View Full Version : [ubuntu] I need an Ubuntu netbook recommendation

June 10th, 2010, 11:02 PM
I just ordered the following netbook from Amazon for $289 US with free shipping.
Gateway LT2115u 10.1-Inch White Netbook - Over 10 Hours of Battery Life (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0031M9SIE/?tag=jaxfl32225-20)

I'm going to load Ubuntu on it as soon as it arrives. I plan to load the full version of Ubuntu. Will that be any problem?

Now, to my real question. I have about 100 friends who will be purchasing similar netbooks over the next few months. Almost all will purchase based on my recommendation.

I want to know the easiest way to help them get a similar netbook at an equally low price with Ubuntu pre-installed.

Ideally, I want their netbooks to have Sun Java pre-installed too, along with a few other apps.

I guess the two options are to 1) find a system builder who sells an Ubuntu netbook (and will customize the settings for my group of people), or 2) create an Ubuntu-based installation CD or USB that I can send to people after they buy a Windows netbook.

Any thoughts on the best way to do this? Thanks.

BTW, this is a purely volunteer project for me so I'm looking for the easiest solution.

July 28th, 2010, 04:58 AM
Disclaimer: this post is for informational purposes only, and its author is not liable for the consequences of any decision you may make after you've read it. Please be a diligent consumer and verify the information contained herein before purchasing anything.

I, too, am going back to school and am in the market for a hassle-free netbook from a Linux OEM. I've been doing extensive product research online, restricting my search to the following criteria:

-- ships with Linux
-- manufacturer guarantees essential functionality (power management, wireless) under Linux
-- 12-inch screen (have been looking at 10-inch screens, too)
-- less than $500 (US)

So far, I have found only three that I've considered buying. The first is the System76 Starling Netbook 10.1''. Its best feature is it's guarantee of functional power management (suspend and hibernate), something critical when using a laptop. Its price-point of $389 is a little steep considering the specs on the machine:

10.1" HD WSVGA Super Clear Ultra-Bright LED backlit (1024 x 600)
Atom N455 @ 1.66 GHz with Hyper-Threading
Intel GMA 3100 graphics
LAN (10/100), WiFi 802.11 bgn
VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, Headphone Jack, Microphone Jack, SD Reader
Built-In 0.3 MP Webcam
3-cell battery

System76's description: http://www.system76.com/product_info.php?cPath=28&products_id=105

My only hesitation is that I feel a little burned by System76. I ordered a Wild Dog Performance desktop from them a little over a year ago, and only found out after the fact that System76 does not support power management on it. The machine appears to wake from sleep, but the graphics card doesn't, forcing me to restart (and lose my work). When I contacted them about this, I was told that the company only guarantees functioning power management on its laptops, it being a less-critical feature in a desktop. While I understand this argument, I still feel a little ripped-off, as I feel entitled to put my consumer-oriented computer to sleep regardless of its hardware configuration. (This aside, my Wild Dog Performance has performed admirably, and I've had no other complaints.)

I've also found the NIMBUS ($540 US) and CUMULUS ($485 US) netbooks from eRacks competitive. These two netbooks are my favorite in terms of form factor and features, mostly because they have 12.1'' screens.

NIMBUS: http://eracks.com/products/Netbooks/config?sku=NIMBUS
CUMULUS: http://eracks.com/products/Netbooks/config?sku=CUMULUS

These laptops appear to be off-the shelf Asus and MSI systems that are simply pre-loaded with either Ubuntu or Fedora 13. Though they're more expensive than most netbooks, the 12.1'' screen and better specs would be enough to compensate in my opinion. The trouble is power management. I contacted eRack's customer service and made inquiries into wireless, graphics, and power management capabilities, and the results were a little underwhelming. From what I've been told...

NIMBUS: Ubuntu supports the ethernet and wireless hardware, but requires special video drivers (included). Ubuntu supports suspend/hibernate, but restoring the session from either can fail sometimes.

CUMULUS: Ubuntu supports ethernet and wireless, but is a little flaky with the ATI graphics card. Under Ubuntu, contrast adjustment does note work, and it has trouble restoring from sleep mode.

My most recent find is the Dell Inspiron Mini 10n , which I could only find after a Google search returned Dell's front-page for consumer machines shipping with Ubuntu:

http://www.dell.com/content/topics/segtopic.aspx/ubuntu?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs&~ck=anavml&ST=dell%20linux&dgc=ST&cid=35222&lid=916678&acd=52183,8,0,61355347,705943775,1280288739,,12144 256,2510837211

This front page has a link to the configure and order pages for the three Ubuntu systems they offer:


The Mini 10n is by far the best bargain. For $300 (US), you get:

High Definition Audio 2.0
10.1" Widescreen Display (1024x600) Integrated 1.3M Pixel Webcam
Intel® Atom® Processor N450 (1.66GHz, 512K L2 Cache)
Intel® NM10 Express
160G, 2.5inch, 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
28WHr Lithium-Ion Battery (3-cell)
Wireless 802.11n (HB95) Mini Card
Integrated 10/100 Network Card

According to a live online chat I had with a Dell customer service rep, the Ubuntu Moblin Remix it ships with supports all the hardware and includes power management features. The only concern I have here is that (a) the screen is small and (b) the service rep didn't know that Dell shipped laptops with Linux. I found the second turn-off the more disconcerting one.

Right now, I'm leaning towards the Dell. I'm holding off in order to do a little more product research, though, as I won't absolutely need a laptop until September. Please let us know what you think of these machines, and what you eventually decide upon.

July 28th, 2010, 03:13 PM
Here is my update. The Gateway LT2115u works really well with Ubuntu. It is the same computer as the Acer Aspire One 532h.

I have set up about a dozen of these netbooks for friends of mine now. And I decided to run Linux Mint 9 on them. Almost everything works out of the box, and the things that don't (like trackpad edge scrolling) are really, really easy to fix.

Suspend and resume in particular work really well.

The only bug I have found that is not resolved is that sometimes the battery status is reported incorrectly. For example, the icon in the panel reports that I'm on A/C power instead of battery sometimes after booting up. If this happens, I do a quick suspend/resume and it is resolved.

A couple days ago I found the Acer Aspire One 532h on sale at Walmart.com for $248, so I just ordered one. I'll switch to that in the future if everything proves out the same as the Gateway (it should be the identical machine). EDIT: it just arrived. It is the same computer.

If you want to get this identical netbook and use Linux Mint 9, I will post the fixes I have. I think you will be happy with how well everything works and the fact that you are saving money.

July 28th, 2010, 03:19 PM
BTW, the Acer/Gateway has very similar specs to the Dell. I think the video is better (unless Dell upgraded recently). But the Acer/Gateway has a 6 cell battery. This battery lasts a long time. The way I use my netbook (work for a few minutes, then suspend, then later work a few minutes, then suspend, etc.) I have gotten more than 2 days on a single charge. And even when I work constantly for hours, the battery life is amazing. (The status icon doesn't always report remaining battery life accurately, but that's a minor thing.)

July 28th, 2010, 08:13 PM
Thanks, MountainX, for the update and recommendation. With power management functional on the Acer Aspire 532n, I think I might just head out to Microcenter and pick up one. I'm a bit of a distrofreak, so I might try installing Moblin or Netbook Remix instead of Desktop Edition. Do you have any experience with netbook-oriented distributions? Are you using a netbook-oriented UI with your Linux Mint 9?

July 28th, 2010, 09:02 PM
I did install the netbook remix first (Ubuntu 10.04). Then I tried the standard version of Ubuntu and I found it was not a problem on the 10.1" screen, but the two panels did take up a bit too much of the screen. Next I tried Linux Mint 9 gnome (standard version). Linux Mint uses just one panel and I found that this was a perfect fit for the netbook. I have plenty of screen real estate available.

I have done a few tweaks. For example, I installed the Tiny Menu add-on for Firefox. But overall, Linux Mint gives me plenty of screen real estate and I don't feel I need the netbook remix.

EDIT: by the way, the computers I have tested are the Acer Aspire One 532H (that's an h, not n) and the Gateway LT2115u.

July 30th, 2010, 05:21 AM
Typing this message from my new Aspire One 532h, running Linux Mint 9 live off a bootable usb stick. Wireless card is functional, battery indicator appears accurate (for now), function keys working, audio and video working. Haven't played with power management yet.

I encountered something odd while booting off my usb stick. When booting Linux Mint in normal mode, upon log-in, the cursor would jump around at random with the slightest touch of the trackpad. I've since rebooted from the usb stick, this time loading Mint in low-graphics mode, and the trackpad is behaving normally. Did you have any such difficulties after you installed Mint, proper?

(I'm holding off on wiping the Windows install until I can back-up the install to DVDs. Windows may be crap, but I'd like to be able to revert to Windows if absolutely necessary.)

Thanks, again, for the recommendation.

July 30th, 2010, 05:29 AM
I encountered something odd while booting off my usb stick. When booting Linux Mint in normal mode, upon log-in, the cursor would jump around at random with the slightest touch of the trackpad. I've since rebooted from the usb stick, this time loading Mint in low-graphics mode, and the trackpad is behaving normally. Did you have any such difficulties after you installed Mint, proper?
Glad to hear you are off to a good start. I have seen that if I touch the touchpad in strange ways (e.g., touch it in two places in just the right way), I can make the cursor jump.

It is possible to customize the touchpad features extensively and to even get multi-touch working. But I have not tried that yet.

This page seems outdated, but I'm starting here for clues when I get ready to try to enable advanced touchpad features:
This page has more clues:

July 30th, 2010, 05:45 AM
you might also want to do this from the terminal:

man synclient

You can check your current settings with:

synclient -l

This page lists GUI frontends, but I have not tried them yet:

I have not changed any of the default settings, actually.