Ubuntu 9.04 on the Eee PC 701

It’s been more than a year now that I last posted an update about using my Asus Eee PC 701 for hamradio. To be honest, my Eee PC has been more or less idle ever since. Back in August 2008 I have decided that I need a newer and better OS on it than the Asus/Xandros that it came installed with. I tried a few one every now and then but without any satisfactory results. Until now…

One of the most promising Linux distributions was the Ubuntu Netbook Remix and I did indeed try to install 9.04 earlier this year. Unfortunately, it didn’t run well in particular due to this fancy menu interface that was just too heavy for the good old 701 and I wasn’t able to properly turn it off.

Few day ago, I saw a blog post about installing Ubuntu 9.04 on the 701, so I decided to give a try. Of course, I could have done it with 9.10, but some programs that I want to try are only available for 9.04, so I decided to stick with that.


I don’t have any USB CDROM drive so I had to install from USB flash disk. This is very easy:

  1. Download the Ubuntu ISO
  2. Download and install Unetbootin
  3. Burn (?) the ISO onto the USB flash
  4. Insert the USB flash into Eee PC
  5. Switch ON Eee PC and select boot device

From then on it is pretty much a normal Ubuntu installation process. I used standard settings most of the way except I partitioned using ext2 file system.

There is one thing that I find peculiar about the 701, namely the selection of boot device in the BIOS. It is not enough to select boot order and you can not even do that unless your USB flash disk is already plugged in when you power the 701 on. If it is not inserted you will simply not have the choice of selecting USB as boot device. Even when you have it plugged in, you need to adjust the order of Hard Disk drives instead of Boot device priority, which will be set automatically. It’s a little difficult to explain, so I have recorded a video about what I did in the BIOS:


First of all, let me say that I was surprised about the boot speed! It starts up in about 43 seconds, which includes automatic login.

I knew Ubuntu is booting fast since 9.04 and even faster in 9.10, but I was really surprised to see it boot so fast on this old hardware.

So far, pretty much everything seems to work except audio capture. Although I can monitor the microphone input, I can’t seem to be able to record anything. This, however,  might be a codec problem at this point because I couldn’t record audio with the QuickCam Pro 9000 either, which I know it works well on 9.04.

Audio playback works fine. After installing the flash plugin I could play YouTube videos. Playback is not smooth but I guess that is more a hardware issue nowadays.

The built-in webcam seems to work quite all right. I installed guvcview and it works pretty well as a V4L2 device. Of course, the camera itself is nothing too good.

No problem with the graphics. It is detected very well at the right resolution and by default even the desktop effects are enabled. I disabled that though, because it messes up the ALT+DRAG trick to move windows outside the viewport, which is rather necessary on such a small screen. You can also note on the second video that I have customised the desktop a little. I have removed the bottom panel and enabled the “hide” buttions on the top panel. I did that to get a few extra pixels vertically.

The installation took about 2 GB with some additional packages that I have installed (some of them the Qt libraries). There is still about 1 GB disk available. Memory wise, there is about 270 MB available right after boot (500 MB total). Maybe that can be optimised, I haven’t looked into it yet.

All in all I now feel that I have a very well functioning Eeepc 701. Over the next days and weeks I will try various ham radio applications and post updates about how well they work for me on the Eeepc. Stay tuned!

Author: Alexandru Csete

Embedded software engineer in the satcom industry during the day. Radio amateur and SDR hacker during the night.