I had been planning on getting a netbook, so when the time came to look for a deal on price comparison sites, I found out that the ultra-portables were distributed in Switzerland as follows: the ones with the lowest specifications ship with a Linux distribution and the most powerful ones always ship with Microsoft Windows.
I was set on getting one and then installing the Debian-based Ubuntu Linux. Unfortunately, for the aforementioned reason, the fine Asus eee 910 (the third generation) was only available with Windows; and I didn’t feel like giving away money to Microsoft especially if I wasn’t going to use their software. After checking feedbacks from users who successfully managed to install Ubuntu on the HP 2133, I decided to get one.
Running with a VIA C7-M 1.2 GHz processor, this computer is actually more of a mini-notebook than a notebook: it features a 1Gb SODIMM RAM and a 120 Gb 5400 rpm SATA Seagate disk. It is built with a sturdy metal shell, an 8.9 inch screen offering true 1024 x 600 pixels and virtual 1280 x 768 pixels. The full keyboard is scaled at 92% and there is a convenient touchpad locking button to allow deactivating the input device while typing. Measuring 25.5 cm x 16.5 cm x 2.7 cm and weighting 1.19 kg, the 2133 is slightly bigger and heavier than most netbooks, but it is still 2/3 smaller than my 15 inch Dell Inspiron 1520.
Switching on the device, I discovered SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, which is unfortunately crippled down and makes installing software a rather tedious (if not impossible) task. I moved on to installing Ubuntu while canceling Suse. Most of the distributions I put on an USB key stalled during boot, and only Ubuntu 8.04 went all the way through. I had to include a command in the boot sequence to set temporary video card drivers. So Ubuntu 8.04 it shall be!
I followed a very-well written tutorial for fine-tuning Ubuntu on the HP 2133. I didn’t get the proper wireless card drivers the first time, so because of a false maneuver I had to start all over again with the right stuff. Before I finally got all of my usual applications installed, more than 3 hours had gone by. But if that is the price to pay for running my netbook with a freely-distributed operating system and free applications, then it is worth it. I have to be careful no to try and upgrade the Ubuntu distribution though, because the operation could disrupt the whole installation and invalidate all this fine-tuning. Within a year, the new Linux distributions will probably handle the specifications of this device.
The battery last for a little bit more than 3 hours and the screen resolution is good enough for checking email, surfing the Net or watching movies. While copied in, my personal font folder was mistakenly accessible by administrator only, which caused a glitch on Mozilla Firefox and Rainlendar. I fixed it so I can now use a hundred additional fonts for art working.
The HP 2133 uses a medium-grade 1.0GHz VIA processor, so it would be unrealistic to expect Youtube videos to be anything less than jaggy. The Opera browser runs very well and it was easy to enable the Adobe Flash plugin. OpenOffice seems to be running without depleting the resources. All in all, I am able to carry with me a familiar desktop with all of my preferred applications and my complete multimedia library.