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Linux on Acer D250 Netbook

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As it's now a couple of days since I received my new Acer Aspire One D250 netbook I thought it worth writing down some initial impressions, both good and bad.

You'll not be surprised to learn that I've installed Linux on it, Xubuntu Karmic Koala 9.10 to be precise and I've been using it exclusively with that.

Good Points

Acer Aspire One D250

  1. The size and weight are lovely. The keyboard, although small, is still usable. There's a good size Enter key, and the arrow keys and PgUp and PgDn are sensible placed. My only real criticism is that there are no Home and End keys, instead you have to use Fn+PgUp and Fn+PgDn which I'm not getting on with.
  2. Battery life is great. They claim six hours and I'm certainly getting at least 5.5 on a full charge.
  3. You can turn off the WiFi via a hardware switch, which would probably get me a bit more time.
  4. Both hibernate and suspend work fine with 9.10 so I've set it up to suspend on lid close and hibernate on low battery.

Bad Points

  1. The previously noted Home and End key issue.
  2. Although the keyboard is perfectly usable I'm not sure I'd like to type a lot of text on it, and if I had fingers any fatter than mine I definitely wouldn't.
  3. 1024x600 pixels is not a lot of screen real estate (especially when you're used to working on a 1600x1200 dual head desktop PC!) but it can be made tolerable by putting the toolbar on the left hand side, thus maximising available depth. I've also discovered (thanks to Debs for reminding me) the joy of F11 which for some applications (e.g. firefox, opera and vlc) puts them into full screen mode with no window "cruft" at all.
  4. The speakers are located underneath, so if it's on your lap they're talking into your groin, otherwise they're talking at your desk. Not ideal.
  5. There's not really enough processor grunt to watch H264 video as used by iPlayer et al, especially if you're running on battery power. You can turn off "power monitoring" which helps but it's still not great. You can allegedly solve this by installing different video drivers for the Intel GMA 950 graphics chip which aren't in Ubuntu yet. I tried this. It broke Xubuntu badly enough that I had to start over. So for now I'm downloading programs on iPlayer which I want to watch using get_iplayer as they are then turned into MP4s which it can easily play (using VLC).
  6. This variant does not have bluetooth but that was my mistake as some D250s do. I'll have to use a USB dongle for that.

Linux Issues

  1. XFCE, which is what the Xubuntu paradigm is all about, seems to work well and can be tweaked to look how you want it to look (in my case as much like KDE as possible!).
  2. The glidepad is Synaptic so it's possible to tune it up suitably (although I still find it safer to turn it off1 and rely on wireless mouse as I did with my last laptop.
  3. The only real problem I've had other than with the graphics drivers is that WiFi drops out after a while. Googling about suggested that dumping Network Manager in favour of wicd2 would solve this problem and thus far it seems to have done so.
  1. 'rmmod psmouse'
  2. wicd is in the distribution and Synaptic is smart enough to uninstall Network Manager when you install it.

Tags: linux, toys Written 31/01/10

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