Monday, June 02, 2008

The EEE PC Day 1

I was walktzing down the hall today at the hospital past the supply man with a cart of stuff, and he had something for me. My EEE PC had arrived a full four days ahead of schedule. As busy as this day was I still managed to find some time to play with my new toy.

Out of the box, I was pretty impressed with this little device. I have the 4G Surf model which has the smallest screen and keyboard of the bunch, but with 4GB of SSD flash versus 2GB. The default Operating System was "not bad", but it had all the makingd of kids computer. If Webkinz made an OS it would probably look a little like that. There were great big buttons spread amongst four tabs or so for launching applications. These ranged from Instant Messaging and multimedia stuff to limited "work" applications like Abiword. If this was the OS you were stuck with, these little machines would have never taken off.

Within 10 minutes or so I had decided that I was ready for a real operating system. With that, I got a copy of eeeXubuntu and ran through an installation. It was a bit cumbersome because I was unable to boot to my external CD-ROM drive as I had hoped. Instead, I had to use a thumbdrive to install from. This involved getting everything off my thumbdrive and creating a backup with 'dd'. Then I booted up to the eeeXubuntu live disc using a PC on my desk. Next I repartitioned and formatted my thumbdrive as a FAT16 drive - and ran a script from the CD-ROM to create a bootable and installable thumbdrive. From there - the install to my EEE PC was cake.

While the installation took the better part of an hour, once it was complete I was quite impressed with the speed. Booting seemed to take less than 30 seconds or so, and running applications was pretty pleasing. I've never spent much time using the default window manager 'xfce' but I will probably hold onto it a while. It's very thin, and there's not much eye candy. But the speed that you get is amazing.

With a good functional OS I tempted fate and installed all available updates. I did not do the 'dist-upgrade' as I have heard that certain things will be broken if you move up to the hardy release (current eeeXubunt runs gutsy 7.10). My updates finished at 5:00PM and I was out the door.

Since then, it's been a battle getting kismet installed. I am anxious to get back to wardriving but a wifi scanning app is essential. There are all sorts of issues with Kismet, madwifi, and the eee PC in general. From what I have read, people have got it working by mising new and old libraries and deb packages. I'm not sure I like that idea, so I have stuck to attempts. I got the latest Kismet source and built it pretty easily. It runs, detects my card, and gives no complaints ... but then it doesn't display anything. Of course, it also cripples the wireless driver which is rather typical for putting a device into monitor mode. Doing some more reading I found someone had posted a command to put things back in order and save a reboot ... 'wlanconfig ath0 create wlandev wifi0 wlanmode sta'.

And now, as I get ready for bed I thought "why not break this thing in and Blog a bit". The keyboard is definitely awkward being so small ... but the first keyboard I ever used was a lot like this (TRS-80 Color Computer). I think the 3-Com Audrey keyboard was also about this size. I'm probably chucking out typos a-plenty - but fuck spell checking. There also seems to be some running joke about finding punctuation marks on this thing, but since it's marked so well - it shouldn't take you any more than 10 minutes to become acustomed to the layout.

I look forward to the adventures I will have with this little toy.

*EDIT* It's tough to go to bed with a job unfinsihed. After reading a few entries to the Kismet mailing list, I found that my madwifi driver needed an option to be passed to it at the time it is loaded for Kismet to run properly. I will spare you the bloody details. If you are interested however, you can read this post from the eeeuser.com forums.

Tomorrow - we wardrive.

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