Acer Aspire One

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Acer Aspire One

The Acer Aspire One is an Intel Atom based netbook with Intel 945 GME graphics. The native resolution of the 8.9" screen is 1024x600 pixels, and uses an Atheros 5007EG wireless chipset and Realtek 8101 wired NIC. Acer offers several different versions, mixing Linux, Windows XP, SSD drives, and conventional hard drives.

A new 10.1" version released in Feb 2009 has the same screen resolution and internal hardware, so these tips will also apply.

Installation

Since the netbook lacks an optical drive, Mepis must be installed either from a LiveUSB key or an external USB optical drive. Mepis 8 is recommended for its hardware support and ability to create a LiveUSB with the Mepis System Assistant. The XP hard drive version ships with a smaller emergency XP restore partition and a main Windows partition. It's recommended that you shrink the XP partition if you wish to dual-boot, then use GParted to create an extended primary partition in the free space. This will allow you to create logical partitions inside it, so you can have separate /root, /home, and swap partitions without going over the limit of four primary partitions. This is not really necessary if you decide to use the whole disk for Mepis.

As of version 312, Mepis 8 rc3, and AntiX 8, the Unetbootin utility can also create Mepis and Antix Live USB keys, both in Linux and in Windows. I recommend you first download the ISO, then install it to the key with Unetbootin.

The Intel Atom 270 used in this netbook is a single-core hyperthreaded 32-bit processor. The standard Mepis SMP enabled kernel is used to take advantage of the hyperthreading, which means it will appear to the OS to have two CPU cores. The 64 bit version of Mepis won't run on this netbook.

Graphics

Mepis 7 will not natively support the Intel 945 GME graphics chipset, running only in 800x600 VESA mode with non-accelerated graphics. It's possible to get the "intel" driver to work, but only by upgrading to the Lenny versions of the driver and libmesa-gl, and using the Lenny 2.6.26 kernel.

Mepis 8 will boot to the correct native resolution of 1024x600 and supply hardware-accelerated 3D graphics using the "intel" driver.

You can avoid video "tearing" while watching videos by using the M8 community repository version of SMPlayer and MPlayer, and using the xv: Intel overlay driver in SMPlayer. Kaffeine also offers this option in its settings for the Xine engine, use xvinfo in a terminal to determine the xv overlay port number.

Sound

Sound on the Intel HDA chip works out of the box with Mepis 8 with the ALSA drivers built into the kernel. The most recent versions of the ALSA sound drivers have specific support for the AA1; the tweak is "model=acer-aspire". You can upgrade to a newer ALSA version and apply the tweak if necessary; one problem this fixed was loss of sound after suspend to RAM. Installable .debs of updated ALSA drivers are available in Package Sharing at forum.mepiscommunity.org

Wireless LAN

Support for the Atheros 5007EG wifi chipset in Mepis 8 is provided by either the madwifi-modules package (driver name is ath-pci, or ath_pci, either one works), or the ath5k driver built into the kernel. You may have to unload both with rmmod as root, then use modprobe drivername to load your selected driver. Either one will work, but there may be some trouble under heavy load on the chipset, such as Bittorrent. As of March 2009, the ath5k driver updated per the section below seems to have fixed the dropout problem under heavy loads.

Example commands: (unload both drivers, then reloads ath5k)

su
<password>
modprobe -r ath-pci
modprobe -r ath5k
modprobe ath5k

You may have to add the unwanted driver to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist, and add the one you wish to use to /etc/modules, to get just the right one to load at boot.

Right now, the ath5k driver is under heavy development, and the latest versions can be installed by downloading and compiling the driver source tarballs from linuxwireless.org. This will get the LED working for the wifi, and fix other issues you may not have been aware of. The drivers take quite a while to build and install on the AA1; over an hour at least.

If you are using the madwifi driver, the wifi LED can be made to work by adding the following two lines to /etc/sysctl.conf:

dev.wifi0.ledpin=3
dev.wifi0.softled=1

This can be tested immediately by executing

sysctl -p

Though Knetworkmanager will work with mnetwork set to Automatic, I prefer to set it to Manual and use Wicd, which is available in the ML community repository.

Wired LAN

Works out of the box in Mepis 7 and 8, supported by the r8169 driver.

Power Management

Suspend to RAM and to disk should work well out of the box. Suspend to RAM loses only a couple of percent of battery charge per hour. Dynamic CPU scaling between 800 MHz and 1.6 GHz, plus pinning the CPU speed to the maximum or minimum, works correctly with Kpowersave.

To enable a "sleepy Tux" hibernation splash screen with progress bar, run

su -c 'dpkg-reconfigure uswsusp'

Just accept all the defaults. Use tab to change the highlight position (but don't change any options!) and "Enter" to "press" the highlighted key. The AA1 will grind away a while as it rebuild the initrd.gz file when you are through.

Fan Control

By default, then fan runs constantly. This wastes power and can be noisy. There is now a kernel driver to control the fan, and a prebuilt version plus source is [1].

Keyboard Hot Keys

Screen brightness and other <Fn> hot keys work out of the box. To get the volume hot keys working, go to Control Center: Regional & Accessibility: Keyboard Layout and choose "Acer Laptop" as the keyboard model.


USB Drive Issue

Flash and other USB drives will not mount correctly, instead sending the CPU to 100% usage.

This is fixed by manually creating folders in /mnt for possible flash drives and partitions, such as sdb, sdb1, sdb2, sdc, sdc1, sdc2, and so on. Then edit /etc/fstab as root and add entries for each of these mount points above the dynamic entries line.

Examples of lines to add:

/dev/sdb /mnt/sdb vfat,ext3,ext2 noauto,users,exec 0 0
/dev/sdc /mnt/sdc vfat,ext3,ext2 noauto,users,exec 0 0
/dev/sdb1 /mnt/sdb vfat,ext3,ext2 noauto,users,exec 0 0
/dev/sdc1 /mnt/sdc vfat,ext3,ext2 noauto,users,exec 0 0

and so on.

Other Tips and Tricks

The coretemp module supplied in the Mepis 8 kernel does not yet recognize the Atom CPU. It is possible to replace the coretemp.ko file with a patched version; this will enable programs such as Kima and Ksensors to monitor the CPU temperature.

  • Link to thread with instructions and prebuilt modules.
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