the itjerk

my adventures with technology

dell mini, received

Received my Dell Mini 9 today, and immediately installed Xubuntu 8.10 from a live USB drive. It's an easy enough process to create: insert a 2GB USB drive into the computer and either download the appropriate iso or insert a CD, then run usb-creator and a few minutes later you'll have a live distro ready to use on the optical drive-less Dell Mini. Xubuntu is based on Ubuntu, but just replaces most of the Gnome desktop environment with the resource-frugal XFCE. After installation, I had to fix the audio by editing alsa-base; this is a well-known issue with Ubuntu 8.10; I found the details at UbuntuMini.com. Just be sure to open the mixer and turn up the volume on the speakers after rebooting.

After rebooting, I accepted the proprietary driver for the wireless card, a Broadcom STA, entered my WPA/WPA-2 password, and connected to my wireless network. Like a good boy, I then updated Xubuntu, with all 118 packages that were available. I also installed the restricted media codecs, which includes java, mp3 playback and flash animation support:

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-restricted-extras

Only a few more things to install, like the Opera browser and Skype from their respective .deb packages, and sshfs from the command line, in a few easy steps:

sudo apt-get install sshfs
sudo modprobe fuse
mkdir /your/mount/point/

Then open terminal and connect:

sshfs user@yourserver.com:/remote/mount /local/mount/point

If you haven't used sshfs (or scp for that matter) you're missing out on one of the easiest ways to connect remote computers. Perfect for the Dell Mini.

Here's my quick two cents: I've taken a few old Pentium III and IV-era laptops, installed Xubuntu and tried to make a go of them as "netbooks". The Dell Mini 9 is not an old computer; it's a fast, modern dual-core machine, even with the stock 512MB of RAM. (In fact, I'm wondering why I even bothered to order the extra 2GB RAM!) The screen is brilliant, the wireless integrated, and, even at 4GB, the SSD drive packs enough for a distribution like Xubuntu and some user files. There's an SD reader for convenient extra storage, and the integrated camera works out of the box with Skype. Yes, it's got a 9" screen, and yes using the keyboard is awkward, especially if one is used to desktops (like me). But I only paid $200. One dart though, the touch pad and keyboard are a bit too sensitive and jumpy, mandating one-finger typing. Yet, all in all, I'm very impressed. Thanks Dell!

On the web:
Official Dell Mini Site
UbuntuMini.com
MyDellMini

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