Asus EEE PC 1215n Linux Writeup


Hoped to get a Linux netbook. Found the hardware support of previous netbook (HP 2133 mini-note) lacking. Was told by a co-worker that everything worked right out-of-the-box on Ubuntu for the 1201N.

Figured that Asus, the company that invented the Linux netbook, would be a good pick. Boy was I ever wrong! It mostly works, but mostly by accident. I wonder if Asus even has a single full-time Linux person.


Do not buy. Get a system from ZaReason or System76 instead; these vendors will not treat you like a second-class citizen.

As an aside, what can we do to make Linux support more common? In other words, what is keeping Asus from assigning any dev talent to this? I think the F/LOSS community could do a better job of cooperating with corporations. Say what you want, but they make the hardware.


Did not come with GNU/Linux as an option. Instead, I'm forced to subsidize the purchase of Microsoft software. I wonder how other customers would feel if their laptops came with Linux and a $50 donation to the Linux Foundation or FSF.

I'm sort of tired of being treated like a second-class citizen merely because my OS doesn't look the same as most people's. It is used on 87.8% of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers - it's not like it's some kind of toy. Maybe I should call this kind of bigotry OSism (along the lines of sexism and racism).

Estimated time I spent preparing, (re)installing and configuring Linux: ~16 hours

Hardware Breakage

Now it's two months later, and I find that my battery is running low, despite it being hooked up to A/C adapter.

I check the A/C adapter - blue LED is on, so it's getting power.

I check the voltage out of the A/C adapter, it's right.

So I'm guessing the power jack has come loose from the mainboard.

I call ASUS - the lady on the phone gives me instructions to remove battery and power cord, hold down power button for 30 seconds, replace battery and power cord, then power back up.

That doesn't work. She tells me there's a hard reset hole on the bottom of the unit. I look around; there's no such thing on the 1215n. I ask her where it is and she can't tell me.

I wonder where the A/C power LED is, and ask about the thing next to the power cord. It has a circle with a lightning bolt in it. She tells me she doesn't have one of the laptops there so can't tell me. I can't boot into the laptop to look at the manual. Later I discover it's the express gate boot option.

I call back later, asking about repair options. Basically ASUS tells me that unless they decide it's a manufacturing defect, I have to pay for it, but they can't tell me what it will cost until after I send it in, and I'll have to pay for shipping both ways.

Okay, I say, please give me instructions on how to disassemble the device so I can remove the hard drive.

"I'm sorry sir, we don't give out that information."

"Well, how am I supposed to back up my data if I can't remove the hard drive?"

"Well there are programs for that..."

"Yes, but I can't boot the system, so how can I run them?"

"Ah. Well, a professional would have to do something like that."

I'm a little offended. I own about ten computers I built myself.

"Okay, I am a professional. How do I do it?"

"I'm sorry sir, we don't give out that information."

"Well, my boss wants me to back up my data before I send it in. How do you suggest I do that?"

"I understand what you're trying to do. You might try a Best Buy or something."

One wonders how the Best Buy employee would know how to open such delicate equipment without breaking the little plastic bits and tabs which hold it together.

I was half tempted to call up, posing as a Best Buy employee, and to ask for the service manual, but I decided it wasn't worth it.

I guess in this litigious society, they figure that if they don't give you the information, you can't sue them. Or maybe they don't want to answer support calls from noobs who are trying to fix their own PCs. In any case, a simple mechanical manual or service manual in PDF form on their web site would be simple enough. End users don't read manuals anyway, particularly service manuals.

Disassembling the Asus 1215n

If Asus doesn't want you to have that information, I do.

Here it is in words.

This will void your warrantee, but basically the repair company gets to decide if it's a manufacturing defect, in which case the warrantee exists, or consumer damage, in which case it doesn't. And if Asus gets to choose the companies to refer their business to, and Asus foots the bill for manufacturing defects, what do you think they'd do about companies which kept calling the problems they found manufacturing defects?

In other words, this warrantee is like a coupon for a lunch at McDonalds, where, upon arriving there and placing your order, McDonalds gets to decide if you have to pay for the lunch, or if they give it to you free.

Stay tuned, I'll be posting pictures here of how to disassemble this laptop as a big "kiss off" to Asus, who apparently doesn't want you non-"professionals" to know how to disassemble the hardware you own.

here is a disassembly video for the 1201n, which is similar

DC Power Jack Breakage

After disassembling the laptop and intentionally voiding my warranty, and backing up the laptop hard disk, I get to figuring out the problem.

I actually should have checked this first; the center pin on the DC power jack is broken off. It's not that the jack came loose from the motherboard, it's that the center pin, which is only 0.7mm in diameter, snapped off. Judging by various online forums, this is a very common problem.

I then spent some time getting the jack off the motherboard. I tried heat guns and other techniques, but this is a multilayer board, and the center ground plane, which is copper, tends to suck the heat away from the pins very quickly.

In the end, I used an interesting trick to desolder it. I bent a very thick piece of copper wire in the right shape to touch all the pins at once, and tinned it with solder. Then I placed the tinned wire onto all the pins, and heated it with a soldering iron. This caused heat to be applied to all the pins relatively evenly, so they all desoldered at once. It popped right off.

I sent three emails over three months trying to get a response from ASUS, but in the end, they just told me to call technical support.

I called technical support, and the CS rep made me explain the whole problem over; I tried to get him to look at the ticket history, but he would not. At first he misunderstood, thinking I wanted a replacement A/C adapter, but I finally explained what the word "jack" meant.

He told me I'd have to mail it in. Since that would take a long time, and I would probably end up paying for the repair since I had already opened the laptop (even though it's what the repair shop would have had to do to fix it anyway), I explained to him that I'd prefer to just have the replacement part shipped. After all, the repair facility must get parts from somewhere, right? He explained that it was not possible to send me the part. "Oh really? I can order it online for $30; if you can't send it to me, I'll just do that."

For those who want to order the part like me, you can get it from, where it is listed as "DC Power Jack 3P R A DIP Singatron 2DC2263-002111", model number 12G145311036, or you can get it from, where it is listed as item number 999933. It costs $12.99 there, and shipping was about $11 for me (yes, that seems high).

Ethernet Driver Breakage

After getting a replacement and upgrading to Ubuntu 10.10, I noticed that the AR8152 ethernet chip worked out of the box... kind of.

It appeared to just die at some point during the installation.

I kept running into this again later; it appears that once it gets wedged, only a power cycle fixes it, although maybe unloading and loading the kmod would do it.

Ubuntu 10.10 is using Linux 2.6.22-35. I went to Atheros's web site, got the latest Linux driver source, and tried to compile.

AR81Family-linux-v1.0.1.14/src/atl1e_main.c: In 'atl1e_set_multi':
AR81Family-linux-v1.0.1.14/src/atl1e_main.c:1859: struct 'net_device' has no member named 'mc_list'
AR81Family-linux-v1.0.1.14/src/atl1e_main.c:1859: error: dereferencing pointer to incomplete type
AR81Family-linux-v1.0.1.14/src/atl1e_main.c:1860: error: dereferencing pointer to incomplete type

HDMI Out Not Working

Oh, a new development.

Tried to get HDMI out to work recently. It did not.

I found this page on Ubuntu support which suggests that HDMI is part of the nVidia GPU which isn't enabled, and something called vga_switcheroo might fix it. It also suggests a fix for the "audio line out not working" problem you might get sporadically.

Anyway, as described in this page, HDMI output won't work.

I informed tech support of the current problems, and was very politely informed that they do not support Linux, and that all the PCs shipped with Windows.

Hybrid Graphics Kind Of Works

This guy started a revolution with regard to hybrid graphics cards.

I have had success in being able to turn the discrete (nVidia) graphics adapter on and off, but no luck in actually switching to it, or causing it to display anything. I can tell when it is on since my TV shows a blank screen instead of "check display cable".

The scripts on that page aren't easy to download, and the use of "==" as an operator to test is not POSIX-compliant and so my version of bash wouldn't run it.

Therefore, I have a link to three scripts you might need:

installation script for Ubuntu 10.10

Hybrid Graphics Control via ACPI

I don't really understand this whole deal, but there's a way to control the hybrid graphics states via ACPI which also works for me.

Now if I could just get it to do something.

No Linux Support for OPTIMUS

Note that the list of supported GPU products is provided to indicate which GPUs are supported by a particular driver version. Some designs incorporating supported GPUs may not be compatible with the NVIDIA Linux driver: in particular, notebook and all-in-one desktop designs with switchable (hybrid) or Optimus graphics will not work if means to disable the integrated graphics in hardware are not available. Hardware designs will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so please consult with a system's manufacturer to determine whether that particular system is compatible.


So apparently this nVidia ION card requires something called OPTIMUS, which nVidia chooses not to support for Linux.

However, this summer, there is a Google Summer of Code Project to Get It Working.

Who To Blame

ASUS, Intel, and to a much smaller extent, Atheros.

I wonder if ASUS doesn't intentionally stonewall customers as part of some deal with the warranty repair shops.

It certainly would explain their odd behavior.