Okay, it’s time to evangelize a bit…
The past few weeks i’ve been considering buying a netbook (sub-notebook). Not because i particularly need one, but because they’re so damned cute and they’re relatively cheap nowadays. In my various train trips i’ve always found a laptop too be more trouble than they’re worth - heavy, battery-hungry, and i only end up getting 1-2 hours of use out of them per trip. i figured with a smaller device i could once again justify taking my computing on the road with me.
This morning i got up and walked about 8 miles around town, visiting just about every computer/electronics shop in central Munich (about 12 shops in total). i found only one shop which had netbooks without Windows preinstalled, and those models had only 4GB of SSD storage. Since my Dropbox has about 14GB of stuff in it, i need at least that much space on my netbook. So i gave up on the idea of buying one which came without Windows, and figured i could use an external CD drive to install Linux on whichever one i ended up getting.
After going through about a dozen stores, i ended up buying an Acer Aspire One (colored dark blue). When i got home i started puting it together and was sorely disappointed to find that it cannot read my external CD drive (which i bought for my oldest laptop, which has a flaky internal drive, and which i use to install Linux on that laptop). After a bit of googling i found a page explaining how to transfer an Ubuntu installation CD to an SD card. Some more googling revealed Ubuntu-specific pages for getting an Acer Aspire One to work, and i was a bit underwhelmed at the amount of manual hackery which was reportedly needed to get it running (or running optimally). Not really interested in spending two days hacking to make it work, i decided to try a vanilla Ubuntu install using the SD card method “just to see what happens.”
An hour later, i was online with Ubuntu 9.04 on my new netbook. i’m writing this post from the netbook, in fact, and the only thing which bugs me so far is that there is no END key (you’ve got to tap Fn-PageDown to simulate the End key).
The Windows XP installation is still there (Simone insisted that i allow it to live, so that she can use it for some of her work-related activities), and everything’s living in harmony on the spacious 160GB drive.
What surprises me the most is:
- WLAN works as-is with no driver module parameter tweaks needed. i had noticed in the Windows setup that it has a Broadcom chipset, and i’ve heard bad things about them vis-a-vis Linux, so i didn’t expect it to work. Works for me, though perhaps a bit more slowly than i would expect. Update 2 May 2009: i take that back about being slow - my speed problems appear to have been transient in nature, and i’m now getting the speeds i would expect.
- Bluetooth works. i’ve just got to press the little Bluetooth button, the hardware activates, and Ubuntu starts up a bluetooth management tool which allows me to connect to, e.g., my mobile phone. i don’t use bluetooth at all, but i love that it works.
- Even on a tiny 1024×600 screen resolution, it looks damned good. Screen space is somewhat tight, but it looks surprisingly good nonetheless.
- OMG, the builtin webcam even works using Cheese (who’s author is one of the few OSS developers i’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person).
So, chalk another one up to the Ubuntu team. And to Linus. And Daniel (author of Cheese). And the tens of thousands of people who have hacked the OS and Gnome and all these other parts over the years.
Now let’s go read up on what the optional hacks for optimizing the Acer Aspire entail…