openSUSE 11.1 on an ASUS Eee 901

This document describes how I installed and configured openSUSE 11.1 on an ASUS Eee 901 netbook.

Technical specifications

My system has the following components:

Component Details
CPU 1.6 GHz Intel Atom, 45nm Diamondville N270
RAM 1 GB RAM DDR2-400
Solid State Drive 1× 4 GB, 1× 16 GB
Display 8.9" (22.6 cm), 1024×600 TFT LCD
Graphics controller Mobile 945GM/GMS/GME, 943/940GML Express Integrated Graphics Controller
Ethernet Attansic L1 Gigabit Ethernet Controller
Wireless LAN RaLink RT2860
Sound 82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller
Touchpad unknown
Integrated camera Microdia Sonix USB 2.0 1.3 megapixel camera
Ports 3× USB 2.0
RJ45 (Ethernet) 
HDMI 
VGA 
headphone 
microphone 
memory card reader 

Summary

Component or featureDetails
Suspend to disk not working
Suspend to RAM working
USB working
Ethernet working
WLAN working
graphics working
hard disk working
sound working
memory card reader not tested
touchpad working
camera working

Installation

The following instructions assume that you have an external USB hard drive and an external monitor. (I used the external monitor because I suspect that the graphical installer expects a screen resolution of at least 1024×768.) These instructions also assume that you are currently running the default Xandros installation, or another GNU/Linux distribution, on the Eee.

  1. Download the openSUSE 11.1 32-bit LiveCD ISO image.
  2. Download and install UNetbootin, which will be used to copy the ISO image to your external hard drive. You may need to install some prerequisite packages (namely mtools, p7zip-full, and syslinux) in order to install UNetbootin.
  3. Ensure your external hard drive has a formatted partition large enough to contain the ISO image. (1 GB should do it.)
  4. Run unetboot and have it copy the ISO image to the external hard drive. (It is important that you run unetboot from the Eee PC itself, and not on another machine; it will install a boot loader on the external drive which references kernel-specific device names, which vary from one machine to another.)
  5. Mount the external drive, find the initrd file on it, and replace it with initrdud from Vavai. This will prevent subsequent errors such as "Failed to detect CD/DVD or USB drive!"] or "Couldn't find Live image configuration file."
  6. Reboot the machine and hold down F2 to enter the BIOS setup. Make sure that the external drive has priority in the boot sequence. Also make sure that the wireless card, camera, and Bluetooth are enabled.
  7. After exiting the BIOS, the openSUSE 11.1 LiveCD should boot from the external hard drive. You can now install the system to the internal SSD by clicking the Install icon.
  8. Select your installation settings according to taste. For partitioning, I suggest deleting all the partitions on the first (4 GB) drive and creating a new 4 GB ext2 partition for the system root. The second (16 GB) drive will already contain a single 16 GB partition; you can format this or leave it as-is. Set the mount point for the second drive to /home. Both drives should be mounted with the noatime option set so as to minimize disk writes.
  9. In the middle of the installation, the X server may blank the screen; pressing keys or the touchpad doesn't restore the display. You can restore the display by switching to the console (Ctrl+Alt+F1) and back (Ctrl+Alt+F7).
  10. When the installation is finished, remove the external drive and reboot.

While I haven't tested it, the above process should also work with a USB flash drive instead of an external hard drive. The process should also work with an external CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, except that steps 2 through 5 will be unnecessary; instead, you can simply burn the ISO image to a CD.

Details

Most components and features work out of the box. Here is a description of some components which required some configuration, or which I have not yet gotten to work.

Networking

Sometimes when the system boots up, the network manager seems to be dead. This can be fixed by running the command sudo rcnetwork restart. Only after that is it possible to establish an ethernet or wireless connection. Needless to say, it's a bit annoying having to type this every time the system starts up, so I am looking for a way to make the fix permanent.

Graphics

If you installed using an external monitor, as I did, then the default display resolution may be as high as 1280×1024. This is fine if you plan to continue using the external monitor indefinitely, but if not, then you will have to reset the resolution to the Eee's native 1024×600. The easiest way of doing this is to load YaST, select the "Graphics Card and Monitor" applet from the "Hardware" menu, and change the resolution accordingly. You will have to log off and back on again before the change takes effect.

Also, the system doesn't appear to correctly detect the DPI of the internal monitor. To fix this, open /etc/X11/xorg.conf and change the DisplaySize setting to the following:

DisplaySize  195 114

Sound

The system can produce sound through the speakers or the headphone jack, but there appears to be something wrong with the mixer. Specifically, the PCM channel appears to have no effect on the volume; the only way of setting the volume is to use the Line Out channel. You will therefore be unable to adjust the volume from programs that rely on the PCM channel: MPlayer's volume adjustment control doesn't have any effect at all, and in Amarok the volume adjustment can produce severely distorted sound if set too high. If anyone knows how to fix this, please let me know. Perhaps I need to run alsaconf…?

By default, KMix will show and adjust only the (non-functional) PCM channel. To fix this, open the KMix mixer, select "Configure Channels…" from the "Settings" pull-down menu, and add the remaining channels. Then right-click on the volume adjustment control in the system tray, select "Select Master Channel…", and select the Line Out channel.

Keyboard

The keyboard includes a number of Fn-key combinations to adjust the volume, switch the display to an external monitor, toggle the WLAN, adjust the LCD brightness, etc. The openSUSE wiki has instructions on how to enable these key combinations. I used the eeeEvents-1.1-10.6.i586.rpm package for this. However, the WLAN toggle key (Fn+F2) doesn't seem to work; the WLAN LED is always lit even after you have supposedly disabled the WLAN.

Suspend to disk

Executing the Suspend to Disk command from the K Menu has no effect. Perhaps this is because I have no swap partition. I am currently investigating this.

Suspend to RAM

Executing the Suspend to RAM command from the K Menu seems to correctly make the computer suspend to RAM, but there doesn't seem to be any way of reviving the computer. (See the "Dread bricking bug" below.) Running s2ram -f as root has the same effect.

I fixed this by creating two files. The first one, /etc/pm/config.d, has the following contents:

S2RAM_OPTS="-f -a 2"

The second one, /etc/pm/sleep.d/60eeepc, has the following contents:

#!/bin/bash
case $1 in
   hibernate)
       /etc/init.d/network stop
       /sbin/modprobe -r rt2860sta
       ;;
   suspend)
       /etc/init.d/network stop
       /sbin/modprobe -r rt2860sta
       ;;
   thaw)
       /sbin/modprobe rt2860sta
       /etc/init.d/network start
       /etc/init.d/acpid restart # hotkeys do not work after resume, /etc/acpi
       ;;
   resume)
       /sbin/modprobe rt2860sta
       /etc/init.d/network start
       /etc/init.d/acpid restart # hotkeys do not work after resume, /etc/acpi
       ;;
   *)  echo "EeePC power management script called incorrectly."
       ;;
esac

The dread bricking bug

The first time I rebooted after installing openSUSE 11.1, the machine froze up: the display was completely black, and all the LEDs were lit. Pressing or holding down the power button would not turn off the machine. The only solution was to temporarily remove the AC power and battery. This problem continues to occur occasionally when turning on the machine or rebooting. (However, once the machine is up and running, it generally runs without problems.) This problem is discussed on the eeeuser.com forums. I tried upgrading the BIOS of the machine to version 1808, which so far seems to have fixed the problem, but then again, maybe I've just been lucky and haven't encountered it again yet. Another user reported success with booting into Failsafe mode, though of course this isn't a long-term solution.

General observations

Despite the above-noted problems, which I'm pretty sure can be overcome with a little more troubleshooting, I'm pleased with the new operating system. The OpenSUSE 11.1 system runs much faster than the Eee's default Xandros install. In the stock system, simply switching browser tabs could take up to 30 seconds, whereas with openSUSE now there is no delay. Also, the stock Xandros system, with its union file system, left virtually no free space on the system drive; the openSUSE base install leaves about 1.5 GB free, which is enough for plenty more programs.

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