One day my sibling asked me to help him buy a laptop. So, my brain immediately worked to find one that was compatible with free software. I remembered that Ali Gunduz has ever posted in gNewSense-user mailing list that Asus EEE PC 701 and 900 are compatible with free software except for its BIOS (http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/gnewsense-users/2008-12/msg00122.html). But, my sibling insisted to get a higher one: Asus EEE PC 1000HE. Ali Gunduz mentioned in the post that higher EEE PC model might not be equipped with a wireless device that was compatible with free software. So, I went to take a look and it turned out that ASUS EEE PC 1000HE is equipped with Atheros wireless card, which is free software compatible. Now let me give a review on this laptop.
Compared to 701 and 900 models, 1000HE has a much better keyboard layout for my fingers. I cannot type conveniently on 701 and 900 models. Beside that, the placement of two Fn buttons is really ergonomic. Specifically, the right Fn button really helps when I frequently use PgUp and PgDn to scroll up the console screen. The picture of the keyboard layout can be seen at the end of this article.
For the battery, it can last for 6 hours although the maximum one is 9.5 hours as advertised. For 6 hours, I had my external DVD-RW busy reading CD and had the wireless and bluetooth turned on the whole time but without any connection to any external device whatsoever. The brightness was also set at the brightest one. And, the laptop itself was busy doing repetitive installations as I was experimenting with the two hidden partitions in it. A fellow buyer informed me that his experience said 7 hours when he actively browsed the Internet at an Internet cafe with a reduced brightness without any external optical drive. So, well, let's say that 6 hours is the worst and 7 to 8 hours is the average one. It's not bad in my opinion.
The laptop itself comes with two hidden partitions at the end of the harddisk space. One is marked `Hidden FAT32 (LBA)' and the other one is marked `EFI'. My experiment shows that those two partitions are not related at all. The simpler one to describe is the EFI partition. It is used to perform Boot Booster as offered in the BIOS menu. If the EFI partition is deleted, the option will be removed from the BIOS menu, and therefore, there is no boosting anymore. It is okay to move the partition around in case its present location does not satisfy you. It is also okay to delete the partition since you can always restore it with the installation DVD that comes with the laptop.
The other partition contains the system recovery that will restore the Windows XP installation along with all of the drivers and pre-installed programs. It can be accessed by pressing F9 during the boot process as described in the manual. The recovery process itself will be done with Norton Ghost. In case you modify your harddisk layout, the recovery system will always restore everything in the partition that is at the very beginning of the harddisk space without caring of its presence in the partition table (e.g., sda1 or sda3 doesn't matter). It also doesn't care about the present partition type. The partition size, however, is respected. So, if the partition is too small, the recovery system will refuse to perform its operation. So, be careful not to let it wipe out your GNU/Linux installation in case you modify the harddisk layout. If the recovery system cannot find any partition between the start of the harddisk and the partition where the recovery system resides, it will refuse to perform its operation. It is okay to resize the recovery partition, and I suggest that you do so since it has plenty of unused free space. Moving the partition around will also be okay since it seems that pressing F9 will try to find the partition based on the bootable flag and the partition type.
One peculiar thing about the recovery system partition is that it switches its partition type and bootable flag from a bootable FAT32 (LBA) to a non-bootable hidden FAT32 (LBA) after it finishes a system recovery process. It switches the other way around when the existing partition hosting the running Windows is destroyed so that pressing F9 can boot the recovery system directly. So, in case this switching does not take place so that pressing F9 will not start the system recovery process, all you need to do is to set the system recovery partition to a bootable one whose type is FAT32 (LBA). BTW, the label for the system recovery partition is PE that stands for Preinstallation Execution.
In all cases, the DVD that comes with the laptop can perform a total recovery to the harddisk wiping out all existing data in the harddisk. So, if you want to see your laptop back in its condition just like when you buy it, just use the DVD and everything will be restored. Oh, when you start the laptop for the very first time, you will directly go to the initial setup menu of Windows XP to set your laptop name, user name, and so forth, but without doing any installation. So, people who are not careful can quickly conclude that their 1000HE laptops are not new by only seeing whether the initial setup menu will appear or not when they start it for the very first time.
Not a week after I bought the laptop, gNewSense 2.2 is out. So, I immediately downloaded it via torrent and installed it in the laptop. After installing Ali Gunduz's custom Linux Libre kernel for EEE PC (http://aligunduz.org/gNewSense/), everything works out of the box: the webcam, the card reader, the wireless device, the sound, and the front mic. However, using linux-image-2.6.28-libre (http://aligunduz.org/gNewSense/freedomshoppe/linux-image-2.6.28-libre-fs...), I noticed that the wireless cannot be turned off via the keyboard button. But, this should be easily fixable. Also, although in Windows some networks having weak wireless signals can be detected, they don't appear under gNewSense. But, I think that's not a problem since you cannot reliably connect to those networks having weak wireless signals anyway. Moreover, the wireless works reliably in the normal situation where you are at the right place to tap the wireless network (i.e., the signal is not too weak). Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to fiddle with the laptop further since it has been sent to my sibling. So, that's all, folks!
To conclude, ASUS EEE PC 1000HE is also free software compatible that can run the most free GNU/Linux distribution out there: gNewSense 2.2 provided that Ali Gunduz's custom Linux Libre kernel for EEE PC is used.
Keywords: free software GNU/Linux gNewSense compatible x86 laptop netbook
PS: The external multi DVD-RW with Lightscribe feature is LG External Super Multi DVD Rewriter GP08LU10. The other model that is not GP08LU10 does not have the Lightscribe feature.
|ASUS EEE PC 1000HE Running gNewSense 2.2.JPG||104.42 KB|
|ASUS EEE PC 1000HE Keyboard Layout.JPG||99.37 KB|
|My Left Hand on the Keyboard.JPG||95.87 KB|