Is this the end of my AAO 751h?

AAO751h_thumb.jpgI rarely used my Acer Aspire One 751h anymore; I already have my WinTab for quick and light Web browsing (and other light tasks) at home and a rather new home laptop for watching movies and doing some work @ home. Over the last months, I had my 751h dual booting Windows 10 Home (as an insider) and Lubuntu; the former ensured compatibility with apps (especially MS Office) while the latter made this crappy piece of hardware a little more responsive (but still not sufficient for serious work and multitasking).Even after upgrading its RAM to 2GB, it performance was still poor -not even good for the kids to watch cartoons on YouTube.

I spent the last couple of days updating both the Windows installation and the Lubuntu one; both of them had a lot of updates waiting to be installed – and they were successfully installed.. Today I wanted to type a couple of blog posts and since 751h’s keyboard is much more comfortable than the one of my WinTab, I decided to give it a try. I tried opening Midori in Lubuntu for writing one of the posts but the netbook froze. This was something common some years ago, when I used the netbook extensively but never happened during the last years. I reset the netbook and gave it another try. Then it froze again. Then I restarted it. Or at least I tried. The netbook tried to restart but after a spin of the drive (?) the screen remained blank and there was no hard disk activity.

At first I thought that it was about the hard disk; I wouldn’t mind as I had no personal files in any of the installations (Windows and Lubuntu) and I had a spare one I could also test. And I did. With no result – the same single spin of the disk (or fan?) and a blank screen.

Then I decided to disassemble the netbook and check for any faulty cables and dust in the fan. The last time I disassembled a laptop, I didn’t manage to re-assemble it. This time I made it, thanks to video tutorials describing the process step by step. I found the fan and removed a little bit of dust but nothing serious. No cables were harmed or out of place.When I assembled everything, nothing had changed; the system would power up but would not moe further.

I ran out of ideas. l will keep it aside for the time being and I will try again after a while. Maybe after things settle down, the system may be recovered more easily.

Another attempt to revive Acer 751h

I admit it; my Acer Aspire One 751h started collecting dust as soon as I got my WinTab; this tablet fulfills my needs more than I expected, so there is no use for the now Linux-powered netbook.

However, I recently managed to get my hands on some RAM modules that happened to be the same brand and type as my netbooks – but they were 2GB modules! I did what I wanted to do; I swapped the 1GB RAM module with the 2GB one and booted Peppermint OS 6 (the last Linux distro I installed) in order to check any performance improvements…not! Maybe due to the fact that the OS was installed while the netbook only had 1GB of RAM (so the swap partition size was set to 1GB), maybe not, no improvement was obvious.

Next test? Test the netbook for once more with Windows 10. Last time I tried them (netbook with just 1 GB or RAM) the performance was so poor that I got rid of them almost immediately. I did not have a valid license of Windows 7/8 (the netbook came with Windows XP) so I went for the Windows Insider option (see also here) –  setup Windows 10 Home 32-bit and then opt for the Fast ring of updates. The Windows are not activated but I avoid having all these restrictions of a pirate copy. Setup was pretty quick and after booting I installed all updates (Store and Windows), selected the Fast ring for the updates and then reboot again…but something was not right: screen resolution! It was lower than the native one.

I found out that GMA 500, the GPU of the netbook, was not supported at all in Windows 10 – no drivers available, nothing. So I decided to use the Windows 7 ones, the latest ones available – and after a reboot they worked!

Performance, at least at this point, is not great. The netbook is usable with Windows 10 Home but not snappy: some menus take a couple of seconds to appear, video performance is pretty poor but I still need time for evaluating the performance of my netbook with the new OS but I am not very optimistic about that. Time shall tell if Windows 10 is a keeper this time or if I will return to one of the numerous Linux distros I have tested during the last years on the same machine.

The perfect OS for my Acer Aspire One

At last I have managed to find the perfect OS for my low-end netbook; an Acer Aspire One 751h with 1GB RAM, Intel Atom Z520 CPU @1,33 GHz and a GMA500 GPU. Throughout the years I have tested several operating systems on my netbook, trying to find a responsive one; moving from the initial Windows XP to Windows 7 & 8, and then trying countless lightweight Linux distributions including (but not limited to) PeppermintOS (probably my favorite), Lubuntu, LXLE, Zorin OS, Manjaro Netbook edition, Bodhi, Crunchbang, Archbang, WattOS, Linux Mint etc.

I always tried to find one that would be functional for basic use (e.g. web browsing and basic office usage e.g. document editing) and maybe some YouTube video browsing. However, due to the specificities of my netbook (mostly the GMA500), the overall performance was usually poor  while YouTube videos were barely watchable. Some distributions performed better than the others (mostly Lubuntu but Peppermint OS as well), while others had serious problems (e.g. cursor disappearing, sound not available, difficulty to install languages and change other options etc.). After I gave up on the previous distros, I decided to focus on lighter Window Managers (e.g. Openbox, FluxBox, Enlightenment etc.).

manjaro_logoIt was then that I found out about the Manjaro Openbox community edition; when I first installed it, I could not believe how responsive it was and how low on resources (RAM and CPU) it was running! Then, I also realized that even YouTube performance was much better that the one of other distros. Despite the fact that Openbox is really lightweight, it does not luck features and functionalities; it is only that sometimes manual intervention is needed (e.g. installation of GUI for some functionalities if you are not a Linux power user – I am not!). Installation was really user friendly and all hardware was automatically recognized. On top of that, you get a nice Conky panel automatically placed on the desktop!

Some of the things that I needed to set up in order to bring the installation closer to my needs were the following:

Even though I was thinking of going back to Peppermint OS for a while (I was pretty pleased with v5 and now the v6 is in the works), it seems that I am going to give Manjaro Openbox a try and keep it as long as possible.

Current gadgets/daily companions [13/08/2011]

15-16" Notebook Backpack BG-4500p (600B-15 Notebook Backpack Urban)

Trust backpackEverything fits in this backpack from Trust: My netbook/laptop + power cable, notepad, A4 pages with info, food container (taken daily to office) & snacks, mp3 player, cables &  chargers, mobile phone, pens/markers/keys/business cards, everything well-organized in the inner slots/pockets etc. It even fits my small bag which contains my wallet, ID/Driving license etc, ready to be used individually when the whole backpack is not needed. It’s really comfortable even when cycling!

It has been widely used for my daily trips to office, in business meetings (well, it’s not really formal but it’s really convenient!), even during my summer holidays for carrying beach towels, shorts etc. One of my best buys!

Sweex MP3 player – MP303 Gold 2GB

It’s not anything fancy but it’s durable, with good sound quality and really Sweex mp3-303cheap. I went out to buy a pair of headphones and I ended up with this mp3 player at the same price (including a great set of white headphones, long lost now…). Ok, it misses some features (e.g. no shuffle mode!) and has some bugs (e.g. starting the playlist from the beginning after each charging…) but I have learned to live with those. The battery life is pretty cool, considering its minimal size and it is really portable. As for the capacity, I have never managed to put more that 1GB of mp3s in there!

It has been used intensively during trips and summer vacations and it is still going!

Specs:

Sweex mp3-303-specs

HTC Touch HD (Blackstone)

HTC_Touch_HDBought second hand (well, third hand to be more precise) last August, after my HTC Touch Cruise was stolen. I have wanted this mobile since I first saw it and I managed to get my hands on it. Great, large screen, sturdy construction, now powered by a custom WM6.5.3 ROM (kwbr 5.7), it has proven to me much more than a phone: Used many times for GPS navigation, watching movies with subtitles, taking photos and videos, reading ebooks, working on excel lists (ok, basic stuff), taking notes and mostly web surfing (we are talking about whole weeks of internet browsing!). I consider it to be a small netbook. A problem with the touch screen appeared out of nowhere last year but it was serviced by Ace Hellas (the official HTC distributor in Greece) as it was still under warranty. Now it doesn’t even have a scratch and looks brand-new.

With a desktop battery charger and a second battery (both holding charge for about a day of working), it is always docked on my office ready to be synced (emails, weather forecast, tweets, photos etc.). Even though I have bought a ZTE Blade in the meantime as a back-up phone, I cannot take the decision to sell one of these two… especially the Blackstone!

Acer Aspire One 751h

AAO751hMy previous laptop (HP Pavillion tx-1110us) was rather heavy to carry around daily, despite its small dimensions (been proven really sturdy though!). I had to go for a lighter computer and I went for a netbook with the largest screen available back then (11,6 inches). It came with Windows XP home and a version of Ubuntu Linux, both of them replaced by Windows 7 Pro and Jolicloud after the first weeks. I have to admit that sometimes it is so laggy that brings me a headache; however I shouldn’t expect much from a weak machine with an Atom 1,3GHz CPU and 1GB RAM (in addition I suspect that the hard disk is also a source of lag). Most of the times it is working fine for light tasks (web browsing, emails, word processing, watching small clips – not HD, listening to music etc.). When a number of applications are open, or when working with large Word and PDF files, the netbook starts slowing down and warning you…

I had some issues with freezing the machine in random cases, but it seems that it is now solved after some updates. This little machine has travelled all over Europe and has been used during many project meetings, summer vacations even as a replacement for the office laptop. It is a great tool, as long as you know what to expect from it…

Dahon Boardwalk D7

Dahon_boardwalkd7I decided to start cycling after 15 years and I went for a folding bike, which I could also transfer in the Metro, for my daily commuting to office. Boardwalk was not the cheapest model around, but I think it had the best value for money when it was purchased. Initially used for commuting to the office, it was soon used for even longer rides (Freeday, Halbike etc.) around Attica. I have made hundreds of kilometers with this bike, and I didn’t have any problems with that, apart from some minor ones (e.g. replacing some spikes and a crank arm). I found the folding style to be convenient when going for shopping (as I usually fold it and take it with me inside the stores) and for office (as it can fit next to my desk). Minimum, cheap service, really fun to ride in the country (just outside the town I live in).

Some of the additional stuff I bought for my Dahon is the Arclite Rack, front/back lights (a number of them, mostly from eBay), a Bell City helmet and service sprays and stuff.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG20

I bought this camcorder after a survey I made on similar products. I think I SANYO_CG20_black_back_Mood_LRhave made the best choice: compact & lightweight (really portable), high quality of image and video and recording in HD. It has already been used for shooting hours of video (especially during the CerOrganic training school in Chania this May) with really good performance. The battery lasts for about 45 minutes, so I had to buy an additional one from Batteries.gr, which lasts at least as much as the original one. The 4GB SDHC card I use lasts for more or less the same time, so it is a nice combination! The image of photos (10MP) is not great, but when we are talking about video, I am really pleased. It also features a lot of settings which I have never used.

Gadget series – Acer Aspire One 751h

Από την πρώτη στιγμή που κυκλοφόρησαν στην αγορά τα netbooks ήθελα να αποκτήσω ένα. Ήταν αυτό το πακέτο μικρού μεγέθους/μικρού βάρους/μεγάλης αυτονομίας που προσέφερε παράλληλα όλες (σχεδόν) τις δυνατότητες που ήθελα από ένα laptop. Το μόνο που με προβλημάτιζε ήταν το αν η μικρή τους οθόνη θα αποδεικνυόταν κουραστική για πολύωρη χρήση. Όταν όμως είδα από κοντά ένα netbook με οθόνη 10’’, κατάλαβα ότι ήταν θέμα χρόνου η αγορά του, απλά χρειαζόμουν μια αφορμή για να δικαιολογήσω την αγορά…

… η οποία ήρθε εκεί που δεν το περίμενα: Σε κάποια φάση παρέδωσε πνεύμα το laptop μου (ένα HP Pavillion tx-1110us), στο οποίο διαγνώστηκε καμμένη μητρική και χρόνος επισκευής περίπου 30 ημέρες. Καθώς λοιπόν το έστειλα για επισκευή, αποφάσισα να καλύψω το κενό με ένα netbook κυρίως λόγω του χαμηλού κόστους αγοράς. Η επιλογή μου ήταν ένα Acer Aspire One 751h, με οθόνη 11,6’’ (ακόμη μεγαλύτερη από αυτήν που υπολόγιζα), RAM 1GB, δίσκο 160GB και μπαταρία 6-cell με αυτονομία μεγαλύτερη από 5 ώρες (!!). Φυσικά περιλαμβάνονται και τα κλασικά καλούδια των netbooks, όπως Ethernet/Wireless card, VGA-out (για σύνδεση με εξωτερική οθόνη ή τηλεόραση), 5-in-1 card reader & 3 USB ports. Αυτό που ξεχωρίζει όμως το 751h από τα 10άρια netbooks είναι η οθόνη 11,6’’ με ανάλυση 1366×768 (HD) και το πληκτρολόγιο με 100% διαστάσεις (=αρκετά μεγάλα πλήκτρα για τα χοντρά μου δάχτυλα!).

(Photo taken from avemedia.wordpress.com)

Προκειμένου να εξασφαλιστεί η υψηλή αυτονομία της συσκευής στα ίδια επίπεδα με αυτή των netbooks με 10άρα οθόνη, χρησιμοποιήθηκε chipset χαμηλής κατανάλωσης (αλλά και επιδόσεων). Έτσι το 751h φοράει επεξεργαστή Intel Ζ520 @ 1,33GHz & GPU GMA 500.

Το 751h ήρθε με διπλό λειτουργικό Windows XP Home & μια μαθητική έκδοση του Ubuntu (εξάλλου είναι και Ubuntu Certified). Αφού πρώτα έκανα ένα backup στο δίσκο, ακολούθησε format και πέρασα τα Windows XP Professional SP3: Το μηχανάκι πετούσε!  Στήθηκαν τα προγράμματα, περάστηκαν οι τελευταίοι drivers και όλα καλά… μέχρι που δοκίμασα να δω video από το Youtube: Houston, we’ve got a problem! Το video ήταν σπαστό, αδύνατον να το παρακολουθήσω. Ό,τι κι αν δοκίμασα δεν κατάφερα κάτι καλύτερο. Ήταν φυσικό, αφού η υποστήριξη για την GMA500 στα XP ήταν προβληματική, σε αντίθεση με την υποστήριξη για Windows 7. Η μετάβαση στα Windows 7 φάνηκε μονόδρομος και η κατάσταση με το video φαίνεται να έχει βελτιωθεί.

Έτσι, αυτή τη στιγμή το μηχανάκι τρέχει με Windows 7 Pro 32-bit & μια εγκατάσταση του Jolicloud (απίθανο Linux optimized για netbooks!). Οι drivers αναβαθμίζονται συχνά, υπάρχει ακόμη πλήρης υποστήριξη για το hardware και δεν φαίνεται πολύ φορτωμένο από το λειτουργικό σύστημα. Δεν είναι βέβαια XP, αλλά αναγκαστικά θυσίασα ελάχιστη ταχύτητα προκειμένου να εξασφαλίσω την καλύτερη λειτουργία του συστήματος.

News update

Το τελευταίο διάστημα έχουν γίνει διάφορα, όπως:

  1. Η ζημιά στο laptop εντοπίστηκε στην μητρική, με κόστος επισκευής €250. Επειδή με αυτά τα χρήματα δεν μπορούσα ούτε μεταχειρισμένο να βρω με αυτά τα χαρακτηριστικά, αποφάσισα να το επισκευάσω. Όμως, παρότι μου δόθηκε χρόνος επισκευής 7-10 ημέρες, έχουν περάσει 30 και ακόμα περιμένω. Αν αλλάξει ο χρόνος και δεν το έχω στα χέρια μου, θα προχωρήσω σε καταγγελίες κλπ.
  2. Λόγω του ότι χρειαζόμουν άμεσα ένα φορητό υπολογιστή και δεν μπορούσα να περιμένω την επισκευή του laptop, προχώρησα (κατόπιν ωρίμου σκέψεως) στην αγορά ενός netbook, Acer Aspire One 751h. Ήταν ότι πιο οικονομικό μπορούσα να βρω με τα χαρακτηριστικά που ήθελα (οθόνη 11,6 ιντσών, μνήμη 1GB, δίσκο 160GB, full-size πληκτρολόγιο, ικανοποιητική αυτονομία >5 ώρες και ελαφρύ – περίπου 1,3kg). Προς το παρόν είμαι ικανοποιημένος από την αγορά, και σύντομα ελπίζω να γράψω αναλυτικότερα τις εντυπώσεις μου.
  3. Το Dahon επέστρεψε επισκευασμένο εδώ και καιρό (μετά από 15 ημέρες στον “γιατρό”). Αλλάχθηκαν 4 ακτίνες που βρέθηκαν σπασμένες, σφίξαμε τα φρένα, ρυθμίσαμε τις ταχύτητες και βάλαμε και καινούριο πίσω φωτάκι! Το παλιό δεν άντεξε, παρά τις πατέντες που είχα κάνει για να το κρατήσω στη ζωή (κόλλες, λάστιχα, συνδετήρες, βίδες κλπ). Το κακό είναι ότι αφενός λόγω του άσχημου καιρού (βροχές-κρύο) και αφετέρου λόγω του ότι φεύγω αργά από το γραφείο, το ποδήλατο έχει μείνει αχρησιμοποίητο εδώ και εβδομάδες.
  4. Είχαμε αλλαγή στη ασφάλεια του αυτοκινήτου (για κάποιο λόγο που δεν κατάλαβα…). Σε δύο μέρες λήγει η παλιά ασφάλεια κι εγώ ακόμη περιμένω την καινούρια…συνηθισμένο πρόβλημα με τους ασφαλιστές!
  5. Ήρθαν τα τέλη κυκλοφορίας: Περισσότερα από πέρισυ, λιγότερα από όσα υπολόγιζα. Ίσως είναι και τα τελευταία που πληρώνω για το συγκεκριμένο αυτοκίνητο.
  6. Ένα ράγισμα στο φακό των γυαλιών μυωπίας μου (σε συνδυασμό με τη κακή κατάσταση του σκελετού) με ανάγκασε να παραγγείλω καινούρια γυαλιά. Ανανεωμένο look με το νέο έτος!

Τα έξοδα είναι τόσα πολλά που δεν θέλω καν να τα σκέφτομαι…και εκτός από όλα αυτά είναι και τα πάγια έξοδα (λογαριασμοί, κινητό, κάρτα απεριορίστων κλπ). Ελπίζω (με κάποιο μαγικό τρόπο) να αυξηθούν τα έσοδά μου με το νέο έτος!!