Blog Post

Penguicon, Netbooks, Oh My

Backing up what Jorge blogged about earlier, Penguicon 7 is just a few months away. It would be great to register now and also book your hotel room if needed. I highly recommend that you get a hotel room where the event is taking place. If you don’t, then you have to travel every night which means no partying for you, in which the grooviest of groovy happens. So head on over, REGISTER and RESERVE. Myself, some of the Ubuntu Chicago folks, the Ubuntu Michigan folks, and other hackers from around the midwest will be there. If you have never been to a Penguicon and enjoy having fun, I suggest you get to one, preferably this one. I felt so out of place last year, but my god it was a blast, just ask Jono!

So, Netbooks. I am in the market for one and have been doing my research. I know this for sure, I need at least 10″ of screen, because the smaller the screen the smaller the keyboard. If any of you know me, I have a set of paws the size of most human heads 🙂 Thus far, the best keyboard I have found is on the HP Netbooks. I have tried the Asus eeePC 10″ and it isn’t bad, but I don’t like it. The other’s, well they are horrid. I was hoping the Lenovo had a good keyboard, but after further inspection tonight, I am better off with my Blackberry. There just happens to be one downfall for the HP (Mini Mi which comes with Linux and no command line). There is no external VGA port, and I do a lot of work behind a projector. I know there are these USB to VGA converters which I think are great, however upon further review via the Intertubes, it seems these little devices are horrible. So, are there any of you out there with a HP Netbook and if so do you use one of these USB to VGA converters? Is there anyone using a USB to VGA converter and if so which one do you have and do you like it?

I plan on throwing Kubuntu on it, so if any of you out there are rocking Kubuntu or KDE 4 on a Netbook, I would like to hear your experience with doing so.

Since I live in the US, have big hands, and Netbooks are made for people with small hands, can I sue for discrimination? :p

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  • bdgraue

    i have an samsung nc10, kubuntu intrepid with kde4 installed. this little device is awesome and kde4 is rocking my world 🙂

  • @bdgraue: Yes, I have heard great things about that one as well. How is the keyboard on it?

  • You might want to take a look at the Dell Mini 10 – just launched. Apparently the keyboard is actually larger than the Mini 12, plus you can get Ubuntu preinstalled.

  • Anthony

    I tried a KDE4.2 build a month or so ago on my 1000H and was not impressed by the performance… with compositing turned on, the effects were running at about 2fps, and even with everything off redrawing seemed sluggish. I’m not sure KDE4 is optimised enough for the Atom or the GMA graphics yet… it would probably be usable, but I find GNOME with Compiz-fusion (or even kde3 w/ kwin3) to be a much more pleasant experience.

    As to the hardware, I’ve heard the HP has the best keyboard, but the lack of VGA sounds like a bummer. Certainly check out the Dell Mini 10, the NC10 and possibly some larger models like the mini 12 and the (announced) NC20.

  • jkt

    Get a ThinkPad X300 (or 301). Even though the screen is “huge” (13.3″ compared to all these 10″ netbooks), it weights around 1.5kg and can be actually used as a computer. And since it’s a ThinkPad, it has the best keyboard you can get on a laptop today.

  • Anthony

    jkt: the X30[01] is a great machine, but there’s one problem – money. If you’ve got it to spend, the X301 would be a very good all-rounder machine for years into the future, but it’s not exactly in the netbook price bracket. 😉

  • I use an Acer Aspire One and have installed Ubuntu.
    While I use an Acer that cames with Linpus Linux I recommend to buy the XP version because it cames with more memory and harddisk for a little more and with Ubunti it’s better to get more than 512Mbyte (it seems there is a Linux Acer with 1Gbyte) that adds to the slow 8Gbyte Flash..
    I tried to install following instructions in and also a kubuntu version
    but after some experiences I recommend to install these italian version
    and I upgraded to Intrepid and make some minor corrections (like audio after suspend recommend on the link above) and everything runs smootly.
    If you want to get more memory there are several instructions on web..

  • I would like to add that:
    – Acer one has a good keyboard
    – Has a VGA output (for me is also good) and the two screens work just fine
    – I buyed a 6600mAh battery and I have ~6h power (full day) that gives also a good “handle” to carry netbook.
    I recommend it.

  • Daniel

    Kubuntu with KDE 4.2 from the PPA running on an eee 901, which I chose for the battery life and because I’m fine with the keyboard, I can touchtype fine on it.

    Performance is perfectly acceptable, but it feels like there is certainly room for improvement given how very much faster XFCE is on this machine.

    KDE 4 can be very economical with screen space though.

  • Wow, a lot of great input.

    @jkt: I looked at the X300 series. I like the Dell XPS m1330 better I think, but ya, if I had the money to blow it would definitely be a battle between the two. However, Dell Outlet has the 1330’s for $600+. They are either a refurb or scratch-and-dent machine. Either is fine with me as they still come with the Dell warranty. Scratch and dent can be fixed with stickers! 🙂

    @Filipe: my daughter got the Acer. It is definitely in my top 3, though I wish the screen was bigger.

  • Joseph

    do NOT buy a Windows notebook and put Linux on it. If Linux is ever going to have a chance in the market, now is really the time and you’re the one who has to help.

    Seriously, go for the less RAM and buy a 2GB module. It’s what I’ve done with my eee, and i’ve never regretted it. The 2GB RAM is dirt cheap, too. Like USD30 or so.

    If you keep buying Windows, windows is all we’re ever gonna get. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of it. Given how MSFT slipped up on Vista, now’s basically our only chance to get a comparable linux offering in the future–*if* we can show them that demand exists.

  • @Joseph: that is exactly what I won’t do. The machine I buy has to come with Linux, and that is why I really like the HP Mini Mi. $329 USD at Circuit City soon. It comes with 1GB already.

    That is the one I am looking at. It has pretty impressive netbook specs for that price.

  • Jeff

    I’ve got an Aspire One. I had Kubuntu 8.10 on it, and I wasn’t satisfied with it at all. Performance was generally very sluggish – boot up, shut down, log in, scrolling, anything.

    And no, I don’t think that I was “expecting too much” from the hardware. I had Kubuntu on there after I got tired of the comparatively-maintenance-intensive Archlinux install I had on it. That also used KDE 4.1, and it was very, very responsive.

    I’ve settled on OpenSUSE 11.1 for now. It’s a happy medium in terms of system speed, and I don’t care for apt-get anyhow.

    Oh, and by the way? Firefox 3 is an abomination on all three of the distros on this hardware (prepackaged or self compiled). Calling it “sluggish” is fairly generous. Now I know why Linpus stuck with 2.0.0 (y’know, aside from the fact it was based on a year-and-a-half old distro).

  • David James

    I installed Debian and KDE4.2 beta onto a Dell Inspiron Mini9 (after repartitioning the drive to make room for it alongside the custom version of Ubuntu that came with it).

    By and large I like KDE4.2 on the Dell, but the lack of a wifi manager is annoying and some of the plasmoids end up being a bit wonky (including the battery monitor). Also, I can’t have special effects set because it turns Konqueror’s scrolling into a royal PITA. This is kind of a disappointment that hopefully can be fixed somehow.

    As for the keyboard, it is a bit cramped and the tab key is really on the small side, which is quite annoying given its frequency of use at the command line. There’s also no right Alt key, which means that options for making fuller use of the keyboard for accented characters and the like is more limited (I’m considering remapping the otherwise pretty useless right Shift key to Alt GR instead). Looking at the pictures of the new Dell Inspiron 10 it looks to be a lot better in both regards and I probably would have got one instead had I known it would be coming out.

  • Luis

    I’ve been looking around to get one myself. Also want 10″ screen at least and good keyboard. Conclusions:

    – Dell mini 10 (just introduced) looks nice, but like mini 12 it has a GMA 500 graphics with bad Linux support (even if Ubuntu comes pre-installed, it uses a closed source, badly supported driver – open source efforts seem stalled).
    – HP Mini 1000: great keyboard, design, build quality, but no VGA, only 3 cell battery, slow hard drive.

    In the end it comes to:
    – HP Mini 2140 (just introduced): Great keyboard, design, build quality (aluminum chassis), VGA out, 6 cell battery, good glossy display, 0.3 MP webcam.
    – Samsung NC10: Good keyboard, decent design and build quality, VGA, 6 cell battery, good matte display, 1.3 MP webcam.

    Read reviews at, they are quite informative.

  • Casper van Donderen

    For the HP there is a docking station which has all the ports. I’m in India now and here it costs some US$100. It has everything. from VGA/S-Video to audio plugs. Maybe that is an option?

    I have an MSI Wind U100 myself and am quite satisfied with it. It’s a bit older already (6 months, so from the Eee900 generation) so it lacks things like a expresscard slot. But everything else is there.

  • Lure

    What about a bit older HP Mini 1000 (editor’s pick on or recently announced, more expensive, but business oriented HP Mini 2140:

  • Thorsten Schnebeck

    I use an EEE 1000h with Kubuntu 8.10 and Cause I have small hands I could also use a EEE90x (x>0) as these size is much more portable.

    I am quite curious about the next gen netbooks. Today most of the battery power is burned in the chipset and Intel has new chipsets for the ATOM CPU ready.

    KDE 4.2 is really nice and fast enough and on Intel-GPU Composite is stable. A weak point of current (non nvidia) X-driver is missing DRI2. If you want to use fast video replay and OpenGL you got flicker and have to disable Composite (Alt+Shift+F12). And you have to use KDE3 for Bluetooth as KDE4.2 as no support. So you have to install konqueror, kioslaves and kdebluetooth from KDE 3.5.10.

    Suspend, Hibernate is stable and the Fastboot-BIOS is nice: When you power on the computer you usually look at a BIOS boot screen. With Fastboot the EEE uses a snapshot and when the (matte!!) LCD is up you see an already half booted Linux kernel 🙂



  • Narishma

    IMO the best all around netbook currently available is the Samsung NC10. It has the best keyboard (except the tiny right shift key) and can run easily for 7 or 8 hours on its 6 cell battery. The build quality is very good and it looks nice. The only problem it has is that it comes with Windows…

  • Paulo

    The HP Mini 1000 seems to have VGA out that requires a special adapter. Unfortunately the adapter is not sold yet by HP. However the last post in this page

    seems to say that one can use the standard VGA adapter from apple in the HP mini 1000. It would be interesting to get the confirmation of this from a HP mini 1000 owner.

  • Wow, everyone left an amazing comment that really has me thinking. I too like the Samsung and it seems to be the better netbook, however at a $500 price tag, it doesn’t make sense. For $600 I could get a refurb Dell XPS M1330 which is a full blown laptop with a 13.3″ LCD and less than 2 pounds heavier. I thought the main thing for netbooks were the pricepoint, and I think that is where HP is quite nice, especially the Mini Mi offer at Circuit City. This 0.3 MP webcam that I keep reading about though seems a bit garbage imho.

  • TGM

    I’m using the Acer Aspire One (150L Model) and Kubuntu 8.10 + KDE4.2 is a dream to use on it! (I even have a script if you like)

  • nmuntz

    The best I’ve seen so far is the Lenovo s10. You can’t expect a great keyboard in such a small laptop. Really. Performing upgrades on the s10 doesn’t void the warranty and it seems to work fine in Linux.

    What I don’t like about the HP Mini is the touchpad having the buttons on each side…. horrible design and it drives me nuts !

  • Albert

    If you are going to kubuntu you must be advised that nepomuk won’t work. The backend used for it is the slowest and there are other problem so if you prefer to have you CPU used for other things than “not doing” the indexing you will have to turn it off. Problem known and ignored but kubuntu and I think that nepomuk is one of the cool KDE4 feature so I don’t think that the choice made by kubuntu is very good…

  • Dimble

    Try the new HP 2140 – business netbook

    Great keyboard
    has a VGA connection
    excellent screen @ 1366×768
    now uses Atom instead of Via

  • nmuntz

    The HP 2140 looks great – but it’s out of the netbook price range. Too expensive, for the same price I rather buy the Thinkpad X300.

  • @Paulo: that mini vga adaptor for Apples does not work as there is no mini vga port on anything other than Apple products. What is needed is a USB to VGA adaptor which I have found on Newegg for around $50.

  • Jarrad

    I’ve got a Toshiba Portégé R500 and it’s fantastic, I managed to wangle an SSD version for a great price, but the HDD version should be almost as good. I’m running Sidux with and it’s bloody fantastic, only problem is the lack of bluetooth but a kernel update should fix that soon, the Ubuntu kernel comes pre-patched so it will certainly work there.

    800 grams worth of Linux ownage!

  • DS

    Do you know when Circuit City will carry the HP Mini 1000 Mi? The link redirects to a bankruptcy/liquidation announcement.

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