One year with my ASUS C201 Chromebook

I’ve been using an ASUS C201 Chromebook for a full year (see original post) now as my daily driver personal machine. I got mine used off Amazon, there was a sale going on and I think I paid around $120 for it. This tiny laptop is powered by a quad-core ARM 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288 processor which is plenty quick for daily email, web browsing, reading and writing or watching videos. The C201 is very light – 2.22 pounds according to the kitchen scale and I can just slap it closed when I run off to do something and its instantly on again when I come back to it.

In this post I’ll go over what I like about this tiny laptop, why its become my daily driver for most tasks, and how I use it with crouton.

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The Pink Palace was torn down

I was cruising around Saratoga Springs, NY on Google Street View tonight checking out the area around Union Ave. by Congress Park to see what the pink palace was looking like these days (thats what we called the Skidmore dorm Moore Hall in the early ’80s when I was there over the summers) and I just happened to end up in a position in the west bound lane where the Google Street View car seems to have passed by just as crews were working on tearing it down. A quick search turned up this article in the Times Union and this story on the Skidmore site confirming that the old building is now gone.

Hold music from an old android

It being so close to St Patrick’s Day, I decided to finally deal with the non-working music on hold at work since it gave me a good excuse to put Irish music on. Many years ago I had set up an ancient PC running Damn Small Linux (DSL) with mp3blaster running in shuffle / repeat mode connected to the PBX (private branch exchange) phone system. I had created a bunch of short audio tracks with little advertisements that would play while callers were on hold and it worked pretty well. The PBX has a wire with a standard 1/8″ male jack that can be plugged into a music player, and so I had just plugged it into the speaker port of the PC. That machine (a Dell Dimension L400c) definitely had a good run. After it died I realized that it had been built in 1999.

To get some music playing again I looked around the office to see what I had available and my eyes fell on an old Acer A500 tablet (running Android 4.0.3 which I think is the most recent version of android Acer had pushed out to it). I didn’t want to set up a gmail account on the tablet, so I used the android browser to navigate to:
https://f-droid.org/
and downloaded and installed the .apk for F-droid (you have to change your security settings to allow from unkown sources to install). F-droid is an alternative “app store” for free and open source android applications which I’ve used in projects like this in the past.

Once I had f-droid installed I was able to install two key applications: OpenExplorer Beta which is a file manager that can operate on files located on an external USB drive (the A500 has a USB port which I intended to use to load music files). After copying over a bunch of albums to the Music folder, I installed Vanilla Music Player which I’ve read is very stable. I loaded it up and it found all the music files and seemed to parse them correctly into albums or artists. I created a new playlist for St Pattys Day and added each album to the playlist. I was able to set the playlist to shuffle and repeat and set it to play and its been running good all day!

By the way, the song playing in the picture is Hungry Man #1 by Millish

Slow wifi with Intel 7265 iwlwifi on Arch

I use my Arch powered bootable USB drive on lots of different hardware, but most often on hand-me-down laptops from work. I recently moved into a newish laptop (a Dell Inspiron 13-7352, P57G) which came with an Intel 7265D wireless card. Its a really nice 2 in 1 laptop where the screen folds back so you can use it in tablet mode, its the size I like (13″) has a backlit keyboard and a touchscreen with an i7. I don’t see myself ever using this thing in tablet mode but build quality seems good and the keyboard is very Macbook-like chicklet type which, while I’m not a huge fan is usable.

Sadly, I do need to keep the SSD drive loaded with Windows (10) since its a work machine, but I was able to take it out of secure boot mode so I could boot from USB as needed. The first few tweaks I needed was to change the resolution because the default res on this screen is only good for the under 30 set. xrandr --output eDP1 --mode 1600x900 gets me something I can live with. Since I use the USB stick on lots of machines, and I’m running i3 and using netctl I don’t have it connect automatically. Sometimes I need to manually scan (like at the library) so I have a few preset profiles I can load set up, but its just another step when I boot to manually connect up. Fn+Brightness keys work fine, as does the Fn+keyboard backlight key but volume keys do not. These are set up in the .i3/config file and I haven’t messed with those keybindings for a couple years and I haven’t looked into fixing that yet, for now I’m just using alsamixer to adjust sound. I did add a binding for screenshots:

# Screenshot bindings 170212
bindsym Print exec scrot $HOME/Pictures/Screenshots/`date +%Y-%m-%d_%H:%M:%S`.png
bindsym $mod+Print exec scrot -u $HOME/Pictures/Screenshots/`date +%Y-%m-%d_%H:%M:%S`.png
bindsym $mod+Shift+Print exec scrot -s $HOME/Pictures/Screenshots/`date +%Y-%m-%d_%H:%M:%S`.png

It wasn’t long before I realized that the network speed over the wireless was just awful when in Linux (currently using kernel 4.9.8-1). The Intel 7265 is fully supported under Linux, though it doesn’t specifically list the 7265D and there really aren’t many complaints about it out there, though there definitely are some and some of those were solved by disabling 11n, but no matter what I tried I just could not get anything faster than about 1.5Mbit/s over my 20Mb connection. The card ran fine in Win10, but even when I disabled the latest iwlwifi (22) and tried each previous version successively in /usr/lib/firmware it wouldn’t ever work right. Another possible culprit was power management but turning it off didn’t help, and most folks complaining about slow performance due to power management reported a slow-down after a certain time period (as if the radio was being powered down on a time limit). This wasn’t my case – it was just slow all the time and equally so. There definitely are some ACPI errors at boot on this machine very similar to those some folks were blaming on the BIOS. The BIOS numbering for this machine (A09) appears to be in an entirely different sequence from the one discussed there (1.4.4) though. There are a few ACPI related errors at boot and I did find a similar kernel bug reported for this kernel, and others have discussed this issue but mostly everything does seem to be working. I can shut the lid and it suspends, and opening it again it resumes and wifi and networking function properly:


ACPI Error: [\_SB_.PCI0.LPCB.H_EC.ECWT] Namespace lookup failure, AE_NOT_FOUND (20160831/psargs-359)
ACPI Error: Method parse/execution failed [\_TZ.FN00._ON] (Node f44bcfa8), AE_NOT_FOUND (20160831/psparse-543)
ACPI: Thermal Zone [THM] (56 C)
ACPI Error: [\_SB_.PCI0.LPCB.H_EC.ECRD] Namespace lookup failure, AE_NOT_FOUND (20160831/psargs-359)
ACPI Error: Method parse/execution failed [\_TZ.TZ00._TMP] (Node f44bcf78), AE_NOT_FOUND (20160831/psparse-543)
ACPI Error: [\_SB_.PCI0.LPCB.H_EC.ECRD] Namespace lookup failure, AE_NOT_FOUND (20160831/psargs-359)
ACPI Error: Method parse/execution failed [\_TZ.TZ01._TMP] (Node f44bc1b0), AE_NOT_FOUND (20160831/psparse-543)

I wish I could relate a more satisfying solution than this: I swapped out the 7265D for a 7260 wireless card out of an ASUS UX303L I have with a broken screen. A few months ago I removed the broken screen and hinges and run the laptop hooked up to an external hdmi screen. Doing so has the side effect of rendering the built in wireless non-functional since the antenna wires route around the screen. Win10 still runs fine with the 7260 (no discernable difference), and now my Arch stick is getting speeds of about 18Mbit/s (according to the command line speedtest-cli program). I was at the point where I had just about given up tweaking software settings and rebooting and if I didn’t have a spare wifi card laying around I would probably have just brought this laptop back in to work and grabbed something less sexy since the slow wifi was that much of an annoyance to me.

Why I do not use Bing or Yahoo for search

The top sponsored ad on the Microsoft search engine for the biggest company in the nation (Walmart) should not be sending people to a phishing server.


The user got an annoying pop up which locked up the browser (had to be killed with task manager). I notice that Bing is set as the default search engine in the user’s browser (Firefox). The user had been searching for “Walmart” and clicked on the first result (a sponsored Microsoft ad) which sent the user to the non-secure (http) walmart.com. Apparently that machine or the DNS pointing to that machine is redirecting folks to pcxxrry0555.xyz (a domain registered with GoDaddy and seemingly sitting on a Highwinds server in Arizona somewhere).

Thanks Microsoft!