Posts Tagged ‘Eee PC 900’

Fixing Wifi on the Eee PC 900: Part 2

December 11, 2009

My Eee PC has been humming along nicely for the past couple of months.  Things were going so smoothly that I didn’t have anything to write about.  That is, until now.  I just returned from a trip to San Jose, California.  I was preparing to catch up on my email while I watched the evening news and then it happened.  My Eee PC would no longer connect to my home network.

This problem was a quite different from the WiFi problem I wrote about previously.  In this case, my working configuration suddenly broke.  This is not susposed to happen.  There must be a good explanation but, I must find it first.

The first thing I noticed was that my Eee PC was not showing my Wireless access point on the wireless networks list.  Instead, the only network I could see was an unsecure network called Linksys.  Now it is not unusual for me to be able to see a neighbor’s access point but what was strange was I could not see mine.
I then decided to re-check the configuration file changes I made earlier to make the Eee PC connect in the first place.  The /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf_MINE file I generated appeared to be generic so I couldn’t imagine it was causing the problem.  The other file I made changes to was the /etc/network/interfaces file.  Below the portion of this file that deals with the connection to my wireless network.

iface lan2 inet manual
    down dhclient3 -r -pf /var/run/dhclient.$ -lf /var/run/dhclient.$IFACE.leases $IFACE
    down ifconfig $IFACE down
    up cp /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf_MINE /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf.ath0
    up wpa_cli -p /var/tmp/wpa_supplicant reconfigure
    up ifconfig $IFACE up
    up dhclient3 -cf /etc/dhcp3/dhclient.$LOGICAL.conf -pf /var/run/dhclient.$ -lf /var/run/dhclient.$IFACE.leases $IFACE
    wireless-channel 6
    wireless-essid Denkigai
    wireless-key bd8a577135194ff49b51b0602355b252ffd89827c07f477a659c498d0c1c93eb
    wireless-keymode open
    wireless-mode auto
    wireless-rate auto
    xncs-wireless-encryption wpa

Looking at the wireless configuration, my thought process went something like this:

  • I know the SSID of my wireless router did not change (it is still Denkigai)
  • I know the encryption type didn’t change (is is still WPA2-PSK)
  • I know the wireless key didn’t change (it is too long to type here again)
  • What else could have changed?  Doh, the wireless channel

 I brought up the diagnostic page from my wireless router and sure enough, it was now broadcasting on channel 1.  Light bulb moment!  I then realized that we had a power outage a couple of nights ago.  The router probably picked a new, presumably clear channel when it came up again.  I knew there was a good explanation.  I went ahead and edited the interfaces file and changed the wireless-channel to 1 and sure enough, the Eee PC connected.  I then wondered to myself why I specified the wireless channel at all.  I had no problem connecting to public hot-spots without specifying the channel.  So I did one final experiment and removed the wireless-channel line all together.  I restarted the PC and once again, it connected automatically.  Problem solved!

Moral of the story:  When setting up a wireless internet connection, do not specify a wireless channel unless you have a specific reason to do so.

Could a hard coded wireless channel explain the WiFi Problems on the Road incident?  Perhaps.

The Denki-Guy


Eee PC: WiFi Problems on the Road

October 16, 2009

I took my Eee PC on its first road trip last weekend.  Things didn’t go exactly as expected; Eee PC wise that is.  For those of you who are not regular readers of my blog, I would like to point out that this discussion pertains to the Linux version of the Eee PC.

Like most NetBook owners, one of the things that attracted me to the Eee PC was the portability.  I was looking forward to traveling with a computer that was no heavier or larger than a hardback novel.  I already knew that my hotel, favorite coffee shop and favorite book store at my destination had free WiFi.  It was time to say goodbye to that back ache I always developed when I traveled with my older laptop computer.

The first hint of trouble came even before I started my trip.  While I was waiting around at the Seattle airport, I decided to check my emails.  Strangely enough, the Eee PC could not see any wireless access points.  I didn’t give it much thought at the time as it was time to pack up and board the plane.  A few hours later I had arrived at my destination and checked into my hotel.  I was eager to get on line and check my email as I was off line for nearly eight hours.

I imagine that some of you are thinking, if the Denki-Guy wants to stay connected, why doesn’t he use a smart phone for email?  That is a good question and the answer is simple.  The Denki-Guy is cheap.  Back when I used my phone more, monthly bills in excess of $200 were not unusual.  This seemed excessive to me, especially when free WiFi is available at more and more places.  I have seen free WiFi advertised at coffee shops, book stores, car dealers, medical offices, beauty salons and more.  I generally have no problem checking my emails every couple hours or so.

Now back to my story.  Soon after I dropped my bags in my room, I pulled out my Eee PC and booted.  It typically takes about a minute before I see that little balloon that says, “Wireless Networks Detected.”  I waited patiently for two and then three minutes.  Nothing.  I tried to create a new network connection from scratch but when it came time to select a wireless network from the list, no networks could be found.  Expletive deleted!

That evening I tried a number of things to get my wireless connection to work.  I tried rebooting.  I tried cleaning out old connections.  I tried going to other locations within the hotel.  I tried going to a book store with free wireless.  Nothing worked.  Finally, the hotel lent me a gaming adapter that converted WiFi to a wired network connection.  I was finally on line.

My tale of woe is still not over.  The next morning, I awoke my Eee Pc from sleep mode and it seems that the wired connection had failed also.  The log told me that the network stack never received an IP address from DHCP.  More expletives deleted.  I didn’t have time to dwell on the topic though, I had meetings to attend.

Now here comes the strange part.  I arrived back at my hotel some 12 hours later and I was determined to get to the bottom of this problem.  I booted up the Eee PC and I was shocked when I saw the Wireless Networks Detected balloon appear.  I chose a network that had 100% signal strength and within seconds I had a wireless connection.  What is going on?

During the rest of my trip, the WiFi connection on the Eee PC worked fine.  I added connections for the book store, coffee shop and airport access points.  Once and a while, I would get a message that the Eee Pc could not connect to a certain access point but after chosing re-connect in the Networks control, I would get a connection.

I wish I could tell you what is going on but I don’t know for sure.  In theory, this is a computer and it should work the same way every time.  In reality, most modern computer systems act like organic systems; they are so complex that it is extremely difficult to figure out what exactly is going on.  In this case, I suspect a startup race condition (read timing problem).  For some reason, a certain process does not start up which causes problems with all the components with dependencies.

What to do if you no wireless networks are found (but you know an access point is indeed available)

  1. Restart the computer and try again.
  2. Turn the computer off, wait a minute or so and try again.
  3. Turn the computer off, unplug the AC adapter, remove the battery, let the computer cool down 5 minutes or more, reassemble everything and try again.

The next time this happens, I will take some more time to try to figure out which process is not starting up correctly.  If I can pinpoint the problem, I will post a better solution to this problem.

The Denki-Guy

Changing the Computer Name of your Eee PC

October 3, 2009

The Denki-Guy has been using his new Eee PC 900, Linux model for a couple months now.  After a number of configuration changes documented in these pages, I have my little NetBook working nicely.  Yet … there is one thing that was still bugging me.  Using my Windows system, when go to View workgroup computers (from My Network Places), my NetBook is advertised as follows:  “asus-505051062 server (Asus Eee PC) (asus-505051062)”.  I’m not kidding.  Now you know why it has been bugging me.

This long name comes from two places: the Computer Name and the Samba server string.

Computer Name is a generic term for the name used to identify you computer on the network.  In Unix/Linux, host name is used instead of computer name.  The host name of my computer, before I made the change, was “asus-505051062”.  I imagine that  Asus generates the number portion of the name at their factory to give each Eee PC a unique name.  Thank you for the good work Asus but it is now time to select a new host name.  A host name consists of 1 to 15 alphanumeric (A-Z, a-z, 0-9) characters with no spaces or special characters other than hyphen (-).  There is a good article from Microsoft on naming conventions.  It would be good idea to read the “Best practices” section before choosing a name.

The Samba server string is the “asus-505051062 server (Asus Eee PC)” portion of the NetBook advertisement.  You have probably noticed that the host name appears in the server string.  This was done intentionally.  I know this by looking at these lines in the Samba configuration file, smb.conf.

# server string is the equivalent of the NT Description field
   server string = %h server (Asus Eee PC)

Note the %h in the server string.  The percent sign preceeding a single character represents a Samba server variable.  In this particular case %h represents the DNS hostname.  The Server variables are a way to insert machine specific information into the configuration file.  You do not need to include the host name in the server string but you can is you want.  A list of all the server variables can be found in table 6-2 of this document.  I tried to find some information on maximum string length or disallowed characters for the server string but I could not find anything specific.  That said, I think it is best to keep this string brief.

Now that you have all the background, let’s go to work.

Changing the host name (Computer Name)

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + T on the keyboard to bring up a terminal  screen.
  2. Type sudo xedit /etc/hostname  ENTER in the terminal window.  A xedit window will appear.
  3. Delete the old name and enter the new host name you have chosen.  The new host name I chose was “netbook-101"
  4. Click on the xedit Savebutton twice.  Close xedit.
  5. Type exit ENTER in the terminal screen to close the window.

Changing the Samba server string

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + T on the keyboard to bring up a terminal  screen.
  2. Type sudo xedit /etc/samba/smb.conf  ENTER in the terminal window.  A xedit window will appear.
  3. Look for the line that says server string = %h server (Asus Eee PC)
  4. Change the right side of the server string assignment to reflect the new string you chose.  In my case server string = My White Eee PC 900.
  5. Click on the xedit Save button twice.  Close xedit.
  6. Type exit ENTER in the terminal screen to close the window.
  7. Restart the Eee PC.

After your Eee PC reboots, wait a minute or so and then from your Windows PC go to My Network Places -> View workgroup computers.  You should see both the new server string and the machine name on the page.  My Eee PC is now advertised as “My White Eee PC 900 (Netbook-101)”.  Note how Windows did me a favor and capitalized the first letter in Netbook.  I double checked and indeed, the computer name on the Eee PC side is all lower case.

The Denki-Guy

Folder sharing problems on the Eee PC

September 30, 2009

In my previous blog entry on Sharing Folders with Windows XP Computers, I talk about how easy it is to share files over the network between Windows computers and an Eee PC.  Yet, we all know that few things are as simple as they appear.  Sharing files over the network is no exception.  I would like to share some solutions to problems I have encountered while using the File Manager program on my Eee PC 900 running Xandros Linux.

  • The workgroup name does not appear when I double-click on the Windows Network icon.

Highlight the Windows Networkicon and then refresh the view by clicking the refresh icon, pressing F5 or selecting Refresh from the View menu.

  • When I double-click on the workgroup icon, the only computer I can see on the network is the Eee PC.

Sometimes it will take a couple minutes for all the computers to showup in the workgroup view.  This is not an issue with the Eee PC but simply the way Windows works.  I see the same thing immediately after I reboot one of Windows PCs.

  • I have waited many minutes and one of my Windows PCs still doesn’t show up in the workgroup view.

I found that exiting the File Manager and relaunching generally helps.

  • When I double-click on the icon to one of my Windows computers I get a “No route to host” error.

Most likely, the Windows Firewall is not set to allow file sharing.  Go to the Control Panel and open the Windows Firewall control. Click on the Exceptions tab and check the box for File and Printer Sharing and click OK.

  • When I double-click on the icon to one of my Windows computers, I am asked for a user name and password.

Assuming you have not done anything fancy with shared folder permissions, chances are that you have not enabled folder sharing on the Windows PC.  This is different issue from the one with the Firewall.  Microsoft recommends that file sharing be enabled using the Network Setup Wizard which can be launched from the Control Panel page.

  • When I try to open the Shared Documents folder on my Windows PC from my Eee PC, I am asked for a user name and password.

The Shared Documents folder is intended for sharing documents with other users of the same computer, not other users on the network.  If you want to share a folder that also appears in Shared Documents, go to My Computer and navigate to the folder you want to share.  See these instructions from Microsoft on how to share a folder.

Joining the EEE PC to a Windows Workgroup

September 21, 2009

If your Eee PC is already running Windows, joining a workgroup is a trivial task and so there is no point in writing a blog entry dedicated to it.  I am writing to describe the task of joining a workgroup from a Linux based PC like my EEE PC 900.

The distribution of Linux chosen by ASUS for their Eee PC line is Xandros which was developed with Windows interoperability in mind.  In fact, Xandros has entered into a collaboration agreement with Microsoft to enhance Windows interoperability.  If this is the case, it should be a pice of cake to join a Windows workgroup wouldn’t you think?  Well it is only if your workgroup is called “WORKGROUP”.

 I imagine that some of you are asking why you would need to join a workgroup in the first place.  The reason is to share files, folders or printers over your home network .  In my case, I wanted my Eee PC to use a printer connected to another workstation running Windows XP.  To do so, the Eee PC had to be in the same workgroup as the workstation hosting the printer.  Being in the same workgroup as the other computers on your network is also handy when sharing files

It turns out that the Eee PC defaults to the Workgroup named, “WORKGROUP”.  Other versions of Windows also have the default workgroup name of WORKGROUP but no all.  For example, Windows XP has the default workgroup name of “MSHOME”.  In my case, I had already set the workgroup name on my home network to “DENKIGAI”.  I spent a lot of time looking for a GUI that allowed me to change the Workgroup but I struck out.  In this case, it seems the best way to change the default Windows workgroup name is to edit the associated conf file by hand.

Windows Network support under Linux is provided by a module called SAMBA.  Again, I used xedit to edit the configuration file.  In the terminal window type:  sudo xedit /etc/samba/smb.conf   The smb.conf file will open in a xedit window.  Look for the line that says: workgroup = WORKGROUP and change it to reflect your workgroup name.  In my case I changed this line to workgroup = DENKIGAI.  Click the save button twice to save the changes, exit and reboot.

When your computer comes up the next time, it will appear in the new workgroup.  To explore your Windows network, select the Work tab on the home page (start page if you prefer) and then click on the File Manager icon.  Expand the Windows Networksection and your workgroup name should appear.  Click on your workgroup name to view the computers on your network.  At this point, your network view is equivalent to that of Network Neighborhood in Windows.

All this is pretty cool don’t you think; Sharing printers and files with other Linux and Windows PCs?  The only problem I have noticed is that my Eee PC cannot always find all the workgroup computers.  I haven’t been able to explore the reasons why.  Could it have something to do with packet loss over my wireless network.  I will run some experiments when I have more time. 

The Denki-Guy

Adding Canon printer support to the Eee PC

August 3, 2009

The Denki-Guy’s Eee PC 900 is getting a lot of use while TV viewing as more and more TV programs have companion web sites.  For example, recipes for the dishes presented on a cooking show are often provided in written form over the web.  When it comes time to try a new recipe, I am sometimes tempted to carry the Eee PC into the kitchen to refer to the online receipes.   Fortunately, my practical side points out that I might splash tomato sauce onto the screen or keyboard.  A better solution is to print the recipe and leave the Netbook next to the TV.

For those of you who have read some of my earlier posts, you will know that my Eee PC 900 is running a flavor of Linux, not Windows.  Installing a printer on Eee PC Linux can be simple if the force is with you and the driver is already bundled with the CUPS printing manager.  All you need to do is click on the printers icon under the settings tab and walk through the steps.  Unfortunately, according to the printer driver database on the CUPS site, only a small number of Canon printer drivers are included with CUPS.  The Denki-Guy’s preferred printer, the Canon PIXMA MP750, is not supported by default.

To find a driver for my preferred printer, I turned to the OpenPrinting database to see if a Linux driver exists.  Entering “Canon” as the maker and “PIXMA MP750” as the model, I am told the recommended printer driver is canonpixusip4100.ppd available directly from Canon in Japan.  When you go to the Canon download site, you will see files like bjfilter-pixusip4100-2.50-2.i386.rpm. The dot rpm file extension means that these files are for use with the RPM Package Manager which is used by Red Hat Linux among others.  The Eee PC version of Linux, a customized version of Xandros, requires dot deb files for use with the Debian package management tools like dpkg and apt.  It seems that there is a tool to convert rpm to deb packages so this is an option.  I decided to look for a driver in a deb package first before I try the conversion tool.  Although I have not tried the procedure, this website gives a procedure for converting and installing Canon drivers packaged in rpm format.

There are some Debian packaged drivers for Canon printers available on the Canon-Asia website.  I see drivers for the iP100 series, iP1900 series, iP2600 series,  iP3500 series,  iP4500 series, MP140 series, MP520 series, MP610 series and MX330 series printers.  Go to the support page and search on “debian Printer Driver”.  Unfortunately, I don’t think any of these drivers work with my printer.  Must keep looking.

Searching on “Canon Pixus iP4100 Debian”, I found a site where Takushi Miyoshi from Japan posted Debian packages of various Canon drivers.  Takushi specifically mentions that the iP4100 driver works with the MP750.  BINGO!  The installation instructions on Takushi’s site are concise and to the point.  Follow my instructions below for a verbose version.

From the home page, press Ctrl Alt t to open a terminal window.  Next type the command su and enter the root password in response to the prompt.  The su command will grant the terminal window SuperUser status.   All of the commands below must be executed from the SuperUser terminal.

  1. The first step is to tell the package manager, APT, where it can find the Canon driver and related packages.  This is done via the sources.list file.  To use xedit to update the file, type the command:  xedit /etc/apt/sources.list.  Add the following entry to the bottom of the list:
    deb ./
    Save the changes and close the window.
  2. Next we need to tell APT to read the package list from the kyoto-u server.  To do this, type the command: apt-get update from the command line.
  3. Now that APT knows where to find the packages we want, it is time to install components.  The command for installing the Canon driver for the Canon Pixus iP4100 driver is: apt-get install libcnbj-2.5 bjfilter-2.5 pstocanonbj

At this point the driver for the Canon printer is present and all we need to do is add it after clicking on the “printers” icon under the “Settings” tab.  In my case, the Canon MP750 is a shared printer connected to Windows XP workstation so I choose the “Network printer” option.  From the “Set Printer Attribites” window, I choose “Windows” as the network type, called the printer “Canon” and clicked the “Browse” button to look for the printer.  A Windows Network heading appeared but no devices could be seen on the network.  I quickly realized that the Eee PC belonged to the Workgroup, “WORKGROUP” whereas the shared printer was located in the workgroup “DENKIGAI”.  I spent a lot of time looking for a GUI that allowed me to change the Workgroup but I struck out.  It is time to edit another config file.

Windows Network support under Linux is provided by a module called SAMBA.  Again, I used xedit to edit the configuration file.  In the terminal window type:  xedit /etc/samba/smb.comf.  Look for the line that says: workgroup = WORKGROUP and change it to workgroup = MY_GROUP_HERE.  In my case I changed this line to workgroup = DENKIGAI.  Save the changes and exit.

The next time through the add printer process, I was able to see the DENKIGAI workgroup and my XP workstation.  Clicking on the workstation icon, the shared printer appears.  Choose the printer and click OK.  On the Set Printer Model page, choose “Canon” as Manufacturer and “PIXUS iP4100 Ver.2.50” as Model.  The final page in the Add Printer Wizard asks if you want to print a test page.  Choose No and then click Finish.  For some reason, if I try to print the test page, the driver is not added.

With much anticipation, I opened the web browser and found a simple page to print.  In an instant the job arrived in the printer queue and the printer started to grind.  Yes, I mean grind.  It seems as if the printer was tring to load paper from auxiliary paper slot, not the paper cassette.  I found the solution on the Canon PIXMA Linux Blog.  It seems as if the printer driver defaults to rear paper tray.  The solution to this problem once again involves changing a conf file.  The target file in this case is the dot ppd file in the /etc/cups/ppd/ directory.  In my case I called my printer Canon so the target file is Canon.ppd.  In the terminal window type:  xedit /etc/cups/ppd/Canon.ppd.  Look for the line that says: *DefaultInputSlot: asf and change it to *DefaultInputSlot: cassette.  Save the changes and exit.

Finally, printing from my Eee PC is working the way I want it to.  I can send pages to the printer from anywhere in the house.  Isn’t Linux fun?

The Denki-Guy

Eee PC 900 still available from

July 30, 2009

In this mornings email, I received another notice from advertising a two day deal on the Eee PC 900 for $139.95 with free shipping.  This is essentially the same deal I received:  the EeePC 900 for $129.95 plus $10.00 for shipping and handling.  I suspect these will sell out quickly.

I know that this is a close out deal but I can’t help but think about the once outrageous goals of the One Laptop per Child organization.  The $100 laptop is indeed in sight.

The Denki-Guy

A teenager reviews my Eee PC 900

July 29, 2009

The Denki-Guy is a family man and fortunately,the entire family is very receptive to new technology.  Over the past weekend, I allowed my 16 year old daughter to take over my new Eee PC 900.  The understanding was that the change of ownership would be temporary and she would share with us, her thoughts about the computer.

The media fervor over the Morgan Stanley research report authored by 15 year old Matthew Robson inspired me to report on my daughter’s thoughts on the Eee PC.  Parents are often accused of not listening to their teenagers.  I think the same thing can be said of technologists.

It has been my experience that engineers devote the most energy to features they want to use themselves.  As a concession to the non-technical crowd, we may consider how our mothers or grandparents my interact with a device.  Any consideration of teenage usage patterns are an afterthought.  As a technologist myself, I think we have our priorities reversed.  A few short years from now, today’s teenagers will be the next generation of young professionals.  Teenage preferences today will define the must-have features of tomorrow.

The first thing my daughter said she liked about the Eee PC 900 is it’s sleek industrial design.  This is not surprising from someone coming from the iPod generation.  To someone from the Denki-Guy’s generation, sleek design is a costly feature that requires a reduced functionality.  To my daughter, a sleek, fashionable industrial design is a basic requirement, not a luxury.  Functionality trade-offs are only accepted when the rational is understood.    For example, the trade-off of keyboard size vs. overall size is an easily understood trade-off.

The second on the list of likes is the small compact size.  The smaller size would allow her to take the Eee PC to more places like the library, school or a coffee shop.  She comments that the keyboard feels a bit small but is is large enough for typing.  Any smaller and she would need to resort to two fingers.  I asked if she would prefer a larger keyboard and she said no, she prefers the smaller size.  She doesn’t have any particular comments regarding the screen.  It does the job.

Another factor in the plus column is the price.  When I told my daughter how much I paid for my Eee PC 900 ($130 + shipping), she immediately asked if that was a close-out price (which it was).  She felt that a good price point for a teenage Netbook user would be about the same as that for a higher end cellphone or iPod, around $250.  Her logic is that if parents are willing to buy their teenagers a cool cellphone or iPod, they are unlikely to balk at buying a netbook for about the same price.  If the PC is priced any higher that that, it becomes too precious to to be portable.  She would be afraid to take it with her because of the possibility of loss, theft or accidental damage.  BTW, newer version 9 inch Eee PCs are available online in the $200 to $250 price range.

As for the negatives, the first comment was about the appearance of the desktop.  The words my daughter used to describe it were “Old School”.  She has come to expect slicker user interfaces like the iPhone, SideKick or Windows Vista.  She also felt there were too many mystery icons in the tool tray.  The Smiley face in particular annoyed her.  Another negative was the heat.  The Eee PC 900 gets quite warm during operation. My daughter comments that you definitely would not want to hold this computer on your lap, during the summer.  On the other hand, the warmth may be nice during the winter.  When I pointed out that the energy producing the heat came from the battery, she added that the battery life was too short and energy should not be wasted on heat.

The above negatives were relatively minor and would not affect my daughters desire to use the Eee PC 900.  There were two issues that were more significant:

  1. The battery life is too short to allow for extended usage.  Based on my daughter’s usage pattern, the battery was good for about 2 hours of constant usage.  Since portability is important, my daughter does not want to carry a power adapter around.  This implies that the battery needs to last all day.  Practically speaking, the computer will not be used heavily for eight hours straight.  I believe that four hours should be the design goal.
  2. The other significant issue for my daughter was the lack of iTunes support.  To the younger generation, an iPod is a must-have device much like the record player was to out parents.  The lack of iTunes support means that the owner of an Eee PC with Linux must have access to another computer running the Mac OS X or Windows.  The problem in this case is that Apple has never released a Linux version of the iTunes application.  Of course one could always spend the extra money and buy a Windows version of the Eee PC

Overall, my teenage daughter liked the Eee PC 900 and was reluctant to return it when I asked for it back.  I really think that ASUS has a real hit with the Eee PC series.

The Denki-guy

Adding Japanese support to the Eee PC

July 24, 2009

With a name like “Denki-Guy”, you can well imagine that I am a big fan of Japan and things Japanese.  One of the first things I do when I get a new PC is enable Japanese language support.  Now that I have had my Eee PC for a week, it was time to make my Netbook Japanese friendly.

My new Eee PC 900 came pre-loaded with Linux rather than Windows.  The lack of a Windows license fee certainly helped the maker ASUS keep their costs down but there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.  The cost is the added complexity of configuring and managing the software.  In the case of Windows, Japanese language support is already built in but,  the Japanese language support I want for the Eee PC 900 requires software not bundled with the resident Linux.

The Linux release that ships with the Eee PC 900 includes an input method platform called gcin which is focused primarily on traditional Chinese.  The writeup implies that gcin can support Japanese input also but I want to use SCIM-anthy for my Japanese input method.  I found a  good writeup in English on getting started with SCIM-anthy.  This document describes the required software modules and more importantly, how to use the input method.

When I turned to the web for some help, the Denki-Guy learned that he is not the only person who wants to use Japanese on his US version Eee PC.  Try searching on “Eee PC Japanese Language Support” to see for yourself.  Once again, the fourms on are very helpful.  The Roseta Stone for me was a post from AngryJohn.  Even with this information I wasn’t ready to blindly type in commands and cross my fingers.  I need to understand what is going on first.  After a few additional hours of research, I was confident that AngryJohn had the right approach.  If you want to quickly add Japanese support to your Linux version Eee PC, follow the steps from AngryJohn.  If you want a more detailed explanation of the process, read on.

From the home page, press Ctrl Alt t to open a terminal window.  Next type the command suand enter the root password in response to the prompt.  The su command will grant the terminal window SuperUserstatus.   All of the commands below must be executed from the SuperUser terminal.

  1. The first step is to tell the package manager, APT, where it can find scim-anthy and the other related packages.  This is done via the sources.list file.  To use xedit to update the file, type the command:  xedit /etc/apt/sources.list.  Add the following entry to the bottom of the list:
    deb etch main contrib non-free
    Save the changes and close the window.  This entry gives APT a URL where it can look for packages and specifies the “etch” distribution, sections “main”, “contrib” and “non-free”.  More details can be found in the APT HOWTO.
  2. Next we need to tell APT to read the package list from the debian server.  To do this, type the command: apt-get update from the command line.  Don’t worry if you get some warning messages during this process.
  3. Now that APT knows where to find the packages we want, it is time to install components.  The component I installed first was the Japanese font.  This was done by typing: apt-get install ttf-kochi-gothic from the command line.
  4. The next step was to install the Japanese input method components.  The command for this is:
    apt-get install anthy scim-anthy im-switch kasumi
    APT will also install scim since it is required by scim-anthy.
  5. Since we will be using the scim-anthy, we can remove the old input method.  The command to remove gcin is:
    apt-get remove --purge gcin
  6. We can now reconfigure the Locales to tell Linux we will be using this computer in English and Japanese.  Type the command: dpkg-reconfigure locales to launch a GUI which allows you to specify the supported languages.  Select: en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8, ja_JP.EUC-JP EUC-JP and ja-UTF-8 UTF-8.  Deselect any other locales that may be checked.  On the next page of the package configuration GUI, I kept US English (en_US.UTF-8) as the default locale.
  7. The final step is to configure im-switch to use.  Type the command: im-switch -cto run a program which allows you to choose an alternative input method.  Choose the option for scim.  Close the terminal window and reboot.

To test your Japanese input method, open a browser window and press Ctrl Space.  The scim-anthy control bar will appear.  At this point, you should be able to convert Romaji to Hiragana to Kanji. 

Please let me know if these instructions were helpful by filing a comment.

The Denki-Guy

Fixing Wifi on the Eee PC 900

July 19, 2009

In my previous post, I described the problems I had getting my new Eee PC 900 to connect to my wireless network.  The problem I ran into involved configuring the Wifi connection to support WPA2-PSK security.  WPA2-PSK is currently one of the better secure encryption schemes commonly supported on wireless home networking gear.  It seems that the Network Connections GUI on the Eee PC 900 allows the user to setup a WPA connection but not a WPA2-PSK connection.  This is really a shame since the underlying software, the wpa_supplicant, does support WPA2-PSK.

The heart of my home network is a D-Link DIR-655 Xtreme N Gigabit Router.  This router has been running flawlessly for over a year and has been supporting four different wireless clients.  It came as a bit of a shock when I could not configure the wireless interface on the Eee PC 900 to connect to the D-Link router.  It seemed unbelieveable that a hot, new wireless Netbook would not support WPA2 out of the box.

Turning to the web for some help, it didn’t take me long to find the enthuiast site Searching through the fourms, I quickly learned that I was not the only one to have problems configuring the Wifi interface for WPA2.  This problem was so widespread that one user created a Wiki entry on Advanced WPA Configuration (thank you bryan).  Using the Wiki page as a guide, I was finally able to get my Eee PC 900 to connect to my D-Link wireless router.  In my case, I didn’t need to install the wpa_supplicant and drivers, they were already present.

The first step was creating a new network connection.  The Wiki does a good job of explaining this so I will not repeat the precess here.  The reason for creating (a non-working)  network connection first is to have the GUI create a first pass of the configuration files.  I prefer to edit a file rather than create it from scratch.

After creating the network connection, the next step is to edit the resulting file found at the path /etc/network/interfaces.  The changes involve inserting two lines to invoke an alternative wireless configuration file.  This process is clearly described in the Wiki.

The next step is to create the alternate wireless conf file.  I found the easiest way to do this is to cd to the /etc directory and type:

cp /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf.ath0/etc/wpa_supplicant.conf_MINE

The file wpa_supplicant.conf_MINE is the version that is customized for your wireless network.  This is the file that works for me:

  pairwise=CCMP TKIP
  group=CCMP TKIP WEP104 WEP40

To make the above configuration file work with another network, a minimum of two changes will be needed:

ssid=: Enter the name of your access point enclosed in quotes.  The name may already be here if you entered it using the network connection GUI.

psk=: Enter the 64 hex-digit pre-shared key.  To find the pre-shared key, you may need to log into your wireless router for this information.  On the D-Link DIR-655, this information is found under the SETUP tab, WIRELESS SETTINGS, Add Wireless Device with WPS, Manual Configuration Method.  The pre-shared key will appear on the next page.

Now, if your wireless setup is not exactly the same as mine, you may need to make additional changes to the wpa_supplicant.conf_MINE file.  To learn more about what all these entries mean, I suggest you look at the sample wpa_supplicant.conf doc.

I hope this explanation will save you some time if you run into this problem.  Leave a comment if you have any questions.

The Denki-guy