NetBSD on Acer Aspire One

2 minute read
October 21, 2010

Short installation and configuration log for NetBSD on Acer Aspire One. Not a how-to but just my notes of the process so that I don’t need to Google these again.

The exact model of hardware is Acer Aspire A150 which is so called “mini-laptop” with 1,6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1024x600px 9” screen, wifi, ethernet, USB and VGA connectivities.


Installation needs to be done from USB-stick. Download NetBSD ISO image (5.1 released Nov 2010) and convert it to USB-image with following script:

Boot laptop, plug the stick in and install. You may want to download the sets over FTP/HTTP because the installer probably wants to find them from CD.

Tip: if you do not have any NetBSD system where to run, set up virtual machine and do it there - this took like 20 minutes with Ubuntu/VirtualBox.

Generic configuration

Set up PKG_PATH (this is needed for finding packages):

export PKG_PATH="\

It might be good idea to add this line to /root/.profile

Installing the relevant applications (my personal favourites)

pkg_add fluxbox firefox thunderbird vim wget bash

Next we add new user

useradd -m username
passwd username

Add the new user to group wheel (vi /etc/group). After this, log in as new user. As a long-term Linux-user I am familiar with bash as shell, so configuring default shell:

chsh -s bash
echo 'export PS1="\u@\h \W# "' >> ~/.bashrc

Graphical environment

If you made full install, Xorg is already installed. Making the configuration file:

Xorg -configure
cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Edit xorg.conf if needed (I needed to configure keybord, check for howto)

Now the user interface can be configured, I wrote line “startfluxbox” to ~/.xinitrc so that fluxbox will be run when X is started. Note that by default there is no display manager installed so the graphical environment needs to be started manually. Xorg is started normally by running command “startx”. I prefer this approach.

If the text in graphical applications looks like too large, configure DPI (dots per inch) value. This can be done by starting X with command ‘startx – -dpi 96’ or by editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf


Wifi driver works by default. Scanning the networks:

ifup ath0 ; ifconfig ath0 list scan

Connecting to network: add known networks and priorities to file /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf (tip: wpa_passphrase) and run following command.

wpa_supplicant -Dbsd -iath0 -c/etc/wpa_supplicant.conf

Power management

Set apmd and powerd to start automatically:

echo 'apmd=YES' >> /etc/rc.conf
echo 'powerd=YES' >> /etc/rc.conf

Events for screen lid switch and power button can be configured in directory /etc/power/scripts. Suspend command is “zzz”


Sounds seems to work out of box, but the audio output is not switched from built-in speaker the line-out when headset plugged in. This can be done manually:

mixerctl -w outputs.ispkr.mute=on
mixerctl -w mix.mix10.dac02.mut=off

First command mutes speaker and latter one enables headset. Also, when headset is plugged out, the reverse operation should be done.

Using pkgsrc

The NetBSD package collection is called pkgsrc. It is useful for building and installing software that is not available in binary package collections.

More information at

Short explanation:

  1. download pkgsrc tarball
  2. untar it to /usr
  3. change to directory /usr/pkgsrc/category/application and
  4. say “make install”. The system will take care of rest.


NetBSD runs nicely on Acer Aspire One, practically all hardware works (as of writing this, I’ve not tested VGA output). I’ve sometimes managed to get system freezed when running something heavy software. Also, for some reason the keyboard is not recognized on every boot. Rebooting helps.



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