Installing Fedora 11 on an ASUS Eee Box

Armijn Hemel, July 20, 2009, 7733 views.

The ASUS Eee Box is a nettop machine. Installing Linux on it is a bit of a challenge, because the machine does not have a DVD-player. With the right tools it is nevertheless quite easy.

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For years my dad has been working on an Pentium 4, installed with first Red Hat Linux and then Fedora (currently Fedora 11). While the machine still performs well and does everything my dad wants from a computer easily (mail, browse, listen to some music, edit some texts, play around with GIMP). (On a sidenote: it always strikes me as a absurd that low end machines are considered barely good enough to read mail, while they are much more powerful than high end machines from a few years back.)

The (rather bulky) machine has a few big drawbacks: it basically has two power modes: on and off. Even if it is idling it sucks as much power as it would be if the CPU is doing a lot of work. Since it is mostly in idle mode (and my dad likes to take a break often, leaving the machine on for quite a long time) this is a waste of energy, since the CPU can't run slower.

The other drawback is that it is noisy and the fan on that particular type of motherboard can't be regulated (again, just on or off).

Recently I got an ASUS Eee Box B206 and it seems like the ideal replacement: the Atom N270 CPU in the device can adapt its speed, so when it idles it runs at a lower speed, spilling less energy. It is also a lot more quiet and small and stylish white. The only drawback: it has no DVD player, so installing Fedora on it is a bit more difficult than normal. Because I did not have an external DVD player I decided to install via a USB stick.

On the Fedora project wiki you can find detailed information about how to do this (prepare to spend an hour or so to properly prepare the USB disk).

A few things I learned:

  • not all Atom CPUs are 64 bit, so you will have to use the i686 images.
  • before you change the boot order in the BIOS insert the USB disk first. It will see the USB mass storage device as a hard disk, so you will also have to change the disk order in the machine.
  • if you want to keep the Windows XP image (I did not, since it was a German Windows XP, don't ask) the resize tool in anaconda might not be the right choice. I managed to crash it a few times, taking the installer down as well. In the end I just wiped the disk, which I was intending to do anyway.

The rest of the installation went really smooth. All that is left is installing a big pile of updates, installing some extra software (MP3, videosoftware, flash, and so on) and transferring the data from the old machine. Kudos to the Fedora people for making it so easy.

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