My new netbook…

Dear Linux fans,

Last weekend I saw an ad for a netbook in a Carrefour superstore leaflet that I guess was just too good to refuse.

Unlike other netbooks, this one was priced really low: €199,00 (including taxes which makes it cost my company €164.46 or about 200 $USD).  For me, that’s the price point where a netbook makes sense, not €400-500 what you see all over the place.

Now, for that low price, you get the following machine:

  • 1.6Ghz VIA C7-M CPU
  • 512MB RAM (DDR2 667, shared with video, 384 available)
  • 120GB hard disk (2.5″, 7200rpm)
  • 1024×600 LCD screen (pretty good quality actually)
  • Webcam
  • WIFI b/g
  • 2xUSB 2.0
  • VGA port
  • a multi-format card reader (SD, SDHC, MMC)
  • Microphone
  • Sound in/out
  • Mandriva Linux 2009.1

It was very interesting to see that “Windows 2007 Home Premium” was priced at exactly the same price.  Talk about a total waste of money on the Microsoft side.

OK, back to the netbook.  The memory issue is not a problem.  I already ordered a 2GB DDR2 RAM module for the machine at €39.

UPDATE 10/27 : the RAM arrived, was installed in 5 minutes and all works fine now.  With 1.9GB available the machine is a lot snappier too.

Performance is obviously not stellar but I didn’t expect this either.  I paid less for it then my current cell phone.  However, it plays full screen AVI without a glitch.

The only real problem the box has is that it comes with … Mandriva Linux.  Maybe I’m spoiled by years of Ubuntu use, but this distribution really sucks.  Can I please just install some software, customize the UI a bit?  Please?  I don’t recall the last time I couldn’t install a piece of software on Ubuntu because a package couldn’t be downloaded.  WTF?  And charge €28 just to get a couple of codecs to play audio/video? I can legally use these drivers in Europe without a problem.

Don’t get me wrong, all hardware is supported and works fine, including audio, the webcam, skype, flash, etc.

Anyway, I tried to put Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 on it by booting from a USB stick.  Unfortunately, either the image or the stick has an issue since it freezes upon installer boot.  The live system boots but has a nasty video problem.  So I’m going to retry later next week.  Heck, maybe it’s better to just wait until Kubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix comes out next week.

Feel free to leave advice on what distro to pick and how to best handle the install.  Also feel free to leave tips on how to explain the kids that this is not a toy.

Thanks in advance!

Cheers,

Matt

8 comments

  • Looks like a really sharply priced netbook.

    I agree completely – when I bought my eepc it was 250 euros, which was exactly the right price for me. Since then, netbooks have become beefier, and unfortunately, also more expensive. I am also having trouble locating Linux netbooks, apparently it wasn’t a hit over here, and I suspect the windows xp included on most of the netbooks is in part responsible for the price.

    So what’s Carrefour? Don’t think we have those in NL?

    regards,

    Roland

  • Roland, Carrefour is a large French hypermarket chain.
    The folder is seen here:

    http://www.hypercarrefour.be/Promotion_2.cfm?lang=NL&FolderID=915&uCurrentStartRow=25&subEnseigne=

    If you want one, I’ll get you one tomorrow.

    BTW, I only noticed the laptop because of Linux 🙂
    Upon buying the thing, the sales-person “warned” me that it ran Linux. I told him I wouldn’t have bought it if it was running Windows.
    At that point I couldn’t help but make fun of the fact that the machine was to be had for the same price as “Windows 7 Home Premium”.
    “But sir, that’s the full version, the upgrade is available for *only* €119!”

    I guess he was a bit frustrated by the lack of attention the new “Windows 7” launch was bringing to his sales-booth. They ran publicity for the darned thing over the speakers of the store every 10 minutes, adds all over the news, in the newspapers, etc. At the same time, I didn’t see anyone asking about it in the shop. Didn’t see any boxes being sold, nothing.

    Anyway, thank you Microsoft, but no thanks!

    Cheers,
    Matt

  • How about Crunchbang? It is essentially Ubuntu, but with Openbox as a desktop.
    I have installed it on my Acer Aspire One (€199 in MediaMarkt, sales in january), and I wrote about my install experiences on my blog: http://amedee.be
    You should be able to follow my blogposts as a step-by-step tutorial.

  • Thanks Amedee, I’ll give it a try.

  • FabianS

    The graphics bug you see may be related to recent Intel problems on Ubuntu. There was some stuff about the Intel drivers being broken or the kernel or X or all three of them.

    Try again with 9.10 it’s apparently fixed.

  • I tried Kubuntu 9.10 netbook remix, but that one displayed garbage. I’ll try the standard NBR and vanilla Karmic later this week.
    I’ll keep you all informed if there’s anything that works properly 🙂

  • RAÚL

    Hi Matt:
    I have got the same notebook.
    Do you find Ubuntu drivers?
    I have the same problem.

  • Hi Matt,
    I’ll be sure stop at Carfour next time I visit my mum in Bretagne, good deal…..
    Heard from forum member at pclinuxos.nl the Gnome2009.2 version does well on netbooks,
    I’d go for the Pclos Zen-mini to start with, and build up from there….Pclos has all the benifits of Mandriva, on which it was based, but lacks the commercial crap 😉
    I’d like hear from you whether it runs and installs correctly !

    About the kids thinking its toy, what the heck, let them play and be glad they do, my kid snorts at my Linux enthusiasm, she’s still stuck on M$, thinking she can’t do without, cause all her friends in school use it ?!
    Regards
    Oliver