On the Linux laptop the bundle is all

On the Linux laptop the bundle is all

Summary: In a Linux laptop, the bundle is all.


John Blankenhorn at dinner, June 2008Our review of the latest Linux laptop, the Asus EeePC 1000, has not begun auspiciously but with an important lesson.

In a Linux laptop, the bundle is all.

Let me explain. Yesterday my 17 year old son's PC gave up the ghost. The motherboard crashed. It had to go away.

When John came home I offered him the Linux laptop.

Where's the Internet, he asked. It took me about 20 minutes to set up the internal WiFi, and he could use the Firefox browser.

Try the word processor, I suggested, and he did. It worked. But (and this is important) it wasn't the Open Office which came with the 900 Model we had in earlier. It was Star Office. An earlier program. It does not support the current ODT standard.

So when John finished entering his homework, he got mad. He first noticed that the word processor did not automatically recognize the thumb drive he had put in the USB port to move it over for printing.

Then he found my own copy of Open Office could not read it.

He was furious. "Why are you giving me a computer you don't know how to use?" he demanded. I fussed and fumed but could not fix things right away.

So he grabbed my own PC and retyped the whole assignment, moving his eyes from screen-to-screen like a good secretary. (Hey, his typing speed has gotten good.) Then he printed it and huffed away, slamming the door behind him.

The solution seemed straightforward. I went online and grabbed the Linux version of Open Office.

But installing Linux software is not like adding a PC program. I'll get through it, in time, but it's vital you look at any Linux laptop, at the software installed with the operating system, and know you can deal with it before signing the credit slip.

You don't want to face the wrath of an angry teenager.

Topics: Operating Systems, Collaboration, Laptops, Linux, Open Source, Software

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  • I don?t like teenagers

    I don?t like teenagers or stories about teenagers. But I will say yours seems dumber than most.
    • Re: I don?t like teenagers

      Is that because you're only twelve, or because you skipped those years growing up? If you don't like Dana's stories, you have every right not to read them, but to label a goal-oriented person as "dumber than most" because he didn't instinctively know how to use an unfamiliar tool is elitist and myopic. Shoot yourself in the foot at introductions/interviews often?
      • Ignore the person behind the curtain...

        Some people just like to make themselves feel bigger by criticizing everyone and everything around them.

        Now, I don't normally jump to the defense of an angry teenager, but I gotta say Dana, in this case, he had a right to be frustrated at having to do double work when the tool he was using should cut his work time in half.

        That's my ten cents
        My two cents is free
        • Inflation is pretty bad

          Did you know that when I went to the eye doctor this week, and parked my car, I found five pennies lieing on the ground next to the parking place?

          I picked them up and said to myself, "Now that's change we can believe in."

          This killed at the YMCA next morning.

          Thanks for the kind words about my son, by the way. I agree. He had a right to be frustrated and I have apologized.
      • It's OK

        My son doesn't know about this thread, and hopefully won't for some time. By which time he will know more about Linux.
        • How about you?

          [b][i]...By which time he will know more about Linux. [/i][/b]

          I hope you learn more by that time as well, Dana. Not to be overly critical, but I find it absolutely incredible that you have been writing a blog entitled "Linux and Open Source" without without actually knowing or using the thing that you're writing about. Doesn't that sound a little -- uhm -- [i]wrong[/i] to you? (that's a rhetorical question... you wouldn't be learning it now if you didn't already know it was wrong.)

          I've got no criticism at all about the amount of time it took to set up networking. Hell, if you're not familiar with a new version of Windows it can take as long. But one subject that users of heterogenous platforms are intimately familiar with is "which formats are portable?" Another is the different ways that you can transfer files from one machine to another.

          You're a pretty prolific writer. I'd seriously consider cutting back on the number of posts (just a little bit) and bone up some basics. If nothing else it might give you something new and interesting to write about. (For instance, I just took some time out from bitching about the GIMP to RTFM... turns out that if I'd done that last year I'd have saved myself a trainload of effort.) Then again, maybe that's what you're doing.
    • He's an honor student

      I sandbagged him. I didn't tell him the computer was a Linux laptop. I wanted to see what an ordinary PC user on deadline might do when faced with such a situation.

      If anyone was dumb in this case, it was me.
  • The bundle is all only if the package is bad

    A properly packaged Linux system should make installing programs child's play. Though I own an Eee, mine came with Windows and I installed Kubuntu, so I don't know what the Xandros package looks like or how it would allow you to install a new program. But with Kubuntu it's just a matter of finding a program on a searchable list and making a few clicks (plus making sure you have a live internet connection, which you've already done). If you can't do that with the Eee's Xandros installation, then there's a problem with the package.

    Just the fact that it took you 20 minutes to get a wireless connection confirms that the package is flawed. For Ubuntu and its many flavors it should not take more than three minutes, and that's giving you the first two minutes to figure out there's an active tray icon to help you out (NetworkManager).
    Michael Kelly
    • There will always be frustrations with any OS

      I had frustrations with Linux, and I had frustrations with Windows. I recently had to buy long ethernet cable because I could not get old PCI wireless card working on Ubuntu.

      Don't get me started on Windows (one word: Vongo). I use Linux for political reason, but if you don't care about that, than don't mess with working system.
  • I've stated this before ...

    The Xandros Lite package is OK if you want to do minimum things like web surfing, email, type a small letter, etc. If you want to do any serious work you need to install another distro with much better support with regards to available packages.

    I would suggest using a version of Ubuntu that has support for the Eeepc line. You can get the latest version of either Ubuntu Eee here:


    or Eeebuntu here:


    Ubuntu Eee is suppose to have more polish, but both have a Live USB option so you can "try before you buy". Loading either distro onto a USB pendrive is very easy if you use UNetbootin:


    They have installers for Windows and packages for Ubuntu and SuSE. UNetbootin also includes an automatic distro download mode, but I believe the Ubuntu modified distros are not included in the list.

    After you have installed either distro and [b]before you use the update manager[/b] I would switch to the array.org custom kernel that has been optimized for the Eeepc:


    Directions are listed on how to add array.org to the your repository list. Now your kernel will always be updated automatically and will always include all of the correct modules and settings.

    The entire process should take no longer than 1.0 to 2.0 hours to have a complete system including all software and drivers.


    Typing this right now on an Eeepc 701 with Eeebuntu 8.04 and the array.org custom kernel installed plus Compiz-fusion is enabled including some of the advanced plug-ins (cylinder, wallpaper, show mouse, enhanced zoom, etc.) from the Ubuntu PPA archives:

  • Side note!

    Dana, might try getting one of the u3 smart drives with open office on it. Very handy to have around when viewing and using documents from different sources. Works well for me and my childrens homework.
    • Those require Windows

      Those are win32 programs on the smart drives.
      Michael Kelly
  • That doesn't make sense.

    Isn't Star Office a retail, as in pay money for, office suite? Why would a laptop maker include it, and an outdated version at that, instead of Open Office? Good point Dana, check out the included applications before you buy. My assumption would be that for the Linux laptop all the usual suspects would be included.
  • Star Office didn't have RTF export?

    Email it to himself, drag it to the desktop then drag to USB. Stop and start SO so it refreshes devices, etc...?

    I am sure it was somewhat frustrating, but why would Windows get the same pass? Seriously, take a stock Vista machine and tell me you won't have to futze for an hour to make it go. :D

    Maybe he and you could have taken 15 minutes to review the computer and how it functioned?

    • RTF blows...

      Unless you do really simple formatting. Then again I never liked formatting in Open Office, of course I am spoiled on Word and I'm a pro at formatting Word documents. (custom tabs, indents, break before paragraph, vertical centering, etc...)
      • Nevertheless...

        RTF is supported by the older StarOffice and is damned near universally accepted. Tweaking the formatting after importing is vastly more efficient than typing it in all over again. And there's a good chance, given that it was a school assignment, that no reformatting would have been required.

        Another option would have been to export it to an older Word format (this is also supported by StarOffice versions at least back to version 5). The big mistake here on the part of the user was in not understanding anything about the portability of the many formats that were available to him. This is one thing that should be taught in any computer literacy class. Unfortunately, it's taught in practically none of them, as they simply <b>assume</b> homogeneity of the platform and the tools.
        • You answered for me, lol.

          On the homogenous front, I replied to an invoice I got from a company that was in 2007 OOXML. I copied not only the invoice creator but the sales person I worked with. Blindly sending out OOXML format invoices, apparently, thousands had complained, it was never brought up. Not only did they realize why so many were late in payments, they educated the person about the stupidity of non PDF invoices and I got 50% off my invoice cost. Not a bad deal at all.

          Well, if I am using Office 2007, isn't everyone? :D

      • Misses the point in this case.

        Export as RTF is certainly better than re-typing the whole thing. Also, why not save it as .doc, that would have worked.

        Dana, how old was this machine you got that had the old version of SO? Was there an update for it pending? Did they send you a year old prototype kind of thing?

        Just as an aside, been OO for years, just a different stroke, I find formatting in OO vastly simpler. Different strokes.

  • Crappy custom distros...

    Why does it seem like the vendors make crappy custom versions of distros instead of just putting the base distro on it. It doesn't seem like its making the system any easier to use. I guess we'll always have to rely on doing our own installs once we get the hardware.
    • Re: Crappy custom distros...

      "Why does it seem like the vendors make crappy custom versions of distros instead of just putting the base distro on it. It doesn't seem like its making the system any easier to use. I guess we'll always have to rely on doing our own installs once we get the hardware."

      Vendors add crapware to Windows which often impacts the performance and experience of users. Windows is normally blamed for this instead of the vendor. Why do you believe that vendors will behave in a different fashion for Linux (generic term) distros?