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Ubuntu NBR on EEE PC 900 w/ Working Webcam and Mic

Ubuntu NBR on an EEE 900
Posted on 2009-01-26.

I picked up an Asus EEE PC 900 a couple months ago, and it quickly became the most heavily used computer in my household. I have been running the included Xandros Linux OS and Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype (Beta for video conferencing) and Picasa (Linux Beta). Xandros makes a nice OS, and the EEE works very well in its default configuration. My only complaint is it that seems Xandros has abandoned the OS in favour of versions for the latest EEE models: there are few additional packages to install and fewer updates to the packages that are available.

The EEE community site has recommendations for adding external repositories, but that doesn't seem like a sustainable choice, with the steadily aging base Xandros packages. One of the biggest strength of Linux distributions is the constant improvements available and new software available from all over the world, something Xandros just wasn't going to provide. I use Ubuntu primarily on my other machines, so I gave Ubuntu Netbook Remix (NBR) a try.

Installation was simple and fast. The USB key image wiped both the root and /home flash disks (thankfully I remembered to back-up the /home partition.) Curiously the installer formatted what was the /home flash disk as FAT-32.

As the title of this article suggests, not everything worked perfectly. Wireless and suspend worked, and there was sound, but no recording from the microphone, and the web cam wasn't detected. My wife wasn't so excited about the new OS if it meant the scheduled video conference with her family was off.

Web cam not looking quite right

I followed advice from the EEE PC web forums for upgrading my uvcvideo driver and reconfiguring the sound driver, to no avail. There was still no microphone, and the web cam would only work for a few minutes before producing images like the one on the left.

The NBR image is less than three months old, but is based on a 2.6.24 kernel, which is more than a year old, so I made some room for /usr/src on the second flash disk and downloaded I also installed the packaged Atheros ethernet source package atl2-source. After make oldconfig (remembering to re-select the snd_hda_intel and uvcvideo drivers), make, make install, update-initrd, editing /boot/grub/menu.list and a reboot I was up and running.

The interface is quite nice, and unlike Xandros Linux, will properly update when you install almost any package. It also makes better use of the screen by combining applications' title bars with the task bar. The version of Firefox included also properly enter full-screen mode (important for such a small screen.)

Tags: Hardware Linux