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Eee PC Setup

Here’s how I’ve set up my Eee PC, which I’m using mainly for web-browsing, email and writing, as well as watching telly and listening to music while travelling, and transferring photos from my camera to Flickr on the move. Oh, and simulating absent babies.

I tired of the standard Easy Mode in about five minutes—it’s perfectly usable, but the toytown icons, awkward tabbed interface and limited opportunities for customisation do what is a fairly powerful device a disservice. So, I switched to ‘Full Desktop Mode’.

You don’t need to be a computer whizz to achieve this, just open a terminal (Ctrl-Alt-T in Easy Mode) and type the following, hitting return after each line, while connected to the internet:

sudo bash

apt-get update

apt-get install ksmserver kicker

Then restart the computer. Getting Full Desktop Mode to stick, and boot as quickly as possible, is a little more tricky, but is explained in detail on the Eee PC User Wiki, and shouldn’t be too much trouble, even for users who’ve never seen a command line before.

Once the Full Desktop Mode is in place, the interfaces of a few programmes need tweaking, so that they suit the Eee PC’s tiny wee screen. For Firefox and Thunderbird (the default mail application), this involves installing new themes, and editing each application’s userChrome.css files.

For Firefox, I went with the Littlefox theme, for Thunderbird, Minibird fits the bill. Easy-to-follow instructions for setting a smaller font size for the user interface of Firefox are available here, while tips to slim down Thunderbird can be found here.

Neither application is much use unless it synchronises with your main desktop or laptop, so I switched all my mail accounts over to IMAP, which caches copies of mail messages locally, but leaves them on the server, keeping all your inboxes in sync.

Then, to keep Firefox bookmarks, cookies and such consistent across different machines, I installed the Google Browser Sync add-on, which, so far, has worked flawlessly. I also installed Google Gears, which allows some web applications to work offline—it works very well with Google Reader, letting you update RSS feeds when you have access to the network, then read them when you don’t. It’s a shame that it doesn’t yet work with Google Calendar. (Google looms pretty large when using the Eee PC in my experience—at times it feels like I’m using the laptop as a client for their web services.)

When it comes to adding applications to the set bundled with the Eee PC, I’ve been fairly restrained:

  1. VLC - the stock MPlayer is fine, but I’m used to VLC, and it can play pretty much any video you throw at it.
  2. Abiword - the default word processor, Open Office, is a big pile of poo, taking an age to launch, and hogging memory once it has. Abiword launches almost instantaneously, and offers a more user-friendly, stripped-down space for writing.
  3. Bittornado - I tried a few Bittorrent clients, but this is the only one that just worked for me, and it does the job (though it’s probably unwise to do much torrent downloading on a machine using with a flash drive).
  4. Various odds and ends, like the latest Flash player and browser plugins, and some gubbins to make printing to PDF files easier.

Things I’ve yet to do:

  1. Investigate methods of syncing information between my Newton MP2100 and the Eee PC. Not urgent, as the Newton is regularly sort-of-synced with my Mac, which is synced with Google Calendar.
  2. Work out if it’s possible to install the OpenEinstein Newton emulator on the Eee PC. This would be spectacularly pointless, but good fun.
  3. Get filesharing between my Macs and the Eee PC over my wireless LAN sorted out. I’m getting a bit tired of transporting larger files via a USB thumb drive and emailing myself documents.
  4. Buy a whopping great SD card, so I can store more music and video on the Eee PC.

(I’ll post a proper review of the machine and its OS soon—I just wanted to get all this down first in case anything goes horribly wrong and I end up having to start again from scratch!)

Posted at 5pm on 13/12/07 by Jack Mottram to the linux category.
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  1. shit, it sounds cool, like the sound of highly portable (kinda) thin, network client. Is there anything like MaemoMapper for it — linking to a bluetooth GPS or whatever?

    for the networking - why not buy a crossover cable? Much faster and less troublesome than WLAN…unless you use ethernet already on the mac(s).

    I heard KDE 4 goes on it too. Kate is a great text editor for KDE as well (for web and PHP etc).

    You have more gadgets than I do!

    Posted by Luke at 2pm on 14.12.07

  2. oh, thanks for the long write up as promised!

    DUGG :)

    Posted by Luke at 2pm on 14.12.07

  3. I’ve not checked out GPS at all - I have a Bluetooth dongle somewhere in the flat, but it’s proving elusive. There is some stuff about GPS on the wiki, though.

    Posted by Jack Mottram at 3pm on 17.12.07

  4. Thanks, Jack. Real-life reviews of the eee (especially from other journos) are just what I’m looking for. The temptation is strong…

    Posted by gilest at 11pm on 17.12.07

  5. presume you saw this:


    Posted by dwh at 2pm on 20.12.07

  6. That touchscreen mod is fab. Way beyond my skills, but am now dreaming of turning the Eee into a super-eMate with OpenEinstein!

    gilest - journowise, the thing is a Godsend: I’ve written a good few pieces on the Eee while travelling, when in the past I wouldn’t have bothered lugging around my big laptop and just read the paper on the train.

    The small screen does make editing a bit more tricky, but the keyboard isn’t as much of a problem as you might think - after a fortnight or so, I’m typing as fast as on a full-size keyboard (though with lots more errors, it must be said).

    Posted by Jack Mottram at 3pm on 21.12.07

  7. hei, you can see more video on the

    Posted by semen at 2pm on 08.01.08

  8. sorry. This link All video about Asus Eee PC

    Posted by semen at 2pm on 08.01.08

  9. Hi there,
    Great blog,
    Interested in thunderbird on the eeepc.
    Mine only appears to have web mail, not a proper pop email account.
    Am I missing something, or does Thunderbird have to be separately installed?
    Hope you can help.

    Posted by Paul Richardson at 10am on 10.01.08

  10. The Asus Eee 900 is now available with bigger 8.9” 1024x600 screen, 1gb ram, 12gb Linux or 20GB Win XP, 1.3mp camera, and a fancy multi touchpad.

    Coming soon in future revisions is a 10” screen, Intel Atom cpu and possibly hard drives and a touch screen.


    Posted by Eee! at 11pm on 23.04.08

  11. Bought a eee pc 2g a few days ago. No way can the advanced desktop be installed using sudo bash apt-get or any other method described on wiki. Maybe some else has had this problem

    Posted by Martin at 7pm on 16.05.08

  12. I have the 900 machine. I’ve tried to get this ksmserver kicker to install. the system tells me that ksmserver is not available but may be available by another source? what am i doing wrong?


    Posted by Marko at 8pm on 05.07.08

  13. Marko - sounds like you need to add some repositories, or maybe see this tip on the Eee User forums. (I’m not sure, as I don’t have a 900…)

    Posted by Jack Mottram at 10pm on 06.07.08

  14. My Eee pc is great, i cant understand it tho when i am on the internet the font size on things changes sometimes its so tiny i can bearly read it sometimes its perfect, u sound a wizz with it so your help would be greatly appiciated!!!xxx

    Posted by stacey at 11pm on 03.02.09

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