The end of the netbook is already here. The Guardian has posted a nice piece here about the stats and the numbers pointing to the fact that the end for the computer format is already here. This question has been much discussed ever since the explosion of the market for consumer tablets, heralded by the birth of the first iPad.
When the first iPad was born in the marketplace, my main tool for working on the go was actually a netbook. I still own this netbook, an HP Mini Note 2133 with the VIA C7M ULV processor and its accompanying chipset. It was quite interesting that HP decided to use the VIA processor when everyone else was going the Atom route. This resulted in some interesting experience trying to install Linux over the shipped Windows Vista Business OS.
Overall, I found it quite frustrating to work on the small screen, cramped keyboard and the 3-cell battery (lucky to last more than two hours). Taking it to a cafe to browse on their wifi connection was quite painful at best, but luckily, or unluckily, the woefully inadequate battery life makes the experience quite short. I hardly ever tried to write articles or code on it as it did not give me enough working time away from the power point. This problem was somewhat alleviated by my splurging on an extra large battery (6-cell model).
I decided to replace this woeful machine with two different devices. One was a Macbook Air, which took care of all my writing and coding needs, while for other things, I got an Acer Iconia Tab Android Tablet. The tablet is an excellent tool for browsing, writing short emails or comments on blogs, updating facebook, and many other light tasks. It is quite easy to operate for short periods of time, but it also has the stamina to sustain a five to six hour browing or movie session.
I am not sure if I should have gone for an iPad to accompany my Macbook Air, but I definitely see a place for a tablet in my gadget bag. I did not choose the iPad at that time because I had an Android phone and I thought giving up Android’s configurability was not an option (maybe it is now?). I chose the Acer tablet because it had a MicroSD card slot, full-size USB slot (yes, I can plug in a portable HDD into it) and it was running Android.
So from a personal standpoint, the netbook certainly has had its day. I have not used my HP Mini Note 2133 since I got the Acer tablet and Macbook Air last year. Do you still use your netbook?
I have jumped the bandwagon with the updates this time and downloaded and installed Linux Mint 9 (Isadora) on my old HP Mini Note 2133 which has been a testing bed for all sorts of OS and software. Upon completion, however I have noticed a couple of important issues:
The K3520 Vodafone dongle does not get recognised by the network manager anymore. When I plug it in, it shows up as a CDROM drive, but does not get unmounted an then used as a modem like it was with Linux Mint 8 (Helena).
The Interface seems to be really slow as to make it nearly unusable. The delay between clicking on a program to launch it and the actual launch is around 3-5 seconds. This is unacceptable.
To keep myself sane, I think I will just go back to Helena for now and be happy that everything works well enough to use the netbook on the move.
I have not used my HP 2133 for a few months now. I used to use it a lot for writing documents and stuff on the bus or train during commutes, but that was only after I got a larger battery for the laptop. The original battery was for all intents and purposes useless. For a laptop that was designed to be used as a “netbook”, being connected to the internet when away from home, (the marketing deparment? at) HP decided it was a great idea to put a 3 cell battery in the unit.
So in a little over an hour you go from full charge to nothing just by using the laptop the way it was intended to be used. So despite its small size, the 2133 was never really designed to be too far away from a charger for too long. It is almost like having a car like a Honda Jazz with a petrol tank the size of a coffee cup. “Yes it is frugal, sir, but it will only go for a half a kilometre no matter how you drive it.”
Recently I discovered the wonderful Linux Mint 8 (Helena), while searching for a desktop linux distro to install as a virtual machine on my MacBook Pro. Despite all the misgivings that I have had in the past for the various Linux distros, I must say that they have been improving all the time. The last time I tried to install Linux on the 2133 was when Ubuntu 9.10 came out. What a disaster that was. Wifi did not want to work, then I went back to 9.04 but found that I could just not get my Vodafone Prepaid Mobile Broadband stick to work (K3520). In the end, out of frustration and spite I decided to whack XP back on and because I needed a little mobile word processor.
Linux Mint seems to run with a little bit of lag sometimes, but overall the experience has made my faith in Linux desktop distro strong again. Using Helena I could use my Vodafone Prepaid Broadband to connect to the net and wifi worked right out of the box.
If you need a decent desktop distro that looks half decent (who like brown anyway?) and works well out of the box for your 2133, then I can recommend Linux Mint 8 (Helena).
Everybody has a favourite HTML editor on a platform, but does anyone have a favourite on ALL platforms? Well at least on the personal computing platform, that is. Well, I must tell you that my favourite HTML editor has been Aptana, which has served me well since I stopped using Dreamweaver exclusively. For me the major attraction of Aptana is its cross-platform nature. I can start work on my Windows laptop, then continue it on my MacBook and then finish it off on my tiny little Linux laptop the HP 2133 Mini note.
At the completion of my install of Jaunty Jackalope (Ubuntu 9.04) on my netbook, I found that Aptana just would not load. It would show the logo for a couple of seconds then it would just come up with an error. After scratching my head for a little while, I tried to look up an answer on Google and I found this thread on the Aptana user forum.
So basically, the issue is the version of xulrunner that Jaunty comes with. Currently it is version 1.9, while Aptana needs version 1.8. To fix this issue you need to download xulrunner 1.8 and unzip it to /usr/lib, so its path would be something like /usr/lib/xulrunner/. Then you create a script which looks like this:
if [ $LD_LIBRARY_PATH ]; then
export MOZILLA_FIVE_HOME LD_LIBRARY_PATH
~/aptana/AptanaStudio -vm /usr/lib/jvm/ia32-java-6-sun/jre/bin/java
Make the script executable and then on your panel add an application shortcut to point to this script file, mine is called “aptanastart”. Oh, and you need to have Java installed, since Aptana requires it.
I have found that using Jackalope on the HP 2133 Mini-note to be quite a good experience so far. Compared to installing Intrepid (8.10), the installation process was a complete breeze. There was no need to install using weird methods and there was no need for installing any drivers from VIA to get the display working in the correct setup.
The only issue that can be noted is with the wifi connection manager. It seems after a few hibernates that the connection is stuck at the “getting ip address…” stage. This can be quickly fixed with a reboot. Other than this issue, I have not found any major ones to mention. Sound works flawlessly, Bluetooth works normally and the webcam works with Cheese (I have not tested it to work with Skype or anything like that).
Recently, I also purchased the 6-cell battery for the Mini-note, which makes the notebook (or netbook, if you like) much more usable. Since I use this notebook mainly for writing text, coding and web browsing, I have found that having that extra amount of battery capacity makes the notebook a little easier to use. No longer staring at the battery icon every few minutes to see if I will have time to finish what I am doing. It puts the usability of this little notebook on par with my MacBook and my Dell Inspiron laptop. Using it with little power management and with wifi on seems to give around 3-3.5 hrs of uninterrupted use. What joy!
Had this notebook shipped with Jackalope instead of Windows Vista Basic (standard on all Mini-notes shipped in Australia), it would have been a winner from the start. A 6-cell battery, even though it adds a little to the price should have been standard on all models.
Having worked on the Ubuntu 8.10 for a few months, when Jaunty Jackalope was released publicly it was a definite temptation to upgrade. Considering it was a real pain to install 8.10 last time around on my HP mini-note 2133 (Via C7 1.6Ghz, 1GB RAM with 120G HDD, originally was loaded with Windows Vista Basic), I was a little hesitant. However, since there were a few reports of success such as this article at bl1nk.com and the semester break is nearly upon me, I decided to bite the bullet.
Having upgraded the BIOS last time around, this time installation was quite sane and smooth. It was so smooth that it happened while I was watching TV without a single glitch. When install was done, I rebooted and voila! The screen worked OK, there was no need for funny hacks or even VIA’s driver to install and Wifi and Bluetooth worked out of the box! When I plugged in my USB modem from Three networks (Huawei E220), it was recognised straight away.
When I was done entering my wifi configuration, I was online surfing the net with a fresh install of Ubuntu 9.04 on my HP mini-note 2133. I have not tested everything so far, but everything that I need from a basic notebook perspective was working quite well.
I have now had sometime to test the webcam and bluetooth and they are both working fine. Webcam works fine through Cheese, but I have not tested through Skype.
I have been somewhat troubled by the inability of my MacBook running 10.4.11 version of OS X to hibernate properly (suspend to disk). It all started when I upgraded the RAM from the standard 1GB to the 4GB it is now. After the upgrade, it could not reliably wake up from hibernation without a crash occuring after using some memory-intensive programs such as some Adobe software and Aptana and such, which would require a forced reboot. Having lived with this issue for sometime (started shutting down instead of hibernating), I decided to try to Google some answers.
After trawling through some forums and blog discussions, I found a Dashboard widget called Deep Sleep which is easy to use (one click) and seems to reliably put the notebook to sleep without wake up crashes (that’s what happens to me when waking up early morning). So if your macbook is a little insomniac like mine, then do give it a try.
On one hot January night while I was trying to write a statement about some art project that I was working on, I just fell asleep on the lounge. I was trying to type this statement up on my trusty little HP Mini Note 2133 that was runing Ubuntu 8.10. Due to extreme tiredness and heat, I just felt that I could not go on typing or even thinking so I closed the laptop expecting it to spin down and hibernate while I just headed straight to bed.
When I woke up in the morning, the notebook was in an extremely hot state, it was more than the normal warmth you get from running a notebook for a few hours. When I tried to switch it on, it was not responding as normal. There was no HP logo at startup even though all the normal lights were on. The notebook was pretty much dead and did not respond to anything.
After leaving it alone for about a week (actually I just forgot all about it for a few days), I decided to contact HP since the notebook was still under warranty. After the usual menu selections I spoke to an operator who suggested that I plugged the notebook to the power (already done), to see which lights were on (already done) and then to plug it into an external monitor (already tried that too). He suggested that it might need a mainboard replacement (thought so).
The operator then rang me back and suggested that he could guide me over the phone to try to reseat the RAM module (unfortunately, already tried and I even tried another module of the same specification–1GB DDR2 667Mhz). He then said that I would get a phone call from an engineer who would visit me with a new mainboard.
Three days later, the engineer showed up and replaced the motherboard in all under 20 minutes. I was very impressed with the service and wish all notebook manufacturers provided the same level of service. Good work HP! Shame on you Toshiba! Shame on you Apple!
To be able to use the Via beta driver that was released in December 2008 in Ubuntu 8.10, you will need to do the following:
Update the BIOS
The latest version of the BIOS is F.05F for the Mini-note that was released in Australia. You can download it from here. Instructions on how to update the BIOS can be found inside the zip package and you will need a USB flash drive to format and use as a boot device, which should automatically update your system’s BIOS. I found that once the BIOS has been updated, you can install Ubuntu in the normal way instead of having to rely on the ‘xforcevesa’ option when starting the installer.
Download the latest driver from VIA
Download the latest driver from VIA, make sure it is the one intended for Ubuntu 8.10 (there are two drivers, one is marked as the 2D driver and the other one is called gfx, the one with “2D” is the one I am using as I don’t care too much about Compiz and such). This has to be done after installing Ubuntu 8.10 using the vesa driver (very basic graphics functionality and it does not support external monitors) such as shown in the Ubuntu Wiki.
Unzip the package from VIA and run the setup process by using the the file called “v2dinstall”. This has to be done as root, so the command may look something like this:
sudo ./v2Dinstall [will prompt you for your password].
When the installer is done, edit your xorg.conf file so it will look somewhat like this:
# xorg.conf (X.Org X Window System server configuration file)
# This file was generated by reidy90, by copying correct settings from
# the xorg.conf that was provided with the SUSE hp 2133.
# Edit this file with caution, and see the xorg.conf manual page.
# (Type “man xorg.conf” at the shell prompt.)
# This file is automatically updated on xserver-xorg package upgrades *only*
# if it has not been modified since the last upgrade of the xserver-xorg
# Note that some configuration settings that could be done previously
# in this file, now are automatically configured by the server and settings
# here are ignored.
# If you have edited this file but would like it to be automatically updated
# again, run the following command:
# sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg
Under the driver option, you need to change the driver from “vesa” to “via”.
Reboot the machine and you should end up with a netbook running Ubuntu 8.10 utilising the newest 2D driver form VIA.
I have not actually used the gfx unified driver provided by VIA, because I personally I do not care about or need the compiz desktop effects on a netbook as tiny as the HP 2133 Mini-note. I just want a netbook that I can write reports on. It just needs to have basic media capabilities such as playing video or audio files, without any major problems.
For about 3 months I have been having a problem with my Macbook running OS X Tiger with 3GB of RAM. The problem seems to only occur when I run a resource intensive application such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, Final Cut or even Garage Band. What happens is normally when I close those applications then put the notebook to sleep (safe sleep aka hibernation), when I wake it up it goes through the process slowly (slower than normal wake up from hibernation) then it crashes. Because I very rarely shut the notebook down, this seems to happen at least two or three times a day.
Annoying? Well what do you think? The waking up process, which is supposed to be quicker than starting it cold, takes a lot longer and then you have to force the notebook to reboot. This is unacceptably inefficient and not to mention scary. I keep thinking that there is something wrong with the hardware, but it does not get worse, it just seems to happen with any resource-intensive application.
The solution is apparently very simple: just open terminal and type sudo rm /var/vm/sleepimage, then enter your password and then if there is no error, you have just deleted the sleepimage file, which is where the content of your RAM gets dumped when the computer goes to sleep. When done, just reboot the machine and all should be fine. I even tried running Photoshop and then putting the Macbook to sleep and it wakes up fine.
So if your MacBook has a crash on wake up (that’s what happens to me in the mornings), then just delete that sleepimage file in /var/rm and it should be recreated afterwards and everything should be fine. It is particularly wise to do this after upgrading your RAM. I upgraded mine from 1GB to 3GB and did not know that I had to do this.