New Life for an Old Netbook

By | November 24, 2013

My primary motivation for this post is to add a little bit of Internet encouragement for anyone who might be looking for a better option than Windows on their netbook.  If a search for Linux on an Asus Eee PC 1015T brought you here, then I can at least feel pretty confident in telling you’re barking up the right tree.  Windows 7 Starter is not doing your machine justice.

I’ve had an Asus Eee PC 1015T netbook for a few years.  I originally bought it for my kids, but they’ve since moved on to something bigger and better.  Recently, I’ve been using it for showing slides and doing some basic Java examples during tutoring sessions, but it was becoming increasingly painful to use due to the slow start-up times, lagging performance and constant Windows updates.

Yesterday, I did a quick Google search to see what Linux distribution might be best for suited to a netbook, and the most promising result seemed to be Linux  Mint.  Without much hesitation beyond backing up a few files, I downloaded the latest 64-bit release (Linux Mint 15 Olivia), copied the ISO over to a flash drive using ISO to USB, and began what turned out to be a very simple installation (after figuring out how to boot from a flash drive – see below).

It’s only been about 24 hours, but so far I’m impressed.

  • The boot time is much better than what I experienced in Windows.  It takes about a 45 seconds to get to the login screen after hitting the power button.  It takes about another 25 seconds to get to a usable desktop after logging in.
  • All of my hardware is working without any intervention on my part, from the WiFi to the built-in webcam.
  • The function keys operate as expected: brightness, audio controls, track pad, etc.
  • The netbook can go to sleep and wake up without dying anywhere in between.
  • The netbook can hibernate and come back to life.  It takes about 30 seconds to start back up.
  • The included software is great, and covers all of the basics (Libre Office, VLC, Firefox, etc.).  It also couldn’t be easier to find and install more great applications.  So far, I’ve installed Skype, Arduino IDE, Eclipse, Apache, PHP and a few other utilities.
  • I’ve got plenty of space on my drive after the core installation plus the software mentioned in the previous bullet (5.2 GB in use out of 244.2 GB).
  • Flash works, which is great for many of the online games my kids are apt to play.

I haven’t been able to pin down many negatives just quite yet, though I’ll happily update this post if I do.  I’ll have to watch the battery life to see how it goes.  I had kind of given up on this machine, so I wasn’t really paying attention in Windows, but it does seem like it’s draining relatively quickly.  Additionally, I haven’t tested HDMI output yet, but when I do, this sentence will disappear, and there will be a note in the bullets above.

I know that opinions are strong over Linux distributions, and I’m sure a case could be made for a dozen other options that might have been a better fit.  But this was a rare occasion where five minutes of planning and about an hour of work have already made a huge positive impact.  It’s still a netbook, but it’s a little better today than it was yesterday.

Booting from a Flash Drive on the 1015T

It took me a little while to figure out how to boot from a flash drive on this machine.  There is an option to select the boot order where you can choose which device should be booted first.  The intuitive thing to do there is to move the “External Device” option into the primary boot position.  However, that didn’t work for me.  Instead, the flash drive shows up as another hard drive and you have to select the hard drive boot order via another menu.  I just rebooted to see if I could figure it out again, but I don’t have the flash drive plugged in, so I’m not seeing the option.  You’re smart, though; you’ll figure it out.

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