I’ve been doing some work on my Eee PC lately trying to decide which OS to load on it. I had Windows on it for a while and that worked, then I set it aside when I got the Dell Mini 10v and Hackintoshed it. I was going to set the Eee up for one of my parents, but decided that the larger screen and keys on the Mini 10v would be better for them. So I’ve got that as an ongoing to-do project.

My initial idea was to run FreeBSD on my Eee. I ran into a snag when I realized that FreeBSD’s ACPI support isn’t as mature as Linux’s; therefore, I couldn’t hibernate the system. I grew addicted to hibernate on my old Vostro 1400, and it was a serious boon for productivity on trips and during work days. It’s not been as big an issue on my Macbook Pro as its battery life is far superior to the Vostro’s, though.

I had a working X-less FreeBSD install going, and it was time to get X working. Sadly, I was stymied by a lack of documentation on how to get the Eee’s trackpad working in X. Turns out it involves using moused, but I decided in the end that that was a pain, so I tried PC-BSD. It worked, but KDE is fairly slow, and I didn’t relish the thought of using it. The next try was Gentoo, but I’ve not compiled the Linux kernel in a very long time, and I was unable to find a canned config for the latest version of the kernel, so I decided to try FreeBSD once more. The installer failed to download part of the OS, so I was going to try Gentoo once more.

Then as I sat staring at the kernel configuration menu, I looked at the Arch Linux wiki’s article on the Eee 901. After reading Arch’s “Who We Are” blurb, I decided to give it a whirl.

I’m impressed, to say the least. My long-time bias against running a Linux laptop is the userland interface to netfilter, iptables. It goes without saying that iptables is complicated, and while I consider myself a knowledgable person, the fact that it takes 94 lines to do in iptables what took me just under a dozen to do in pf (OpenBSD’s firewall, which has been ported to the other BSDs) really doesn’t set well with me. Fortunately, some sanity has been brought forth. Ubuntu ships with something called ufw, or Uncomplicated Firewall, and its syntax is quite similar to PF’s. Finding ufw in Arch’s respositories further cemented my use of it.

Getting X installed took a scant 5 minutes as opposed to two hours for Gentoo, and installing the base system was very quick. All this using Arch’s cleverly-named package manager “pacman” (how Namco doesn’t sue them I’ll never know). A proper resolutioned framebuffer console with the stock kernel was a nice touch as well.

Tonight’s plot involves getting other software installed then deciding which window manager to use. My “go to” one for years has been WindowMaker, but for a desktop environment I prefer XFCE or GNOME. The new paradigm of tiled window managers is quite interesting, so we shall see.

I’m just glad I have a hard drive in this machine for all this randomness of installing. I will ultimately set up a large-capacity fast SSD in it, but for now, the hard drive works fine. Now to get all the bluetooth/aircard dialing set up. This will be fun stuff indeed!