Samsung N150 Netbook and Ubuntu Netbook Remix

That was a pretty good weekend. I set up someone’s new Samsung N150 netbook with Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

If you like Windows, you might want to skip this long paragraph: the N150 came with Microsoft Windows 7 Starter. When I realised what that was, I thought it was some sort of joke. It’s more like an advert for Windows than a proper operating system. They even removed the option to replace the branded backdrop image, which gives you an idea of the pettiness of that distribution. I read that Win7 Starter used to have a 3 simultaneous application limit but an update removed it because of the sheer volume of complaints and rumblings about court cases to get money back. Microsoft justify all the limits with the argument that it’s optimised for low-power netbooks, but the N150 goes like stink compared to my own (7-year-old) work laptop and how much power is saved by loading the Windows logo backdrop instead of a nice picture anyway?

What did that make me want to do? Well this:
Windows 7 Sins

But I’d read that Samsung view nuking Win7 Starter from orbit as voiding the warranty and I couldn’t see anything to confirm or reject that in the paperwork, so I made it dual-boot with Ubuntu netbook remix. If it ever has to go back to the shop, I’ll hide the boot menu. I had enough trouble installing it that I did contemplate get.debian.net with some of the Debian Eee PC things, but I wasn’t sure what I needed and I didn’t have that much time.

There were two big gotchas when installing:

  1. When you switch between Ubuntu and Windows, it won’t boot the first time. Second and subsequent boots are fine, but the first one just reboots immediately. I suspect this would be the same for all GNU/Linux distributions.
  2. I didn’t realise that the current ndisgtk (or the underlying ndiswrapper?) couldn’t use Win7 drivers. Once I downloaded some XP drivers, it worked. There are some native drivers for the rtl8192 but I didn’t have time to go compiling on it yet.

After figuring those out, Ubuntu seems to work fine. Better than the Windows.

I got particularly appreciative comments about the large clickable spaces on the launcher that netbook remix uses (which is what I’d expect from Fitts’s Law). Debian probably has a similar launcher, but I don’t know what it’s called yet. It looks like some Gnome window or file manager and I’m a GNUstep throwback.

Setting up the mobile phone for internet access was also a breeze. It’s a later model than my old k608i, so it supports PANU, so after the Bluetooth pairing, it appeared in the networking menu on the top panel bar and it just worked.

On Sunday, I cycled to Clevedon (7 miles away as the crow flies, but 12 by bike because of a missing river crossing). Pretty good weekend.

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