A couple of years ago I bought an Acer Aspire One netbook. It’s a compact little device, not nearly as slick or stylish as an iPad, but very functional and more than capable of handling any of the tasks you’d do on a normal laptop. The Linux version I chose was a couple of hundred euro cheaper than the Windows version and, in any case, I was keen to become more familiar with the world of open source operating systems.
Installing software wasn’t always easy, and certainly not as user-friendly as in the Windows environment. It came pre-installed with Linpus Linux Lite, which is based on the Fedora flavour of Linux. While Firefox, Skype and one or two other packages were already present, installing anything else involved typing a lot of strings of code into the terminal window and, in my case, not really knowing whether it was going well until the software finally started working. (For example, I never managed to get Adobe Flash installed.) Definitely not for anyone whose eyes glaze over at the mention of a command prompt.
We used the netbook on and off for a year, mostly when travelling or as a more portable device to run Skype. For one reason or another – including the fact that my wife got a smartphone and so there wasn’t as much competition for our main laptop – we almost gave up using the netbook entirely. On the few occasions I did use it I found that the battery would no longer charge and the orange charging light flashed constantly when the netbook was powered off. So I finally decided this weekend to try to fix that problem and also see if I could get to grips with bringing all the software up to date. I’m pleased to say that I managed to fix the battery issue and discovered a fantastic, user-friendly version of Linux that I was able to install without too much difficulty. It’s like a new device now and I suspect it may get much more use in the coming months.
So what did I do to give it this new lease of life:
1. The Battery Issue
I found the answer I needed to solve this on Acer’s own website. It seems it was a problem with the BIOS that was installed on the device originally, meaning that when the battery dropped below a certain charge level it could no longer be recharged. The Acer support section gave advice on updating the BIOS to the latest version (3310), but I found even better instructions here on the netbooktech.com site. And sure enough, when the BIOS had been updated, the battery was recognised and started charging up straight away.
2. EasyPeasy Linux
In researching the battery issue I stumbled upon something called EasyPeasy Linux, based on an Ubuntu distribution of Linux (as opposed to the Fedora version that came on the Acer Aspire One originally). It’s a version of Linux that’s optimised for netbooks, with a much more user-friendly – and nicer looking – user interface. From their own website:
EasyPeasy is a lightweight open source operating system (OS) for your netbook or ultra portable laptop. The OS is optimized for web surfing and provides easy access to your favorite Internet applications like Skype, Firefox, etc. EasyPeasy is designed for low power consumption, because we know that your battery life time is important to your mobile lifestyle.
It can be downloaded from the EasyPeasy website, although the instructions for installing it are not all that clear. Instead I followed the instructions I found here on techandlife.com. I cut a corner by not bothering to make the recovery drive for Linpus – I was confident that I wouldn’t need to go back to Linpus again.
The instructions were clear enough. I hit two small problems along the way: I couldn’t seem to access the folder to which I downloaded EasyPeasy when I tried to select it on the Unetbootin interface. For some reason I couldn’t browse to the Linpus Downloads folder. By playing around with folder views and changing to advanced mode I managed to copy the .iso file to a location where I could see it. The other important thing that I missed first time around was that the first time you’re looking at EasyPeasy on the netbook you’re still running it from the USB key. You do need to then actually install it from the key onto the netbook. This is a relatively easy process, but somehow I managed to miss that step and was confused when I restarted my netbook and found Linpus still running!
So, in summary, if you’re having the widely reported battery problems with your Aspire One, just update the BIOS. And if you want to have a more user-friendly experience overall, install EasyPeasy.