Acer Aspire One – Ubuntu netbook

ACER’s Aspire One is a solid netbook, but it can be much more.

In the last two weeks, I’ve been using it as a full notebook, running office applications, editing digital photos, surfing the Web and watching videos on a robust, full-featured system. The remarkable thing is, I’m doing it on a such a small, lightweight computer (less than a kilo) that has only 8 gigabytes (GB) of storage and 1GB of memory.

The key to unlocking the Aspire One’s power was to replace the Linpus Lite Linux operating system that comes installed with the netbook with Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron).

Linpus Lite, based on Fedora, is a good choice for first-time Linux users because it shields them from the complexity of the operating system. On the other hand, the simplified approach also makes it unwieldy to add programs that do not come installed, or to customize the system to work the way you want.

I chose Ubuntu as a replacement because it’s a great, user-friendly Linux distribution and I’ve always wanted to run it on a notebook.

The first challenge in installing the new operating system was the absence of a CD-ROM drive. Fortunately, I found an excellent guide (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/AspireOne) that stepped me through the process, which entails using a USB drive in lieu of an install CD.

A few caveats before you decide to jump in.

First, you will need another machine with Internet access to download the latest version of Ubuntu and Live USB, a program to create the boot USB disk.

Second, you will need a wired connection because Ubuntu’s default drivers will not work with the netbook’s Atheros wireless card when you first boot it. This shouldn’t be a problem if you have a standard wireless router—just connect the netbook to one of the LAN ports with a cable and you’re ready.

Third, because Ubuntu is not tailored to work with the Aspire One’s hardware, some features—the Wi-Fi indicator light and hibernate—will not work. Other functions work only partially.

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