Linux on Netbooks

Getting Linux setup on my Netbook has been so incredibly frustrating. I installed Ubuntu at least 4 times. Each time believing I had gotten the install correct, only to find that when I went roaming it would freeze.

A number of times I attempted to do a system update to make sure I had the latest kernel and software, only to brick my system because it locked the screen and refused to come out (probably suspended and froze).

Synaptic / apt do not like being interrupted and can cause serious issues if they are. This is understandable, you’re modifying a running system and if something is only partly completed, well, that is undefined.

The problem is there doesn’t seem to be any way to recover from an interrupted install. In one instance, Synaptic detected it and said to run an “upgrade” which it provided a button on its UI to do. On reboot after doing this however, the system failed to boot.

Journaled file systems can handle interruption during writes. But they aren’t intelligent enough to detect that a more complex operation is being performed (which they shouldn’t be, it’s not their job!). I think, either Synaptic / apt need to be smarter about applying patches and ensure they are atomic, or they need to do their best to disable power-saving functionality like screen-locks and suspend / hibernation. I shouldn’t have to sit next to my computer “wiggling the mouse” for an hour because I want to make sure my screen doesn’t lock (yes I could disable those features, but I shouldn’t have to). I’ve had Gnome updates on previous systems leave the screensaver / unlock appliaction in strange states.

(Update: Poking around some scripts, I noticed a power management configuration file that suggets that suspend / hibernate are disabled while apt is running. However, this seems to have not worked for me, possibly due to Ubuntu’s semi-working state at the time.)

Now that that is out of the way, I’ve got my system up and running and tested it in “in-the-field”. I’m very happy. Unity is a great interface for netbooks where you just want to run a few applications and do some work, but I don’t see it working on desktops where you’re performing complex interactions with your system. It would only work if the underlying operating system had smarter / automatic file system management, which won’t happen any time soon.

Hopefully my post on setting up Ubuntu 10.10 on the Samsung N145 will help someone else out, because seriously… it was rediculously stressful.

7 Responses to “Linux on Netbooks”

  1. I’m just about to attempt a Ubuntu 11.04 on my Samsung 1145. Hope it’s a bit easier than you’ve found for 10.10

    • I’d like to think I’m in the minority. Hope it goes well for you. Linux needs people who are excited about it to get involved and fix things. Even just using and participating in the forums is a big help. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to do this anymore.

      Good luck,

  2. Gabriel Martell Says:

    Hello Adam

    I have problems with my netbook Samsung N145.
    I had just installed ( 15 days ago) Linux Mint and today I couldn´t be able to turn it on. I did a Partition so it has Windows 7 starter and Linux Mint
    but today I wanted to work with my lap top but it does nothing. Also I tried to re-boot from the BIOS but I could not,
    what do you recommend?.
    I have seriously thought about bring it to the technician.
    Your suggestions are appreciated.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “re-boot from the BIOS”.
      When you power the laptop on, does anything show on the display? Do the power LEDs light up?
      Perhaps try removing the battery and booting from the A/C adaptor only?
      Apart from that I’m not sure what to suggest.
      Hope you figure it out.

  3. Gabriel Martell Says:

    hi Adam

    I finally solved it, the problem was with the grub, I don´t know what happened but I had to re-install linux mint and now my lap top works again.

  4. Daniel Says:

    Can you Update the backlight brightness fix fpr ubuntu 12.10 beta 2 please?

    • I don’t have access to this machine anymore, so I cannot provide a correct fix.
      Sorry for the inconvenience.
      The voria forums were where I got most of my information.
      If you find the solution, please post it here for others to use =).


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