My gEeeky Experiment (Part 1)

January 4, 2020

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ASUS EeePC 701 c/o Red at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0]

Back around 2007 or so, the low-cost netbook debuted on the computing scene. Starting with the ASUS EeePC 701, you could get a very inexpensive laptop that was low-powered and could be used for very light web browsing and e-mail. It was meant to be a secondary device to your desktop or laptop computer. Following the release of the 701, many PC manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and came out with their own, competing netbooks. Unfortunately, due to poor marketing (especially in terms of the OS), Windows XP being shoehorned on them due to demand as a consequence of said poor marketing, and the introduction of Apple’s iPad, the netbook met its demise. The stigma from all those factors still lingers today when it comes to netbooks.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. Many people, especially Linux users at the time, flocked to these cheap devices because Linux ran so well on such meager hardware (4-16 GB SSD hard drive or a slightly larger spinning hard drive, 2 GB RAM maximum). They made great portable systems in spite of their cramped keyboards. I, myself, was one of those Linux users that was (and remains) a big fan of the netbook.

At around 2009, I finally bit the bullet and purchased a black ASUS EeePC 901. I absolutely LOVED this device and it became my main portable machine for home and work. I purchased the 1 GB RAM, 4+16 GB revision with Xandros Linux and, after a small stint with Xandros and becoming frustrated (just like those Windows users), I decided to back up everything, wipe the drives, and install Ubuntu (my distro of choice at the time). I don’t recall if everything worked out of the box, but it worked for the most part, even better than Xandros did. I even ran Slackware on it and it, too, worked very well. A few years later, I would test Fedora 13 on it and that would eventually become my distro of choice on the 901 until I upgraded to my Toshiba Portege M400. The 901 was then relegated to running Lubuntu and playing Pandora via pianobar for when I wanted to play music outside while grilling. Sometime around 2014, I started getting errors on the drive and never bothered to fix it since I was now using my old phone at the time (LG Optimus L9) as a media player. So, the EeePC 901 sat unused since then in storage with the hope of resolving that issue one day.

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The white EeePC 900a sent by my friend, still in the box.

Well, fast-forward to November 2019, and an old friend of mine sends me his old EeePC after I tooted an article on Mastodon regarding the EeePC and how I was hoping to resurrect the old 901. The package came and it was a white EeePC 900a, the predecessor to my 901. Though it arrived with a crack screen (possibly from delivery abuse), it didn’t matter since I planned to use it for parts, especially for it’s power adapter. At this point, I grabbed “ye olde 901” from storage, plugged it in, and fired it up. To my delight, it booted! However, it soon reminded me of why I stopped using it. Apparently, BTRFS (yup) had gotten corrupted and was spitting out errors. I decided to open it up and reseat everything, and that seemed to have resolved the problem (had I known to do that after all those years, but I digress). Happily and quickly, the Eee booted to Lubuntu 14.10, but it was high time to install something new.

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My black EeePC 901 sitting to the left of the white EeePC 900a sent by my friend.

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My EeePC 901 with the previously-installed Lubuntu 14.10.

Since I was already into the BSDs at this point (with OpenBSD being my preferred BSD), I decided to drop OpenBSD on it. Installation went through quite well as it did when I installed it on my Toshiba and on other systems at work. Since I don’t have anything similar to LVM in OpenBSD, I just used the 4 GB internal SSD for the root directory and the 16 GB removable SSD for my /home directory. Although Bluetooth wasn’t working (not supported in OpenBSD), everything else was detected perfectly and was working without issue. After performing the base installation, I managed to grab a list of installed packages from the Toshiba and used that with pkg_add to install everything I needed on the 901: Fluxbox, Firefox, irssi, Chocolate Doom, etc. One “doas sysupgrade -s” later and I was at the cutting edge of -current.

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OpenBSD 6.6 i386 installing on the EeePC 901.

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OpenBSD 6.6 i386 on the EeePC 901 with the FVWM window manager (default) and XTerm.

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OpenBSD on the EeePC 901, now with Fluxbox and my usual apps installed. Sysupgrade is running to upgrade the system to a 6.6-current snapshot.

So how did it perform, you ask? To all the people that have always shat on netbooks for performance, I fart in your general direction! 💨 😀

I was pleasantly surprised at how responsive the EeePC 901 was (relatively speaking, of course)! Granted, it’s not going to take trophies even when put up against my aging Toshiba Portege M400 and definitely not against my HP ProBook 4540s with a 3rd generation Core i3, but it holds its own. It’s a great little machine for SSHing to SDF or elsewhere, IRC, streaming radio, and a few other things, and its portability is unmatched for me. You can see for yourself at the link below.

https://imgur.com/KHJj8lK

Heck, even Firefox ran usably. Yes, Firefox! Of course, I can only run a maximum of two tabs, but even that is more than I expected from this 10-year-old, low-end laptop. So long as I can check my Mastodon timeline and view other web pages in the second tab, I’m happy.

As a final touch (now that it’s running a BSD), I added a RUNBSD sticker on the back of the screen to accompany the other existing stickers on it. I think it looks pretty sweet, especially sitting next to the Toshiba also running OpenBSD and showing off its RUNBSD sticker. 🐡

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The EeePC 901 proudly wearing the RUNBSD sticker (like the Toshiba to the left of it) on the back of the LCD screen along with all the other stickers already on there.

So, what of the 900a that my friend sent me? You’ll have to check back soon to find out! 😉

2 Responses to “My gEeeky Experiment (Part 1)”


  1. […] On my last post, I talked about how I installed OpenBSD on my old Asus EeePC 901 after receiving the EeePC 900a from my friend and left you wondering about the 900a. Well, wait no longer! […]


  2. […] you’ve read in my previous posts, I’ve revived my venerable and battle-scarred ASUS Eee PC 901 so I can have a really […]


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