Netbookenstein with UNR

So Sarah’s laptop (a 6-year old Toshiba Satellite P25-S507 (yes, you read that right – 9.9 lbs!) – a mighty warrior of a laptop still to this day – donated to her by my brother) was wearing down faster than the Battlestar Galactica and we didn’t have any more Cylon goop to hold her together. Time for an upgrade.

I went to Micro Center and found her a very nice and up-to-date refurbed Compaq. While browsing the laptops, my wandering technical eyeballs oogled several netbooks they had on display. One in particular, a refurbed HP Mini 1010NR, really caught my attention because they were asking just a wee bit over 2 bills for it. I thought back upon my own, aging Battlestar of a laptop (itself a 6-year old Toshiba Satellite A25-S207 with no working screen hinges ($80 to replace) and intermittent hardware issues sitting down in my basement, tethered to both the wall outlet (battery won’t hold charge and costs $100 to replace) and ethernet cable (wireless card doesn’t support WPA), and I thought – it’s high time to decommission that hulk of a machine (8 lbs), perhaps repurpose it down the road, and upgrade to this tiny little wonder. I ask the sales clerk what he thought about this model and he says – “those came in today, we got 6, me and that guy [points to other floor clerk] each bought one with the $20 memory upgrade…it’s a steal.”

So 2 bills and some change later (I purchased the 2GB RAM upgrade – $23 bucks for 2GB! – man, 1 GB of RAM for my old desktop costs twice that) and I’m home with this little mini wonder.

The thing weighs around 2lbs, has an SSD hard drive so when I power it on it boots up in about 15 seconds into XP, which I setup quickly and BAM! Toilet-top browsing here I come.

I don’t keep XP on it for long though. The European version of the Mini sells with a customized Linux OS that HP created called MIE (for Mobile Internet Experience – Mini MIE – har har). So I thought I would try that out. And I did. And it stunk. Very slick design, but surprisingly (for Linux-based OS) locked-down to user modding. Not that I wanted to mod much, but we’re talking barely any modding without config file editing – no shortcuts, locked panels. So f that. I want to play with the little bastard.

And then I remembered – my old tried and true fave Linux distro Ubuntu released a netbook OS: Ubuntu Netbook Remix. So I load that up. And I’ll be damned if almost every piece doesn’t work right out of the box: wireless, full-screen video, suspend. I had to tweak a bit to get the speaker sound working – but 2 minutes of googling and 10 minutes of creating and running a script later: I have a really awesome OS on this bugger. Smart and intuitive and designed with the minimal real estate and power of a netbook in mind – there doesn’t seem any reason to use another OS (unless I’m feeling penetrative and want to boot up Backtrack…).

Now I’m in the process of virtualizing Sarah’s old machine while she transitions to the new one and I’m shelfing mine until it needs resurrected.

Goodbye, Toshibas. You served us well. And I’m sure you’ll be serving our children well when they start begging for a laptop. It’ll be like when you asked for a Mustang but got keys to an old beater station wagon.

Netbookenstein with UNR