One A110 mini-laptop with pre-installed Linux for 199.- plus Debian installation HOWTO

One Mini A110 subnotebook

OK, so I've spent my last money on the One Mini A110 subnotebook recently. Yep, yet another ASUS Eee PC clone, but this one has the great benefit of costing only 199.- Euros and has similar specs as the Eee PC 2G Surf (700), I think.

This is really a great little machine as far as I can tell. It's a VIA C7-M ULV 1GHz with 512MB DDR2 RAM and a 2 GB Solid-State-Disk (SSD), 7" screen at supposedly 800x480, VGA out, card reader slot for SD/MMC/MS, 2x USB, wireless, modem, audio. No webcam, no bluetooth.

Yesterday I created a wiki at (for the A110, but also the A120 from the same vendor, which has a 4 GB SSD), where A110 users can collect information, HOWTOs, photos, etc. There's already quite some content there, especially some early tutorials and photos on the inner workings of the A110.

Today I've installed a stock Debian unstable distro on the SSD with 2.6.25 kernel, and I'm currently checking which parts of the hardware work out of the box, and which need further fixing. There's a a bunch of source code tarballs and patches on the vendor website, but most of it seems to be meant for 2.6.22, we'll see if and/or how much work it'll take to merge all this upstream (if it's not already done)...

My Debian Installation HOWTO is also available from the wiki, of course; I'll add more info and photos during the day.

Now for all interested parties: The vendor of the A110 has (again) announced a special weekend offer (valid until Sunday, June 1, 2008, i.e. tomorrow) where they'll sell the A110 for 199,- Euros again, the regular price will be 229,- Euros after that. So if you're thinking about buying one, now is probably the right time.

Check the wiki for issues which are important to you, some quirks remain at this point (but will probably mostly be figured out sooner or later), e.g. the wifi seems to have issues (the vendor said they'll send a driver update to all affected customers), the RAM is builtin and can't be upgraded, and some other, more or less important issues, depending on what you expect from the laptop.

For real-time communication there's also the #a110 IRC channel on Freenode.

Debian unstable X11-related bug and workaround -- Unrecognized option: /etc/X11/xinit/xserverrc

FYI, if you're not using xdm/kdm/gdm but are instead starting the X11 server manually with startx (which is what I usually do) you might have experienced brokenness in Debian unstable recently:

Fatal server error:
Unrecognized option: /etc/X11/xinit/xserverrc

This is already reported as bug #482425 and #482527 and should hopefully be fixed soon, but in the meantime this patch against /usr/bin/startx should work around the issue:

--- /usr/bin/startx.orig 2008-05-26 18:21:26.000000000 +0200
+++ /usr/bin/startx     2008-05-26 18:21:36.000000000 +0200
@@ -107,9 +107,7 @@
 if [ x"$server" = x ]; then
     # if no server arguments or display either, use rc file instead
     if [ x"$serverargs" = x -a x"$display" = x ]; then
-       server=$defaultserver
-       display=$defaultdisplay

Hope that saves some people out there lengthy investigations and hassle.

Silicon Mechanics to ship servers with coreboot preinstalled

Quick newsworthy item related to coreboot, which I wanted to mention a lot earlier, but then forgot about it: Silicon Mechanics is shipping their Rackform nServ A236 with coreboot pre-installed if so desired by the customer.

From the coreboot News page:

Chris Watson at Silicon Mechanics says: "We will commit to offering coreboot preinstallation on the Rackform nServ A236 with a specific set of hardware and software. In the future, we may expand the program to additional platforms based on customer interest."

The A236 is a nice 1U server with 4 drive bays and a dual Opteron board (Supermicro H8DMR), which is supported in coreboot v2.

Nice to see more and more vendors shipping their products with coreboot pre-installed...

Green energy from Lichtblick getting... cheaper!

You might remember that I wrote a blog entry about my switch to the green electric utility "Lichblick" (Germany) a while ago. I did that purely out of environmental reasons, I didn't want to continue to waste money on polluting and/or dangerous crap such as fossil or nuclear power. Yes, even if that meant a slightly higher price (but I really didn't compare prices much before switching — I was after an environmentally clean solution, not the cheapest solution).

Quick status update: the switch went really nice and easy, no downtimes, no hassle. I've been a happy customer for more than 8 months now.

Today in my snail mail inbox: a letter from Lichtblick that they're going to reduce the price per kWh from 20.25 to 19.99 (Euro) cents starting July 1st and they give you a guarantee that there won't be any price raises before the end of 2009 (more details also here). Now, that's a positive surprise there.

Compare that to 98% of all other energy providers in Germany who have lately increased prices quite a lot for very obscure or non-existant reasons.

Yes, I do realize that the reduced costs are not that dramatic, and Lichtblick is using this as a means to impress people and gain new customers. But I fully support them in doing so, the more people are switching to a green energy provider the better, if you ask me. I encourage everyone to consider switching, either to Lichtblick, or some of their competitors (in Germany) e.g. Greenpeace energy, Elektrizitätswerke Schönau, or Naturstrom AG. There are various alternatives in other countries too, of course.

Nine Inch Nails album "The Slip" released under Creative Commons license


You might have already heard of it — the new Nine Inch Nails album "The Slip" has been released by them under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 US license. Yep, that's right, it's totally legal to download it from the web — and use it for any non-commercial purposes!

It's a bit annoying that they want your email address, though. Nothing that (or similar) cannot fix, but still. Luckily, the files are now also available from! This, and the fact that the music is CC-licensed allowed me to "play" one of the songs in my Creative Commons music podcast (RSS), and more will likely follow.

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