The Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge: ToriOS

The Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge: ToriOS

Just when I think that there can’t be another Linux distro to fit on the tiny hard drive of the Asus EeePC 701 4G Surf, the Linux community surprises me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love it when DistroWatch adds a new distro to their database. Not too long ago they added a distro called ToriOS. THis is what caught my eye about ToriOS…

ToriOS is a Debian-based distribution which is designed to work on older computers, even 32-bit machines which do not support running PAE-enabled kernels.

I thought to myself, I have an almost 10-year-old computer that’s 32-bit that doesn’t support PAE kernels. Surely, it won’t be able to fit on the EeePC. Actually, it does, with room to spare. After installing the distro, there was close to 2GB of space left. That is of course without installing it without a swap drive.

Speaking of the installation, this is not a distro for beginners. The installation took me a coupe of tries before figuring out the installer. Also, it doesn’t come with what many would consider a normal web browser. It took me a couple of more tries before I was able to figure out how to get a browser installed. Once I did, Opera btw, it was not that bad. I was able to use Gmail with little to no issue. YouTube failed miserably but that’s more the problem with the EeePC rather than the ToriOS.

If you’re more used to Ubuntu I would recommend something more like Zorin Lite or wattOS. However if you like to experiment with Linux, Tori OS makes a great addition to the Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge family.

The Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge: wattOS 10


I almost thought about not doing the EEEpc challenge anymore. I was playing a video game and tried using the Surf to look something up about the game. The Surf was so slow to work that I thought that it’s not really a functional computer anymore. Not only is it a 9-year-old computer, but my low-end smart phone, the Moto-E, is more powerful than the first generation EEEpc. Not only that but recently, most Linux developers are only focusing on 64-bit architectures, while the 701 EEEpc has a 32-but processor.


Then the other day I was over at Distrowatch and saw that one of my favorite Linux distros for the 4G Surf had a new release recently and that would be watt OS 10. Watt OS and Zorin OS Lite have been trading the challenge crown back and forth for a couple of years now.

When I booted it for the first time I did have to use the forcepae trick to get it to boot into the desktop. While installing I once again used no swap space to get the distro to fit on the 4GB hard drive. After installing and running the updates, I still had over 800MB of space left. Unfortunately, I could not get the function keys to work correctly but that has been the case with most distros for a while now. The computer itself functions fine but by today’s standards it’s incredibly slow. While not as low as dial-up speeds it does have an issue loading modern products like GMail and Facebook.

So while wattOS is a very good lightweight distro for older computers, the Asus EEEpc 701 4G Surf is now just a historic oddity. Stay tuned however, because there will be a new Linux challenge coming shortly.

The Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge: Zorin OS 11 Lite


I’ve been a fan of the Zorin OS Linux distro for a while now. Their Core OS is a great Linux distro for those just getting into Linux if they’re coming from a Windows background. It’s also good for regular Linux users if you just want to install a distro and just have it work out of the box.

However today I want to talk about Zorin OS 11 Lite and my Asus EEEpc 701 4G Surf. The last time I tried running Zorin Lite on the limited laptop I ran out of hard drive space after doing all the updates. This time I installed it without using a swap partition. After the installation and updates there was roughly 300MB hard drive space left. I uninstalled some software that I felt was unnecessary for the EEEpc and when all was said in done I had close to half a GB of space left. Within recent years that’s a lot of space left over on 4GB hard drive.

It also not only looks great but works great as well. While you won’t be watching a ton of YouTube on it it’s great for casual web browsing and Facebook and the like. The only quibble I had is that the Fn keys weren’t responsive at all however you’ll still be able to use all the controls with no problem.

So for right now Zorin OS 11 Lite gets the slight nod over Watt OS as my favorite OS for my EEEpc.

Trench’s further adventures in Linux: wattOS returns for the Asus 4G challenge


I haven’t done a lot of Linux posts lately because I’m pretty set in my Linux ways now. I run Voyager on my laptop and I’ve given up on the EEE Box because it has a GPU that I think they got from a black and white television. Kids, ask your grandparents what a black and white TV is.

So that leaves the almost indestructible Asus EEE pc 701 4G Surf. If you’re not familiar with this brand of computer it was the first netbook. It’s so sturdy it feels like it was manufactured in a Soviet era factory. The problem is that it only has a 4GB hard drive so for the past few years I’ve been having more and more difficulty finding an operating system that will actually fit on it and function properly.

The champion of the challenge was wattOS with its Release 8 or R8 as they call it. We have a new champion although the new boss is the same as the old boss with wattOS’ R9 release. In R8 wattOS was based on Debian but with R9 they have returned to using Ubuntu at its core. Yes, I know Ubuntu is based on Debian. Save it for someone who sudo cares. THe problem with it being based on Ubuntu is that when you first try to boot into wattOS you’ll get the PAE kernel error message but there is a way around it.

After you download the ISO file install it to a USB stick using Unetbootin. At the start up screen his the esc key and select the USB drive. When the splash screen comes on hit the tab button and a string of text will come up. Follow step 4 here except for the part where you press F6 because we’ve used tab instead. While installing wattOS keep the swap space on the hard drive as small as possible. I believe I only gave it like 256MB for swap. Once it’s installed you should have at least 1GB of storage space left.

As good as wattOS is it’s not a miracle worker. These days due to the limitations of the once mighty Surf it can only be used for the most basic of browsing. If you use GMail you’ll have to use the basic HTML version and forget about YouTube altogether. Streaming music might be ok because I was able to use Google Music with not much difficulty.

So while the useful days of the EEE pc 701 may be coming to an end someday soon wattOS makes it serviceable as an emergency use computer.

Trench’s adventures in Linux: Zorin OS 9 Lite takes the EEE PC challenge


Recently Zorin OS released the Lite version of their Ubuntu based Linux distro. It is intended for older and low powered computers so I was anxious to see how it would fare on my Asus EEE PC 701 4G Surf. For those of you new to this feature the 4G means it only has a 4GB hard drive.

The good news is that it Zorin OS 9 Lite does fit on the 4GB hard drive after install. The bad news is there’s not enough hard drive space left to do any updates.

However if you have an older or low-powered computer that is in need of repurposing that has a hard drive larger than 4GB I would highly recommend Zorin OS 9 Lite. Zorin always makes a solid distro without a steep learning curve for new users. OS 9 Lite is no different.

Trench's Adventures in Linux: The Android Desktop Experience


The other day I found a Linux distro that is supposed to turn your PC into an Android device. Not only that but the distro had a variation just for EEE PCs. So I fired up the old 4G Surf and installed this particular distro.

It installed fine and there was plenty of space left on the hard drive. As for the Android portion of it GMail took forever to load, YouTube refused to work and Chrome would crash upon launching.

So it’s exactly like Android.

Trench's further adventures in Linux: SalentOS and wattOS


I have two new Linux recommendations for you this week.

The first one is SalentOS, a distro from Italy based on the long-term support (LTS) releases of Ubuntu. The one I tested was based on Lubuntu 12.04 although 14.04 is coming out in just a few days. I tried the version that comes with the Razor-qt desktop. I think this is a great distro for older or under-powered computers. I’m using it right now on my Asus EEEBox 1007 which is 32 bit, Intel Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM and a crappy GPU. SalentOS is the fastest distro I have ever used on this computer. My only complaints aren’t with SalentOS itself but with Razor-qt. Not really a complaint as much as I couldn’t figure out how to get icons on the desktop without the Icon View plugin. I found that didn’t work like a normal desktop. Again that may just may be my ignorance. My benchmarks for distros are YouTube and Google+ because between the Flash of YouTube and the Ajax of Google+ they can choke a crappy GPU. You Tube was a little choppy but watchable Google+ while still slow was usable. SalentOS get’s a definite thumbs up from me.


The second distro I want to talk about is wattOS. But before we get to that I have to update you on The Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge. (Insert fanfare here). The last Surf Champion, PCLinuxOS, had to be removed because it had no sound. I’m sure I could have tracked down 7-year-old forum threads to see how to fix this but as I get older I get less patient with that crap. Then I did an alternate install of Lubuntu 14.04. This was good because as of 14.04 you can install without the PAE kernel. Lubuntu was nice but it always leaves me underwhelmed even for an EEEpc. Then wattOS announced that they had released version 8, or Release 8 (R8) as they call it. I’ve used wattOS on the EEEpc many times before until I started having the PAE kernel issues. However with R8 they were no longer based on Ubuntu but on Ubuntu’s grand-daddy, Debian. Installation was smooth as silk as long as you keep the swap partition small. Had over 1GB of hard drive space left over after installation. The only problem I had was that Update Manager and GDebi didn’t recognize my root password. You can get around this by opening those apps in the terminal. While wattOS is the current Surf Champion I would not recommend it for beginners, while I’m no Linux expert I could see new users having an issue.

UPDATE 5/18/2014: As Biff from wattOS mentioned in the comments you can correct the root password problem by entering the command ‘gksu-properties’ in a terminal and changing the top menu entry from ‘su’ to ‘sudo’.

Thanks again Biff.

The Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge: PCLinuxOS LXDE 2014 Desktop


Yes it has been two years since I’ve done the EEE PC Challenge. For those of you new to the site I have an Asus EEE PC 701 4G Surf. It was the first generation of netbooks. The problem with it is that it only has a 4GB hard drive and the Linux distro that came with it not only sucked but was never updated as far as I know. So in the years that I’ve had it I’ve always been looking for Linux distros that will fit on the small hard drive and work decently.

The reason I haven’t done one of these in two years is for a number of reasons. The first is that most Linux distros, including a lot that bill themselves as being lightweight, don’t fit on the tiny hard drive of the aging computer. The second reason is that current Ubuntu based distros, which I prefer, have what’s called a PAE Kernel in them and the Surf has a non-PAE processor. The last reason is that I uh…kind of misplaced my Surf for a last few months. However, I have since found it and I have installed a decent OS on the computer but it took a while for me to get in on there.

Anyway, Like I’ve mentioned I prefer Ubuntu based distros since Ubuntu is one of the most widely based Linux distros in the world but the PAE issues made that virtually impossible. So I took a step out of my comfort zone and went to a distro that I hadn’t used in years and was one of the first distros to work properly with the EEE pc 701, PCLinuxOS. It’s a distro that was forked from the late lamented Mandriva which was also a kick ass distro in its day.

The problem was getting it installed. Normally I download the distro then install it on a USB drive using Unetbootin. During the initial boot I couldn’t get it to load with the terminal saying that the iso file couldn’t be mounted. I searched all over Google on how to resolve the issue and I kept being directed to PCLinuxOS’ own USB installer. The problem with that was that you needed PCLinuxOS already running on one computer. Tried installing it on my test rig which is also an Asus, it still couldn’t mount the ISO. Tried it on my Asus laptop (Detecting a trend yet?) Still couldn’t boot it properly. So here’s what I did.

What you’ll need is a blank CD, a computer with an optical drive and at least two USP ports, and two USB drives of at least 2GB each.

So after downloading the ISO I burned it to a CD and I also put the ISO on one of the USB drives. I booted into the CD which worked like a charm. I then started PCLinuxOS’ USB installer. At the right prompt I put in the empty USB drive. It will then ask you for a cop of the ISO. At that point I attached the USB drive with ISO on it and selected the ISO. This installed the OS onto the empty USB drive which I was then able to use to install the OS to the Surf.

It works great for the limited processing power and leaves 700mb in free drive space. You can always remove any applications that you do not use, within reason. You must use the version with the LXDE desktop or it may not fit on the Surf 4G.

The Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge: Mint 12 LXDE and Zorin 6 Lite


Two new Linux distros were released recently that I thought would be worthy for the Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge. For those of you who are new I have a Asus EEEpc 701 4g Surf netbook. It is basically the first and in my opinion the best generation of netbooks although the 4GB hard drive leaves a lot to be desired but without that small disk space there would be no challenge.

Our first contestant is Linux Mint 12 LXDE version. I always have been a huge supporter of Linux Mint and I even used Mint 11 LXDE on the Asus for a good while. However the good news ends there as Mint 12 LXDE comes in at over 4GB. This is not to say anything bad about Mint. They make some of the best distros out there.

Also released recently was the LXDE version of my most recent favorite distro, Zorin OS.They recently released Zorin OS 6 Lite. To be honest I don’t see a whole lot of difference from 5 but this is a winning distro.

Installed with no problem. Still had almost a GB of space left over after the install. Boot time is crazy fast. Comes with Chromium rather than Chrome as the default browser which I really like.

So as of now Zorin OS 6 Lite is the current Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge Champion.

On a side note about Zorin, they are holding back the release of Zorin OS 6 Core until they can find a desktop to their liking. With the current state of desktops in Linux I say take as much time as you want.

The Asus 4G Surf Linux Challenge Returns


So my Asus EEEpc 701 4G Surf came out of active duty recently. So I’ve been able to see if I can find any Linux distros that would not only fit on the 4GB hard drive bit would work well also.

At first I went to my standby and installed Zorin OS 5 Lite. I had Version 4 on it before and it worked great. However after I installed 5 the OS crashed and was unrecoverable. That was not good.

Next I tried Lubuntu since most if not all the Linux distros I used are Ubuntu-based.

I really wanted to love Lubuntu. It had a clean and slick desktop and worked great while in live mode. Unfortunately Lubuntu required 5.6 GB of disk space. Not an option here.

Next, I went back to an old stand by of mine Watt OS. Back in the day Watt OS could fit on my 2G Surf. That means it could fit on a 2GB hard drive. Once again Watt OS did not disappoint me.

After installation and updates there was still over 1GB Of space left. It has an almost identical desktop to Lubuntu which I liked a lot. At first I had a problem with the wifi connecting automatically but after a couple of restarts that’s also working perfectly. Most importantly Watt OS actually recognizes the EEEpc’s battery correctly. Most distros keep trying to tell me that the battery is almost dead when it’s fully charged.

So for right now the Asus EEEpc 701 4G Surf Linux Champion is Watt OS.

Is there any distro you would like to see go through the challenge?