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Ubuntu 12.04 - EEE 701 with Gnome Shell 3.4

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dropcap-eee701-ubuntu

EEE 701 was the first netbook widely available. It came to the market about 5 years back, which is pre-historical time in the computer world !

This little netbook main characteristics are :

  • 900 MHz Atom processor
  • 512 Mb RAM
  • 4 Gb SSD
  • 800×480 screen

It was shipped with a specific Linux distribution called Xandros, which is not maintained anymore.

Even if this netbook is little bit outdated, it deserves a second life !

This article will explain how to install the latest Ubuntu Precise 12.04 with latest Gnome Shell 3.4 on EEE 701, relying only on the main 4 Gb SSD. No extra memory card will be needed.

At the end of the installation process, you will be left with approximately 1 Gb of free space on the SSD.

The only extension advisable is to install 1 Gb RAM (or even better 2 Gb). On such a low powered processor, this will give a real boost to Ubuntu and Gnome Shell.

As a result, you will have a brand new EEE 701, perfect for any Web activity, Youtube, Skype, SD movies playback, …

ubuntu-precise-eee701-gnomeshell

1. Install Ubuntu Precise 12.04

This guide won't explain how to create a bootable USB key with Ubuntu 12.04. You have plenty of stuff on Internet and GIYF ...

After creating a bootable USB key with Ubuntu Precise 12.04 x86, plug it in with the laptop switched off.

At boot, press F2, enter BIOS, go in the Hard Disk Selection menu and select your USB key as first hard drive.

Boot from the key and select Run Ubuntu from this USB to boot into a live session of the OS.

From the live desktop, if you select to Install Ubuntu. On the Preparing to install Ubuntu window, you'll see an error :

ubuntu-precise-eee701-nospace

Even if it doesn't need 4 Gb to install, Ubuntu Precise will refuse to go further without 4.4 Gb free.

So we will need to explain to it that it doesn't need that much space !

We will simply edit the installation script and modify the minimum disk space calculation.

Click the Quit button to return back to the Ubuntu desktop.

Hit Alt+F2 and type :

# sudo gedit /usr/lib/ubiquity/ubiquity/misc.py

Go to line 796, and replace it with :

/usr/lib/ubiquity/ubiquity/misc.py

...
min_disk_size = size * 1 # fudge factor
...

You can now restart the installation procedure.

If some windows are too big, you can move them with ALT + F7.

Do not select to download updates during installation.

When the partition screen comes, you need to apply some specific partitioning :

  • select "Advanced"
  • remove any existing partition
  • create only one partition Ext4 with / as mount point

You will get a warning because of lacks of swap, it's ok.

At the end of the installation, while rebooting, go back to the BIOS select the SSD drive as the first hard drive.

2. Remove unneeded packages

To save space on the SSD, we first need to remove some packages.

The space saved is needed to follow next installation steps.

Here are the packages I removed. You can obviously adapt this list to your needs.

  • some unused packages, like Transmission or Xterm
  • Ubuntu One
  • Software-center (replaced later by synaptic).
  • Thunderbird, as nowadays emails are using more and more space and you can fill very fast the space left on the SSD with your mails. It's better to use a web client when working on the EEE701.
  • LibreOffice Draw and Math, as I never use them. But I left Writer, Calc and Impress to be able to visualise or modify office documents.
  • all XServer not used by the eee hardware

# sudo apt-get purge thunderbird software-center xterm onboard empathy gwibber transmission
# sudo apt-get purge ubuntuone-client* python-ubuntuone-storage*
# sudo apt-get purge gnome-user-guide ubuntu-docs
# sudo apt-get purge libreoffice-draw libreoffice-math libreoffice-help-*
# sudo apt-get purge myspell-en-* hyphen-en-* mythes-en-*

# sudo apt-get purge xserver-xorg-video-vmware xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-radeon xserver-xorg-video-savage
# sudo apt-get purge xserver-xorg-video-trident xserver-xorg-video-cirrus xserver-xorg-video-neomagic xserver-xorg-video-sis
# sudo apt-get purge xserver-xorg-video-openchrome xserver-xorg-video-nouveau xserver-xorg-video-mach64 xserver-xorg-video-r128
# sudo apt-get purge xserver-xorg-video-geode xserver-xorg-video-qxl

3. Cleanup the system

As space is under scarcity, we will need to take some drastic steps to save Mb on the SSD.

The following script will be the space saver of your system.

It will :

  • remove any kernel other than current one
  • remove any orphan package
  • remove any unneeded localisation package
  • cleanup apt cache

# sudo gedit /usr/local/sbin/update-and-clean
# sudo chmod +x /usr/local/sbin/update-and-clean

/usr/local/sbin/update-and-clean

#!/bin/sh
# Script to cleanup all kernels & packages
# Depends on package deborphan & localepurge
# Parameter : noupgrade (optionnal)
#
# Version history :
#   10/08/2012 - Creation by N. Bernaerts
#   12/08/2012 - Added parameter 'noupgrade'

# if parameter 'nopupgrade' is passed
if [ "$1" = "noupgrade" ]; then
  echo "No upgrade should take place"

# else, upgrade all packages
else
  # Update packages database
  sudo apt-get update

  # Upgrade packages
  sudo apt-get -y upgrade
fi

# Cleanup all but current kernel
dpkg -l 'linux-*' | sed '/^ii/!d;/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d' | xargs sudo apt-get -y purge

# Remove all orphan packages
sudo apt-get purge `deborphan`

# Remove all unused localisation files
sudo localepurge

# Auto remove unused packages
sudo apt-get autoremove

# Clean packages cache
sudo apt-get clean
sudo apt-get autoclean

Before running this script, we need to install all needed packages :

  • localepurge that will help to remove all localisation packages that are not used (even the english one if you are running your eee in a non english langage)
  • deborphan that will track all the orphan packages and purge them
  • synaptic that can replace Software Center in a very efficient way

Once installed, we can run the cleaning script, but with no package upgrade at this stage.

# sudo apt-get install deborphan localepurge synaptic
# sudo /usr/local/sbin/update-and-clean noupgrade

4. Install Gnome Shell

Time has come to leave Unity and install Gnome Shell.

As we want latest Gnome Shell 3.4, we will get it from the Gnome Team PPA.

At the same time we will install so very helpful Gnome configuration tools :

  • Gnome Tweak tool
  • GConf editor

# sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3 && sudo apt-get update
# sudo apt-get install gdm gnome-shell gconf-editor gnome-tweak-tool

When asked, select gdm as login manager.

After a reboot, you will be in front of a GDM login screen.

You should :

  1. select other
  2. select Gnome
  3. type your login / password.

You will be logged under Gnome Shell.

5. Desinstall Unity

 As Gnome Shell is now installed and running, we can fully purge Unity to save some SSD space.

# sudo apt-get purge unity unity-2d unity-2d-places unity-2d-panel unity-2d-spread unity-services
# sudo apt-get purge unity-asset-pool unity-lens-* unity-scope-* liboverlay-scrollbar*
# sudo apt-get purge appmenu-gtk appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-qt firefox-globalmenu thunderbird-globalmenu
# sudo apt-get purge unity-2d-common unity-common lightdm
# sudo apt-get purge libunity-misc4 libunity-core-5* activity-log-manager-*

Deborphan will finish the job :

# sudo apt-get purge `deborphan`

You should get between 30 and 35% of free space on the SSD.

# df
Sys. fich. 1K-blocks Util. Disponible Uti% Monté sur
/dev/sda1 3894856 2389384 1310196 65% /

6. Install Audio/video

To get an up-to-date multimedia pc, we will declare Medibuntu repository and install all needed multimedia codecs.

# sudo wget --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list
# sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get --yes --quiet --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring
# sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get --yes install app-install-data-medibuntu
# sudo apt-get install libavformat-extra-53 ubuntu-restricted-extras x264

7. Update the System & Cleanup Packages

It's now time to cleanup unused packages and reboot.

We will use the update-and-cleanup script.

# sudo /usr/local/sbin/update-and-clean
# sudo reboot

After the reboot, you should get more than 25% of free space on the SSD disk (about 1 Gb). It is enough for a basic usage.

8. Setup Gnome Shell

As EEE 701 is having a very small screen, it is advisable to minimise the default font size.

You can do it easily under Advanced Settings / Fonts / Text Scaling Factor.

If you set it to 0.7 or 0.8, you should be able to display much more information on the screen.

9. Install Gnome Shell Extensions

We will now install some very interesting Gnome Shell extensions, that will increase drastically your EEE 701 Gnome Shell experience.

Some extensions come from the WebUpd8Team PPA and some from https://extensions.gnome.org/.

9.1. WebUpd8TEAM PPA

Let's start with gnome-shell-extension-window-buttons that will enable all minimize, maximize and close buttons directly from the top bar.

# sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/gnome3 && sudo apt-get update
# sudo apt-get install gnome-shell-extension-window-buttons

9.2. Gnome Shell Extensions

You can now directly install the other extensions from the site  https://extensions.gnome.org/ :

You now need to launch Gnome Tweak Tool to enable whatever shell extension that has not been enabled automatically.

9.3. Axe Menu Configuration

For Axe Menu, a right click on it will let you configure it.

You will need to tweak the settings to get a usable display of the menu.

The main thing is to reduce the size of icons and to remove some unneeded sections that take too much of space.

Here is an example :

ubuntu-precise-eee701-axe-main 

ubuntu-precise-eee701-axe-left  ubuntu-precise-eee701-axe-right

9.4. Screeshot

Once all the extensions are installed, a maximised Firefox session should look like this.

As you can see, space has been maximized.

ubuntu-precise-eee701-firefox

10. Tweak Filesystem for SSD

As EEE701 is having a SSD, we need to tweak the system to minimize disk access on the SSD.

This can be done by :

  • setting noatime option to SSD disk
  • mounting temporary directories as tmpfs

You can do it by editing /etc/fstab.

# sudo gedit /etc/fstab

/etc/fstab

...
# / was on /dev/sda1 during installation
UUID=9c283cff-c886-4912-9a32-737603a39c02    /     ext4     errors=remount-ro,noatime     0     1
tmpfs     /tmp           tmpfs    noatime     0     0
tmpfs     /var/tmp    tmpfs    noatime     0     0

You need to reboot for changes to take effect.

11. Tweak Processor for 900 MHz

By default, under Ubuntu, the EEE 701 Atom processor is running at 633 MHz

# cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep MHz
model name : Intel(R) Celeron(R) M processor 900MHz
cpu MHz : 630.039

But you can easily change that setting to make it run at full speed, ie 900 MHz.

# sudo apt-get install cpufreqd cpufrequtils
# sudo modprobe p4_clockmod

Your processor is now runnng at 900 MHz.

# cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep MHz
model name : Intel(R) Celeron(R) M processor 900MHz
cpu MHz : 900.000

To make it permanent after every boot you need to add p4_clockmod at the end of /etc/modules :

# sudo sed -i '$ a\p4_clockmod' /etc/modules

12. Slow Wifi Connexion

EEE 701 is shipped with an Atheros AR2425 Wifi chipset and under Ubuntu Precise, Wifi connexion with this chiset is very, very slow. This is especially true if you use a WEP encrypted network.

This can be solved by adding the nohwcrypt option to the ath5k driver in charge of the AR2425 chipset.

# sudo su
# echo "options ath5k nohwcrypt" > /etc/modprobe.d/ath5k.conf

After next reboot, your Wifi connexion should be much faster.

 

You EEE 701 is now back to life and ready for a new Long Term Service   :-)

 

Hope it helps.

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This article is published "as is", without any warranty that it will work for your specific need.
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