Eee Pc 710


Eee Pc 710

I made UK Eee Pc use Finnish power sockets and Finnish keyboard layout. I backed up and restored the pre-installed Linux.

Asus Eee Pc 710 is a small laptop. It weights less than 1 kg and is one third smaller than an a4 paper. Eee Pc has Xandros Linux pre-installed. My inital feeling about the machine is: impressed.

Normal Eee Pcs work out of the box. If you just want to use your Eee Pc (bought after the big release in your country), you don’t have to do the things described here. Some of the actions in this article are technical and require knowlegde of command line, partitioning, imaging with dd and using sudo.

These notes are written from memory, and there might be some details missing or minor mistakes.



Initial Impressions

Everything I tried, works: display, touchpad, suspend to ram, wireless networking, microphone, web camera.

Wireless networks manager program does not let me easily type SSID (name) of a hidden access point. There is an antivirus program, which seems like a pointless marketing gag. It was not obvious (in 10s) how to change background image from the user interface. Sudo configuration is dangerous and I immidiately changed it with visudo (removed “NOPASSWORD”). Note 2008-01-26: It is unclear if sudo can be fixed that way, because Xandros does not have gsudo. Enabling sudo password might prevent wireless manager and other priviledge requiring commands from running. Still looking into it.

Window manager is one of my old favourites, IceWm. User interface has gotten some thought. OpenOffice runs fast enough, even when multiple programs are running. There is a uxterm command line available with alt-ctrl-T (same as my own shortcut on other machines).

The device is amazingly light.



Power Adapter

The Eee Pc 710 (UK/pre-release?) came without Finnish power adapter. It only had Brittish power adapter, which does not fit into Finnish socket. The shop offered to give money back, but no way I would let go of my Eee Pc. I’m happy that they could get me some version of the device now instead of vapourware in n’th quarter of someyear.

Input specs printed on the adapter showed that it works with Finnish power (230 V, 50 Hz). I only needed an adapter.



Adapter for Finland

fi-uk-adapter-for-power-adapter-eee-pc-701-s.jpgI found a tiny adapter from “Sähkö Pagalux” in Hämeentie. The adapter had Finnish male 230 V plug and “Brittish two flat metal sticks (with holes)” female socket. I removed weird large “two round metals and plastic square sticks (Brittish too?)” part from the adapter. It was user serviceable and could be detatched without any tools. I turned out the inner “two flat metals with holes” plug and connected it to adapter.

I plugged it to wall socket and to the Eee Pc. Battery loading led was lit. After a couple of hours, the orange battery loading light was turned off. Oddly, there was no indication now that the Eee Pc was powered.

I turned on the Eee Pc from the power switch. It booted normally, so the power adapter issue was solved.



Backup of Pre-Installed Linux

These instructions overwrite whole hard drives. To try this out, you should be carefull and already confident with dd.

I created a Debian Live boot USB disk from official image.

dd if=debian-live-40r0-rc1-i386-standard-USB.img of=/dev/usbdisk

Getting the machine to boot from external USB required several rounds of BIOS tweaking. Finally, I got syslinux bootloader screen from Debian Live.

Debian Live seemed to have a bug, it did not find “/vmlinuz”. I modified “LABEL live” in syslinux.cfg. I changed kernel and inital ramdisk image to relative paths: “/vmlinuz” → “vmlinuz”, “/initrd” → “initrd”. After reboot, I got Debian command prompt.

I created a mountpoint for my external USB disk {sdd1} and mounted it. I did not mount internal disks, because there might be problems when trying to image mounted filesystems.

I created a complete dd image (4 GB)

dd if=/dev/sda of=sdd1/sda-orig-eee-pc.dd

The complete image conteined master boot record (MBR), hidden sector and the partition table.

To make loop mounting and file recovery easier, I also created images of each of the partitions. For example

dd if=/dev/sda1 of=sdd1/sdas1-orig-eee-pc.dd

I copied the images to another machine and tested that I could mount them. For example

mkdir eeesda1
sudo mount -o loop sdas1-orig-eee-pc.dd eeesda1/

Files were accessible, so the backup was successfull.

I shut down Debian Live and rebooted the Eee Pc from internal solid state memory.



Restoring the Backup

After just two days of very normal use (web browsing, writing), Eee Pc refused to start. It did boot, but X Window System failed to start. There was just a black screen with X-cursor on it. Cursor could be moved, but it was slow and jumpy – just as if there was too little CPU time available. There are no text mode virtual consoles (alt-ctrl-f1) available. Even after booting USB Live Debian, I could not immidiatly find the problem. (Note: Later, I thought this problem might have been caused by my partial sudo security improvement).

Of course it would have been the best to hunt down the real problem to create a real fix. But this computer was already in production use, so I could not toy with it for a week.

Thus, I decided to restore a backup.

When output file (of) is dev-something, you must be extra carefull to get it correct. Also, the target drive should not be mounted. I run

dd if=sdd1/sda-orig-eee-pc.dd of=/dev/sda

Restoring the backup took several minutes, and dd did not print anything to screen while restoring. After that, I shut down the computer and removed movable drives.

I booted the computer. First time wizard started, asking to accept the license agreement, creating user and choosing the password. Then, a login screen appeared. Once I had logged in, normal desktop was visible.

I had successfully restored full image backup. I congratulated myself for having created the backup.



Finnish Keyboard Layout

The pre-installed Linux in the UK model comes with US and UK keymaps only. However, the physical keyboard layout is similar to or same as Finnish.

I copied xmodmap.fi from Ubuntu. Then, in terminal (alt-ctrl-T)

 xmodmap xmodmap-ubuntu.fi

I typed “päivää” in OpenOffice. Keyboard worked with Finnish keymap.

This change is not permanent, it’s lost on logout. One way to make it permanent would be to modify icewm startup commands.

Most markings on keys are the same [0-9a-z,.]. Ä (a with umlaut) and Ö (o with umlaut) are on the same place as in Finnish keyboard, but they are marked ; and ‘.



Lyhyesti suomeksi (Briefly in Finnish)

Eee Pc 710 on alle kilon painoinen minikannettava, jossa on esiasennettuna Xandros Linux.

Saamassani laturissa oli brittiläinen liitin, mutta sain sen yhdistettyä suomalaiseen verkkovirtaan pienellä adapterilla. Adapteri löytyi Sähkö Pagaluxilta Hämeentieltä, Sörnäisten metroaseman vierestä.

Varmuuskopioin esiasennetun Linuxin ottamalla siitä kuvan dd:llä.

Asensin myös suomalaisen näppäinkartan.


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