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The Family Bandwagon

Our family is spread out across the country and across the world, and what better way to keep in touch than a collaborative digital journal?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Samsung netbook is teh awesomeness

Samsung N110 with Ubuntu Netbook Remix (Gimped)I am very impressed with Dee's new netbook (the Samsung N110) and Ubuntu 9.04 "Netbook Remix"! And for an old GNU/Linux otaku like me, it takes a lot to impress.

The netbook comes with Windows XP by default, and Dee played with it for a little while before installing the Ubuntu remix (UNR they call it) -- confusing, as XP can be, because each of the various hardware drivers seem to install their own versions of XP's built in functions: so there is the sound applet in XP, and an "Enhanced Audio" panel; XP's "normal" graphics settings and the "Intel Advanced Graphics" settings; built-in wifi and another whole menu of wifi tools.

She'd already decided to install Ubuntu, and I hardly twisted her arm! (Okay, I probably told her about all the good things that GNU/Linux can do these days ... and maybe cried a little.) Ostensibly, it was so she could a) have a terminal she understands (she's a UNIX-head) and b) install Apache Web-Server and do some web development for tracking our trip. So I think we were both happy when everything else -- graphics, camera, sound, wifi -- "just worked".

Installing was pretty easy: I downloaded an image and "burnt" it to a little USB key-drive thingy, then Dee set her BIOS to boot from it. A few screens of questions, mostly about where in the world you are and what time it is, then some waiting as it formatted the drive ('bye XP! 'bye Porpoise Spit!) and installed UNR. At the end, it asks you to remove the USB drive and reboot -- and when it reloads you have a nice shiny Ubuntu system!

Strangely for an operating system that is developed in a distributed way by people all over the world, Ubuntu feels much more integrated than XP did. Wifi connections are in the same place as wired ones, which is also where the "Mobile Broadband" connections are (which automatically popped up when we plugged in my mobile phone). The sound settings are in one place, although they're a little confusing with multiple "devices" (ALSA, OSS -- two competing sound architectures on Linux, which are both handled by the "umbrella" system called PulseAudio). The launch screen in place of a desktop is a bit weird but brilliant when you get used to it, and maximised apps share the little launch bar at the top of the screen for maximum screen "real estate".

(There are a few apps/screens which don't maximise and are too big for the 1024x600 pixel screen. That's annoying -- you have to ALT-click the window and drag it up to see the rest, including (usually) the "Close" button. Hope they fix that in an update soon!)

We also had to mess about with the wifi a little, as occasionally it wouldn't reconnect after closing the lid and "suspending" the netbook (i.e. going into low power mode). Turns out that removing and re-adding the kernel module fixes it, so Dee wrote two tiny shell scripts to do exactly that and dropped them into the suspend.d and resume.d directories ... UNIX/Linux is so ... logical! Sensible! Rational!

This morning she installed Skype, signed up for an account, and called Dayna and her brother with it. There was a little bit of messing about with the sound settings (to get the speakers to play, the microphone to work, and to limit any feedback) but the video camera just worked too. (Even our desktop computer required a bit of messin' to get the video to work and not crash Skype.)

The speakers and microphone on the netbook are good enough that we can Skype people without headphones, with clear sound and without any feedback. Skype were even nice enough to give her some free credit to call a "normal" telephone number (for a decent rate). We have our international calling solution!

So, now she is uploading photos to a new Flickr account to try that out. It's slow, but that's probably Flickr rather than the netbook itself. (I'll go back and add photos into our "speedboat down the Thames" post once it's done.)

The only way I'd be more impressed is if Samsung had shipped with the Ubuntu Netbook remix by default.

1 comment:

  1. Wish you were here. Dad has a laptop that needs an operating system. Hoped to get a copy of XP from Carolynn but didn't. I don't understand enough about your alternative. Maybe it can be a project when you get back to Australia.The laptop was a free throw out but it was working for a while on XP, but could only have a limited time.


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