I paid for Xfce

Yesterday I caved in and bought myself one of those cute little laptop devices: an Acer Aspire One.

Acer Aspire One vs Dell Latitude D620

Note that the giant machine on the left is my previously considered smallish 14.1″ laptop from Dell.

It comes with a Taiwanese distribution, Linpus Linux, based on Fedora 8. More specifically, it comes with the ‘Lite’ variant of the distribution which features Xfce as its desktop environment. Well, actually, it is part modified Xfce, part Easy(tm) interface created by Acer for this device (they call it xfdesktop2, a bit strange if you ask me).

Wow. A commercial offering available from a store for regular people, with software that I helped create. Awesome. Maybe I should have asked for a discount ;-)

I’ve just started playing with it and I think they did a pretty good job. The interface is really easy, but can only access a few predefined applications. I have wanted to write such a full screen launcher/control center interface for a long time, but never got around to actually doing anything about it. It would be perfect for my parents, who have a very hard time working with their Windows XP.

They use a modified Thunar (My Disk://, Removable://, indication of disk usage in the side bar) that seems to work fairly well.

They don’t provide easy access to changing the configuration, since they disabled the right mouse menu on the panel. However Alt-F2 brings up xfrun as in a regular Xfce installation and Terminal is installed.

There’s xfce-setting-show to bring up our own settings dialog. It doesn’t fit on the screen (1024×600), but this is partly due to the very big icon they added for screen settings, making all buttons in the dialog much bigger than they need to be. I got rid of the XP window decorations and used the Xfce theme instead of RedHat’s Nodoko. Now that looks better!

xfce4-panel -a gives you the add item menu, where you can add for instance the xfdesktop menu. Also in edit mode some right-click menus do become available (not all). I’ve added a menu and a pager to get a bit more functionality.

Since it’s based on fedora you can use yum to install more software. I’ve just installed gimp to be able to create a decently sized picture for this post.

It has an 8GB SSD for storage and two card reader slots for possible extensions. The one thing where the SSD really shows its advantage is boot time. It boots in about 15 seconds, maybe a bit less (although some daemons are still being started in the background), very nice indeed.

Oh, and it weighs slightly less than 1 kg.

So, now I’ll go back to playing with this thing ;-)

update:
Screenshot

13 thoughts on “I paid for Xfce

  1. Any chance of linking to a bigger image from the image in this post? I’d like to see more details of this interface.

  2. I had a chance to play with one of those the other day, and if you run xfdesktop2 –version, you’ll find that the version and copyright info is roughly the same as xfdesktop. Now, my question is, where’s the source? A cursory search for “xfdesktop2″ on Google doesn’t return anything, and the Linpus/Acer websites are rather useless.

  3. I brought these in to my tech store to use internally and sell to the community, and I have mostly enjoyed working with them. If you have not already, check out aspireoneuser.com- it’s a very helpful site as far as these machines go! I would consider this the perfect netbook if there were not issues, at times, with the wireless; a number of the machines came out of the factory with old NetworkManager packages installed and so you can’t connect to a WPA/WPA2 network without doing a manual upgrade to the packages. The upgrade works, but renders the Network Center in the settings unusable, so you have to manage your networks through the toolbar.

  4. I hope you write up more reviews as you dig into it. I’m really interested in picking one of these up but can’t make up my mind from all the options that have suddenly come out. Thanks for the first look.

  5. Yep yep. I was really unsure if I should buy a netbook or better a laptop. Two days ago I needed to go to a meeting far away, and damn I had no laptop since I droped the really bad Linux supported “Samsung R60plus”. So I went at the supermarkets, to get something cheap, and this netbook is just so cheap that I couldn’t resist.

    I didn’t like the Fedora 8 hack (+ the xfwm4 hack), so I reinstalled Debian Lenny on it, and nowadays I do enjoy this netbook! Great! Awesome ;-)

  6. Using my Aspire One right now. I didn’t care for the kiosk desktop, so I’ve been using the standard desktop since the first day I’ve had it. That aspireoneuser.com forum mentioned in an earlier comment is great for info on tweaks and walkthroughs (great for me, a linux noob). It still seems a little lacking in usability polish (from an XP perspective anyway), but Mandriva looks like it’s got something coming down the pipe I’d like to try, in exchange for ten more seconds of boot time.

  7. Jasper,
    did you ever try mailing Linpus regarding the “xfdesktop2″ source code/patches?
    I would like to get a copy of this also, or failing that does anyone have similar solution?

  8. Jannis,
    the source code for xfdesktop-acer is not available, there is a srpm which contains a precompiled binary, nothing else.

  9. Hey Grant,

    Hmm, I dont’ really keep up with blog comments, I’m afraid — I used to get email for them, not sure what happened… — anyway, sorry for the late reply.

    I tried finding some email address or even web form to send in a request on the acer site, but I didn’t try too hard. I never tried Linpus directly.

    I send something through a web form on the international acer site, but never got any response. I also send an email to some European support address, but I got an auto reply to contact the help desk. I kinda gave up after that.

    I’m afraid I’m just not very motivated to pursue this issue.

    cheers,
    Jasper

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