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Bits from the Eee PC team, Spring 2009

We’re pleased that Lenny released with good support for the Eee PC and are now turning our efforts to make Squeeze even better, while continuing to provide support for our Lenny user base.
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Lenny well supported

We’re pleased that Lenny released with good support for the Eee PC
and are now turning our efforts to make Squeeze even better, while
continuing to provide support for our Lenny user base. The standard
Lenny installer can install Debian on all models of Eee and our
[1]custom installer provides the ability to install over wireless for
almost every model (more about this later) from a very small image.
The latter continues to be our recommended install method, since in
addition to being wireless-ready, the custom installer also handles a
few other small eee-specific configuration chores to make as much as
possible “just work” right after the install.

Solid mainstream support

We’ve made good on our promise to make Debian work on the Eee PC,
not a derivative, many of which use a custom kernel instead of the
stock kernel as we do and use a special desktop instead of our users’
favourites. While we agree that some intriguing things can be done
in these areas, it is no substitute for mainstream support. Our
users are better served by a solid foundation than specialised
modifications that limit their choices. We want them to be able to
enjoy the freedom to mold Debian, the universal OS, into whatever
suits them best.

Squeeze support started

Work is well underway on supporting all Eee models in Squeeze. For
months, several team members have been experimenting with new
kernels, producing support for them in eeepc-acpi-scripts. The
current release of this key package (version 1.1.0) supports Linux
2.6.29 and contains enhancements for wifi, sound hotkeys, bluetooth,
external displays and OSD.

Squeeze will support wired & wifi on all current models

With the appearance of 2.6.29 in Sid, all ethernet and wifi cards
used in all models of Eee today are supportable without the need for
out-of-kernel or non-free drivers. Madwifi is replaced by the free
ath5k driver, the non-free rt2860 package is replaced by mainstream
kernel support, (though it still requires non-free firmware provided
separately,) rtl8187se is included, making it possible now for us to
support the model 701SD, and ath9k is included, making full support
for newer models such as the 1000HE possible.

Lenny backports and live demo

All of these changes can be enjoyed today by Lenny users. Just add
Daniel Baumann’s Lenny kernel backport repository and then install
the 2.6.29 kernel and an updated acpid. See our [2]upgrade howto for
details. You can try a small (less than 256M) demo of this
configuration by downloading beta 2 of our [3]Live USB image.

Accessibility

Late last year, [4]we discussed how to make it easier for the blind
to install Debian unassisted on their Eee PCs. As it was a simple
change, we now include brltty in the custom installer, but we
understand that some users also need software synthesized
text-to-speech, something for which there is no support yet in the
standard Debian-installer. We understand this isn’t an easy thing to
fix, but hope someone will rise to the challenge.

Growing team of developers

We welcome Darren Salt and Raphael Geissert to the team this year.
Both have been actively [5]making contributions to the
eeepc-acpi-scripts package over the past months, fixing some
outstanding bugs and readying it to handle changes in more recent
kernel releases.

Moved eeepc.debian.net to new hosting

Nico Golde, who hosted eeepc.debian.net for the first year
development, has turned his focus to other areas of Debian. Glenn
Saberton has stepped in to provide a new home for it. We thank them
both for their efforts and for a smooth, uneventful transition from
one host to the other.

Size of user community

Speaking of the move, earlier this year, Glenn shared with us some
interesting archive traffic statistics that give us a rough idea how
many users we have. For the months of December and January, after
factoring out bot hits, we were seeing about 300,000 hits from 15,000
unique users per month. The site handles roughly 60G of traffic per
month, most of that from thousands of downloads of our custom
installer image. It’s hard to draw any firm conclusions about the
size of our user base from these stats, as many users may be on
dynamic IP numbers, inflating the numbers, but we can conservatively
say we have at least 5000 users. Other interesting statistics are
that we have anywhere up to 80 users at any given time on our irc
channel and over 250 users on the mailing list.

Help wanted

The Asus Eee PC line continues to expand, with [6]24 models listed
so far. It is a challenge to keep up support for all of them. We’re
encouraged to see Asus choose a new b/g/n wifi chipset for their
[7]1002HA that is supported by a DFSG free driver — ath9k in this
case. It appears that the new Atom N280-based 1000HE uses the same
chipset as well (though be careful: I know of at least one user who
bought a 1000HE in Argentina expecting it to have this chipset and
was disappointed to find it had the Ralink chipset instead, we guess
because of availability). If this trend continues, we’ll be that
much closer to our goal of full support for Squeeze main. As it
stands, we’re already as close as we can get given the state of
rt2860 and no prospect on the horizon for replacing the non-free
firmware.

If you would like to help us out in any way, whether by testing,
debugging, patching, or improving our documentation, get in touch
with [8]our team. We rely on your feedback to keep Lenny in good
shape and work towards making Squeeze even better for all users of
Debian on the Eee PC.

1. http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEeePC/HowTo/Install
2. http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEeePC/HowTo/Upgrade
3. http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEeePC/Live
4. http://lists.alioth.debian.org/pipermail/debian-eeepc-devel/2008-December/001683.html
5. http://git.debian.org/?p=debian-eeepc/eeepc-acpi-scripts.git;a=shortlog
6. http://event.asus.com/eeepc/comparison/eeepc_comparison.htm
7. http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEeePC/Model/1002HA
8. http://wiki.debian.org/Teams/DebianEeePC

Ben
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