New Netbook

I decided to get a netbook recently, and after much searching and waiting it’s here!

I made life difficult for myself by specifying a tricky combination of 10.1″ screen with HD (something x 768) resolution. That’s pretty tricky as it turns out! I also wanted a big battery, 2GB RAM and a fairly rugged construction. But as it turned out, the only 10.1″ HD device I could find was the HP mini 5102.

I had to wait a while, but it’s here now, so how is it…

Anyway, it’s finally here, and I’ve been fiddling with it for a week or so now. It comes with Windows 7 Starter, but I’m a Linuxer, so that was only ever temporary. However, no matter how much I faffed around with various USB stick boot creation utilities, I couldn’t get it to boot from either USB or the in-built SD card reader. It’d give me the option at boot time, you can click the option, and then it just boots from the HDD anyway :(

So I bit the bullet and bought a USB DVD drive and it boots from that fine! I wanted to create a bunch of partitions, so I can install a collection of Linux varieties to try them out, but keep my /home on a separate partition, so it’s shared between them all. HP (in their infinite wisdom) set the HDD up with 4 primary partitions all filled with various stuff (Main windows, boot, recovery, and various tools). But you can’t create an extended partition without getting rid of one of the primary partitions. So I binned the recovery partition, as I now have a DVD reader I can boot from the DVDs that came in the box, and used gparted to resize the original Windows partition and then create an extended partition in the newly freed space. On rebooting, I discovered the Windows boot was broken (as I’d shuffled the partition table around), so I had to use the WIndows recovery to fix the MBR. Once that was sorted, I installed jolicloud Linux, and away I am going.

Jolicloud is the only Linux distro I’ve found so far that supports the network hardware in this device out of the box. Well, the wireless at least, The wired networking took some faffing around. This thread has instructions on getting hold of the appropriate kernel module and compiling it, although it should be in the normal kernels soon anyway. I’ll give the Ubuntu Netbook Remix a go then as well. And Moblin. And Debian – it’ll be interesting to see how a “normal” non-netbook distro works, especially battery-wise.

In fact battery life will be interesting to compare between Win7 and Linux. Out of the box, Windows 7 reports ~8 hours on a full battery without the USB DVD plugged in, and the screen quite dim. It seems pretty accurate over the half-discharges I’ve done so far. Linux is currently reporting 5-6 hours… but it “learned” about that over a couple of battery charges of copying data over wireless from my desktop, so the disk and WiFi were in continuous operation… We’ll see how Linux fares over the next few days.

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