I've had my new netbook for about a month now (see here and here) so it's time now for an update on how things turned out. I was a bit skeptical at first whether I would keep Ubuntu Linux on the machine or revert back to the original Windows XP. A month later, I am pretty much convinced that Ubuntu is the right thing for me on the machine.
One of the most important things for me with is the startup time of the operating system and the applications. In both categories, Ubuntu does extremely well. Booting the system takes just around 60 seconds. Going to suspend mode and waking up again just takes 6 seconds. That's almost instantaneous and helps a lot if you just want do something quickly, like looking something up on Wikipedia for example.
The applications I use most are Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office, GIMP, Pidgin (for IM) and Skype. Even when compared to my full notebook with Windows XP, most of them launch much quicker. Sometimes I even catch myself thinking that the netbook is faster than the notebook…
Some things especially noteworthy I haven't mentioned so far:
- No drivers are needed for 3G phones or USB sticks. Both my Nokia N95 phone and the Huawei E220 3G USB stick worked right away. Not quite perfect as reported in part two, but it's a huge plus not having to install third party software, which often does more harm than good.
- HP went out of their way to produce Linux drivers for their multifunction printers. The package is called HPLib and makes using my printer / scanner / fax over Wi-Fi very easy. I even dare say the software is much quicker than the PC version, especially the scanning part. No waiting for the next dialog box, no long program startup times, the scanner just jumps into action when the scan button is pressed. Conversion to JPEG and PDF works out of the box, too, very nice!
But where there is light, there is shadow, too. Here are the things that required under the hood tweaking to get it working:
- The fixed line Ethernet chip was not detected automatically so I had to install the driver manually. It's not very complicated but for the average user compiling a driver is not a straight forward thing.
- There seems to be a WPA2 problem with the Wi-Fi driver as I get lots of packet retransmissions. I've tried with several access points but the result is always the same. When going back to WPA encryption, everything is fine. I've searched the forums but haven't found anyone reporting this. Under Windows XP, WPA2 is working fine so it seems to be a driver issue.
- The built-in video camera made some problems. I got it working for a while but it stopped once I've experimented with the screen resolution of the external VGA port and a second monitor. It seems the graphics driver can't handle advanced functions with a higher screen resolution. Also, desktop effects like windows zooming in and out when they are minimized only worked with the lower resolution. Getting the effects back requires manual intervention in the xorg.conf file as described here.
- Automatic suspend when closing the lid did not work at first. Even worse, the processor utilization went to 100% and the netbook kept running. The root cause seems to have been a BIOS issue. After upgrading the Bios of my Acer Aspire One D250 to V1.07, suspend when closing the lid now works.
So even though it required some tweaking I've got a fully functional Ubuntu netbook now and I am very happy with the performance.