Acer Aspire One D150 and Ubuntu netbook remix

Acer Aspire One D150

Earlier this week I bought an Acer Aspire One D150 to use as my new portable and, possibly, desktop. Most of these new netbooks are pretty much the same inside, so a few things won me over to this one:

  • Ten inch screen, substantially bigger than the seven inch netbooks.
  • Very good reviews of the keyboard, and I concur it works well with my fat fingers, and dedicated Page Up/Down keys are very handy
  • Built-in Bluetooth, which means tethering to my phone for mobile broadband is trivial
  • Built-in SD card (it does other formats too) reader, makes it trivial to upload my photos
  • VGA-out plug, meaning I can potentially use it as a desktop with two screens

Downsides include the Microsoft tax (which I'll attempt to recoup, after Simon Hackett's encouragement), a hard drive that I don't really need and probably is an unnecessary drain on battery, and a touchpad that has been fairly strongly vilified.

I'd tend to agree that the touchpad is pretty poor. The buttons require so much force that you really have to use two hands to do anything like click-drag. That said, I mostly don't use these things anyway and carry around a little retractible mouse anyway.

The install from Ubuntu Netbook Remix was trivial. Change the BIOS settings to boot from USB (F2 at boot to access BIOS) and boot. It was done in about fifteen minutes and most things just worked, including wireless, suspend and hibernate.

I've found a few issues with sound. Playback from Rhythmbox, the default Ubuntu music app, can be a bit choppy. I suspect this is just the application, and I might just change apps. Sound after suspend doesn't seem to work, which is a bit annoying. I haven't worked out how to reliably get the sound to work with Skype either. I'll keep playing with that.

Settings to change

I've made a couple of changes to the default Ubuntu install for this system.

I disable Caps Lock on all machines I use, because it's a completely useless key and my fat fingers often hit it accidentally. The Caps Lock key on the Aspire One is no exception, and I have to wonder why they would include one when a dedicated NumLock key would be more helpful. Add the following to ~/.bashrc:

if [ "$PS1" ]; then
    # Disables the bloody CapsLock button
    xmodmap -e "remove lock = Caps_Lock"
 fi

Inexplicably, Ubuntu disables laptop_mode by default, which means it doesn't do useful things when running on battery power that will extend battery life. It also makes it hard to work out why it isn't running, putting the setting in a seemingly unrelated file, and returning nothing when you try to run the init script. Change ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE=false to ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE=true in /etc/default/acpi-support to enable it.

Mouse settings

The touchpad is overly sensitive and when you're in the middle of frenzied typing, often moves the cursor on you. Most annoying. I get around this by disabling clicks from the trackpad, given I don't use it anyway.

Littlefox theme

Firefox, by default, takes up a lot of useless vertical screen space. I've reduced this by removing the Bookmarks Toolbar and moving it up next to the menu. I also installed the Littlefox theme, which uses much smaller icons. This gives you a bit more of the critical vertical screen space.

The included soft slip case, made out of wetsuit material, is alright but has no space for my little mouse and a pair of headphones, which I think are essential portable accessories. I might try sewing on a couple of little pockets to make it perfect.

Conclusion

It's early days just yet, but I'm pretty damn happy with my new little netbook. It's suiting my needs pretty well, and looks rather fine too.