Since I am currently over-saturated with Apple products (MacBook, iPad, iPhone, iPod – I have them all) or Windows products (at work), I was looking for a portable notebook to escape the Apple/Windows universe every now and then to play a bit with Linux.
Requirements were that the notebook had to be light and very cheap – the latter characteristic is also good for traveling because you don’t need to worry too much that the notebook gets stolen. The choice fell on the Asus F201E that is called X201E (http://www.asus.com/Notebooks/Versatile_Performance/X201E/) in the US.
Choppy YouTube videos with shipped Ubuntu
It came preinstalled with Ubuntu 12.04 64-Bit, however the performance of fullscreen HD Flash videos was very poor. Videos on websites like YouTube were displayed very choppy and sometimes also with a lag in the audio track. Therefore, I tried to install newer graphics drivers, tried several other tweaks and a few other Linux distributions – with no real improvement.
Fresh install of Ubuntu 12.10
Finally, I found out that my favorite distribution for better performance (less choppy Flash video) and usability for desktop use (installed fonts, installed Flash plugin, drivers, clearness of the user interface) was Ubuntu 12.10. The main trick here was to take the 32-Bit version and NOT the 64-Bit version although the processor supports it.
I used Linux Live USB creator on Windows to put the downloaded iso file from Ubuntu (link) onto a USB stick and make it bootable. I booted from the stick using the legacy BIOS option by pressing ESC during startup and then selecting the USB stick in the menu and not the UEFI boot option.
The UEFI install caused a lot of trouble and did not work, also with the other Linux distributions. To save time, I therefore opted for the good old BIOS option that seemed to work. I let Ubuntu partition the entire 500 GB harddrive. The installation went fine, only a few things had to be changed to make it work as before:
Minor tweaks necessary
For a few issues, some tweaks were necessary to fix them.
After the installation, the keys for the brightness were not working. This could be fixed by editing the /etc/default/grub file and changing the line “GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash” to “GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash acpi_osi=”. After running “sudo update-grub” in the terminal and rebooting, the keys were working again.
Network card not working
Besides, the ethernet controller was not recognized and did not work, while Wifi was functioning just fine. This could be fixed my installing the package linux-backports-modules-cw-3.6-quantal-generic. This package will install several other packages (depending on the current kernel used) and after running “modprobe alx” in the terminal as super user, the ethernet card was working also.
Asus software sources
The original Ubuntu that came with the Asus was using two special software sources, those I added again in 12.10. They were “http://asus.archive.canonical.com/updates precise-annan public” and “http://asus.archive.canonical.com/updates precise-annan public (Source Code)”. I don’t really know whether Ubuntu 12.10 is using any of these Asus packages, but for future reference, I just included them in this blog post.
System up and running
After fixing these few issues, Ubuntu 12.10 is running fine. Flash videos play more smoothly and everything seems to work just as intended. Speed-wise, the notebook naturally cannot compete with devices that have faster processors and are more expensive, but with this build quality it is a nice travel companion at the fraction of the price of a MacBook air.