Some update about my experiences with the EeePC.
The other day my wife told me that she was unhappy with her EeePC, the one
we got as a wedding present (the story was told in a previous post).
She was experiencing random freezing while surfing the net.
I thought of an issue with some Firefox plugin but I could not find
anything wrong. So I took the occasion and I said, "well, why not to try
some other Linux distribution than the default (Xandros) since I have
heard that most distributions features a good support for the EeePC?".
So I did. I chose Ubuntu since it is the distribution I use on my MacBook.
I have also tried the Eeebuntu distribution which is expressly written
for the EeePC, but I came back to basic Ubuntu since I prefer the
standard desktop, both form an aesthetic point of view and because of
familiarity and usability.
The installation went smoothly, just following the instructions
at array.org, an apt-get repository where you can find
Adam McDaniel's kernel for the EeePC. Actually, since I did not want
to erase the Xandros distribution I did some experiment first, by
installing the new OS on a separate drive. I did discover that
installing on a USB pen drive is perfectly possible, but the experience is
painful: the installation takes nearly two hours, and then the machine is
very slow. On the other hand, installing on an external hard disk
takes less than half an hour and then the machine is very snappy.
It looks like disk speed is an extremely important factor when
it comes to the responsiveness of the EeePC: the processor
is not the bottleneck, the disks are.
After those experiments I installed
on the internal disks - which are solid state devices - and I have got
performances comparable to using an external hard disk. I have also
discovered that the smaller disk (my EeePC has two internal disk, a 4GB
one and a 16GB one) is much faster than the bigger one.
I formatted the disks so that the "/" partition was on the small disk
and the "/usr" partition was on the big disk.
As I said everything went fine. Notice that you absolutely wants to install
the eee-control utility (apt-getinstalleee-control) which allows
you to control the performance of the processor and to enable/disable
the wifi, the bluetooth, the webcam and the card reader.
I had two big positive surprises:
With Ubuntu and Adam's kernel the machine is extremely more
responsive than with the default Xandros distribution. This was
completely unexpected. Of course the advantage of Ubuntus versus
Xandros is that you have (much) more updated and bigger
repositories of packages, but I did not expect to see a substantial
difference in responsivity. There is, instead: opening the video
player, of Firefox, or any other application is much faster.
Moreover the default Ubuntu video player is much faster than the
Xandros default player.
The graphics card of the Eeepc is pretty powerful and/or particularly
well supported: in particular Compiz works out of the box and I could
enable the Desktop Cube effect which I could not get to work on my
MacBook. I could not see any
difference in responsivity with respect to my desktop computer,
which has 4 GB or RAM and a nvidia graphics card.
I have also tried to connect the EeePC to an external monitor
and to my TV (which features a 1360x768 resolution): everything
works perfectly, including the Cube effect. We saw
Once Upon a Time in America just yesterday night on the 42 inches
display, and the vision was perfectly fluid and clear.
With Ubuntu the EeePC feels like a real computer. I have even installed
Postgres on it and I think one could use it for development, not just for
surfing the net. Now that there are models with bigger displays I think
my next laptop will be a netbook.
Interesting that you mention hdparm. I do not know what it measures, but it is not significant. I get exactly the same numbers you get, nevertheless the small disk is twice as fast as the big one. Try this test:
$ cat write1G.py import os, sys, time
ONEMEG = '*'*1024*1024
def write1G(fname): t0 = time.time() f = file(fname, 'w') try: for _ in xrange(1024): f.write(ONEMEG) finally: f.close() os.remove(fname) return time.time()-t0
if __name__ == '__main__': print 'Time spent: %s' % write1G(sys.argv)
$ python write1G.py somefile
This writes 1 GB of data in the current directory. On my machine it takes ~90 seconds if I give a path on the big disk and ~40 seconds if I give a path on the small disk. The writing speed difference is 11 M/s vs 26 M/s. You can repeat the test on different kind of drives (USB pen are very slow) and write a similar test for the reading speed).
> I'm thinking on putting /usr on the 4GB and the rest on > the 16GB. Do you think this is the best solution?
By default, a lot of programs on Unix systems are installed on /usr, so I expected to hit the 4GB limit pretty soon. However, if do not install stuff, or if you are careful in where you install it, you can go with /usr on the the small disk. The big disk is fast enough for me anyway.