set-int-prop "SynPS/2 Synaptics TouchPad" "Synaptics Two-Finger Width" 32 8

  • Install sshfs, and pysshfs for remote access to filesystems.
  • Uninstall Tomboy notes. Install Gnotes.. much faster.
  • Mic wont work with Skype. There's 2 mics on the Eee.. and apparently the fix is to zero volume on one. This and this post helped me get it working.
  • Grab the Lucida/Mac fonts from the net and set your Appearance settings to use these at Size 9. Looks good.
  • Install games for when you have a few minutes to kill. I setup some online multiplayer games like Frozen-bubble, Teeworlds, Gtetrinet. There's a whole bunch of games out there.
  • Install Pidgin, tsclient, vnc if you are an IRC user, and work remotely.
  • Firefox default eats up some screen estate. Install the addons AutoHideStatusbar, AdBlock Plus, Hide Menubar, Download StatusBar. These will free up space. Also get rid of the bookmarks bar (View > Toolbars > Uncheck Bookmarks)
  • Install gnome-do. All your actions are now Win + Spacebar away. (apt-get install gnome-do)
  • Install Audacious as the music player : apt-get install audacious.
  • Install VLC and mplayer from Medibuntu.
  • Disable unnecessary items from Preferences > Startup applications. In my case these were Bluetooth, Check for New Hardware, Ubuntu One, Update Notifier, Visual Assistance.

With these changes, your netbook is a meaner, more efficient version of itself. If there's some other things you've done to customize your Eee, leave a comment.