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Linux Netbook Roundup

Are you in the market for a ultra-portable but don't want to pay the Windows tax? We round up seven possible options for anyone looking to purchase a Linux-based netbook.
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ASUS Eee PC 1000
The company that really started the consumer netbook craze could also be considered the one most committed to Linux offerings.

ASUS offers a number of netbooks running a customized version of Xandros Linux. The Eee PC 1000 is a newer model that has reviewed well and combines screen real estate, flash memory and excellent battery life.

Specs
Operating System Xandros Linux
Processor Intel Atom N270, 1.60GHz
Screen Size 10″
Resolution 1024×600
RAM 1GB
Storage 16GB flash

List Price: $399
More @ the ASUS Website

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Dell Inspiron Mini 9
Dell’s first foray into the netbook market, the Inspiron Mini 9 runs the Ubuntu Netbook Remix OS, a custom GUI build for a netbook’s limited real estate.

While the battery live of the Mini 9 seems to be a bit shorter than that of it’s competitor’s, the entry level offering — like many things from Dell — is priced very competitively.

Specs
Operating System Ubuntu Netbook Remix
Processor Intel Atom N270, 1.60GHz
Screen Size 8.9″
Resolution 1024×600
RAM 512MB
Storage 4GB hard drive

List Price: $249
More @ the Dell Website

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Acer Aspire One
Sporting quite a bit of storage for the price, the popular Aspire One runs the Linpus Linux Lite operating system. Linpus is based on Fedora and was developed by a Taiwanese company to run on everything from cellphones to low-end laptops.

While a newer version of the Aspire One with a 10″ screen is now available, the company does not appear to have one available with Linux pre-installed.

Specs
Operating System Linpus Linux Lite
Processor Intel Atom N270, 1.60GHz
Screen Size 8.9″
Resolution 1024×600
RAM 1GB
Storage 120GB hard drive

List Price: $300
More @ the Acer Website

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Lenovo Ideapad S10
I’ve got some good news and some bad news about Lenovo’s Ideapad S10. First the good: It’s basically a small ThinkPad, which, if you’re into that sort of thing (I am), is probably pretty exciting.

Now the bad: the Linux version isn’t being sold in the US. However, the company has said that they are selling the S10 with Linpus Linux in other countries. Maybe it’s time to give that cousin in Korea a call…

Specs
Operating System Linpus Linux Lite (non-US)
Processor Intel Atom N270, 1.60GHz
Screen Size 10.2″
Resolution 1024×600
RAM 512MB
Storage 80GB hard drive

List Price: $349
More @ the Lenovo Website

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HP Mini 1000 Mi
The HP Mini 1000 is a slick little netbook that runs an operating system called Mobile Internet (Mi).

A bit like Google’s Android (built on Linux but isn’t Linux) Mi is a custom interface that comes with the curious feature: “the Linux command line interface is disabled on this edition.” Caveat emptor.

Specs
Operating System Mobile Internet (Mi)
Processor Intel Atom N270, 1.60GHz
Screen Size 10.1″
Resolution 1024×600
RAM 1GB
Storage 60GB hard drive

List Price: $399 (with the “Recommended configuration”)
More @ the HP Website

Quick Footnote: If you’re looking for something a bit more “Linux” than the Mi operating system from HP, you can see if you can track down an HP 2133 Mini-Note (no longer available from HP). Released in the spring of last year, it’s possibly a little long in the tooth as far as netbooks go (uses the Via C7-M processor) but did feature the option of SUSE pre-installed.

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MSI Wind U100
The MSI Wind U100 is probably the last MSI netbook that will be running Linux for awhile. After deploying a stock version of SUSE on the U100 without much thought toward usability, the company then saw more than 40% of the Linux version returned for refund. To correct this problem it appears the company is only offering Windows XP on its netbooks going forward — nor are there any Linux U100s listed on the MSI website at this time.

So why include it here? Because it appears that you can get what looks very much like the U100 from eRacks with your choice of either Ubuntu or Fedora pre-installed.

Specs
Operating System Fedora or Ubuntu
Processor Intel Atom N270, 1.60GHz
Screen Size 10″
Resolution 1024×600
RAM 1GB
Storage 120GB hard drive

List Price: $395
More @ the eRacks Website

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Dell Inspiron Mini 10
“Hey,” you’re probably saying, “the Inspiron Mini 10 only comes with Windows XP.” True, but, according to the company, a version with Ubuntu Linux will be available soon.

So if you in the market for a netbook, here’s one to put on your radar.

Specs
Operating System Ubuntu Netbook Remix (likely)
Processor Intel Atom Z530, 1.60GHz
Screen Size 10.1″
Resolution 1024×576
RAM 1GB
Storage 160GB hard drive

List Price: $399

More @ the Dell Website

Comments on "Linux Netbook Roundup"

gwidotje

Hello
I do not – for the moment – recommend a only-linux netbook for persons holidaying in Spain.
The Telefonica usb mobile modem (necessary if no landline) does not work, as far as I know, with Ubuntu 8.10; it is even not visible!!

Greetings from Calpe, Spain

Reply
parnote

If you’re going to do a roundup, then please list everything that’s available.

I can’t believe that you left the Sylvania Meso g off of the list. It has an Intel Atom 1.6 GHz processor, 1 GB memory, an 80 GB SATA HD, 3 USB 2.0 ports, a built-in SD card reader, built-in wireless b/g, an external monitor port, an ethernet port, a webcam, and a 1024 x 600 screen. It comes with Ubuntu Netbook Remix installed on it. Plus, the price is SWEET … only $269 on Amazon.com. A fully charged battery will allow over 3 hours of battery runtime. You can’t go wrong with this one! And no, I’m not affiliated with Sylvania. I’m just a VERY satisfied user!!

Not being an Ubuntu fan, I installed a FULL version of PCLinuxOS 2009 (test release 6, aka TR6) on it, and it runs amazingly fast and is incredibly stable.

parnote

Reply
linux_wizard971

There are many netbook which are missing …

+ G-dium : A MIPS based netbook. 100% Linux ( no Windows version ) with an attractive dev program ( OLPH ), running Mandriva : http://www.gdium.com/
http://www.gdium.com/product/blog ( videos, infos ).

+ Hercules e-cafe : A netbook with commercial games available and developed specifically for it by Gameloft ( known for their mobile games ). running Mandriva :
http://www.ecafe.hercules.com/us/
http://www.gameloft.com/netbook-games/
http://www.ecafe.hercules.com/us/blog-actu/

Reply
boottux

This more like an ad placement rather than a round up.
Most important consideration: battery life.
2nd : Pricing with Linux as opposed to XP
3rd : Wireless access functionality (does it work).

Processor, screen size, storage needs will vary with users but the items above are some of the key reasons people might buy a net book over a notebook which aren’t that much more expensive than most net books. I would say the computer companies are selling net books because they are a novelty item that can be sold at a higher margin than more commodity items such as low end notebooks.

Here is what I see as really the next phase (net books are intermediate devices).

Think small tablet pc with a touch pad or touch screen interface (like a Kindle or Palm with a bigger screen) built in wireless and solid state storage, camera & microphone and usb only peripheral ports. Keyboards should be separate accessories and will now doubt vary from be hard form factor to flexible rubber type keyboards that can be easily folded up and stored in a bag or even a pocket.

These devices presume an increasing number of users moving to online storage of data and use of online apps. The need for hard disks on these devices is somewhat of a mystery to me. These are not intended to be hold all storage devices.

So far these devices seem like really cheaply made devices and more of an upgraded version of a ToysRUs type kids computer. A lid that covers the screen for protection but can be opened at more than a 180 degree angle so it can act as a stand and easel would be most welcome.

Reply
bryanjrichard

> Most important consideration: battery life.

Maybe, but I’m not sure if that applies to everyone. Plus if you want a longer battery life, you should run XP. Every spec I could find online for these devices showed XP with a longer battery life than the Linux version on the same hardware.

> 2nd : Pricing with Linux as opposed to XP

I’m not sure why the price differential matters. In general, a netbook with XP will run about $50 more. When you highlight that you end up with a situation like with the MSI Wind. People bought the cheaper model (Linux) and returned almost half of them.

> 3rd : Wireless access functionality (does it work).

I think you can take it for granted that the wireless will work on a netbook coming from a vendor with Linux pre-installed. That’s exactly why we did pre-installed netbooks rather than “you might be able to get slack running on netbook X.”

Reply
bryanjrichard

@parnote Good call on the Sylvania.

@linux_wizard971 Thanks for the links.

I’m getting a number of emails with pointers to “white box” netbook vendors and some less-than-obvious manufacturers (like Sylvania). We’ll probably need to follow-up with another article expanding this list.

Reply
acosta

Not sure which USB device Telefonica is using in Spain. The Huawei E156g has been broadly used in Europe and it does work on Ubuntu. I have had several hits from Spain on this post about the this model.

http://itechlog.com/easy-tips/2008/12/04/3g-mobille-broadband-huawei-e156g-usb-dongle-on-linux/

Hope it helps!

Reply
parnote

bryanjrichard: I’m pretty sure the Sylvania Meso g is simply a rebranded offering from the Far East … just not sure which manufacturer. Not that it really matters, since it’s an exceptionally capable netbook. I’ve turned several people on to this little gem, and they all love it. My wife likes it so much that I bought her a pink one for her birthday!

Reply
parnote

I agree that WinXP has better power management than Linux, but then I don’t/wouldn’t want to pay for that alone with a) a higher price for the netbook, b) less security, and c) having a “virus magnet” as an OS.

No flaming from Linux users … the facts are the facts. Linux still doesn’t have power management mastered as well as the evil empire from Redmond does. Also, such laptop functions as “Standby,” “Suspend to RAM,” and “Suspend to Disk” are truly a hit-and-miss proposition in Linux as to whether they will work with your laptop.

Aside from all of that, I’m perfectly happy with a greater than 3 hour battery life from a rather small 4-cell Lithium Ion battery that comes with my Sylvania Meso g.

Reply
gwidotje

Hello acosta
The modem I’ve got is the HUAWEI E180 (usb 3.5G plus)

Reply
acosta

hi there

The dialer config was setup firstly for the Huawei E220 but then someone tried it on the e156g and it worked. Have you had a go at it?

Reply
corbeck

“…the Linux version (Lenovo S10) isn’t being sold in the US.”

Hmmm. Well, the good news is that it is being sold in the US…sort of. I received one, an S10e, less than a week ago. While mine is sold into the enducation market, it is somewhat different than other S10′s (with an SSD instead of a hard drive, and a six cell battery as standard equipment).

Though some will argue, this is still an S10. Mine comes with SLED installed, which I replaced with Crunchbang more easily than I would have expected. It is a sweet box, and with the SSD it is more resistant to damage when being dropped on the floor by our “young leaders of tomorrow”.

Reply
philmill284

I came across some interesting information about the Windows EULA. It turns out that if you do not accept the terms, you can send the software(cd and sticker) back to the manufacturer and get your money back for windows. This really changes the game if you were not buying a windows laptop because you don’t want to support windows. Plus it brings the Asus 1000he down to ~$280.
http://lifehacker.com/software/shopping/run-linux-and-get-money-back-on-your-new-pc-216393.php

Reply
kgish

I’m the proud owner of an MSI U100 Wind Netbook running Xubuntu. Although in the beginning I did have occasionaly problems with the network card and wireless, since the latest linux 2.6.27-11-generic upgrade all’s well.

Reply
radi0j0hn

Which (if any) of these distros have ALL the drivers for the Eee PC 900A?

Is there any place to get them? I tried the generic Ubuntu netbook remix, and it crashed after a few days. I’m back with the stock Xandros OS that came with the unit, but find the lack of ability to remove a lot of things confining. I know there is a way to unlock the Xando easy mode, but it didn’t look very user friendly. Has anyone listed a SIMPLE and COMPLETE set of instructions for this? TIA John

Reply
bendib

I own a 8.9 inch Acer Aspire one, and it came with XP. Guess what happened to XP. Yup, brutally murdered with the dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda command, along with it\’s insideous recovery partition. I was quick to install Fedora 10 (version 10 when I got it, now runs 11) and it ran beautifully. It supported everything, even the webcam, mic and wifi. The touchpad worked much better than XP, but the fonts were a little big, so I toned them down. I still have my little Aspire One, and I use it as a full-fledged work horse, since my main machine has only 512MB of RAM and a 1.5Ghz P4, this did not really bug me. (my main machine also uses Fedora) I do not use the card readers, so I do not know if it works. Anyway, Fedora is so much better, I recommend it to any aspire user.

Reply
markslay

I came across some interesting information about the Windows EULA. It turns out that if you do not accept the terms, you can send the software(cd and sticker) back to the manufacturer and get your money back for windows. This really changes the game if you were not buying a windows laptop because you don’t want to support windows. Plus it brings the Asus 1000he down to ~$280.
http://lifehacker.com/software/goldenrule/run-linux-and-get-money-back-on-your-new-pc-216393.php

Too bad Dell stock has completely gone down the sh*tter since then – I highly doubt Dell is giving any refunds these days, with their bumpy performance, not to mention lawsuits… An Asus 1000he for $280 is nice though

Reply

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