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Lenovo S10 Netbook: Fabulous Hardware, Yuck Software - page 3

The Overdue Birth of Netbooks

  • March 10, 2009
  • By Carla Schroder
At first I thought I would install Linux on it and see how it works. Then I decided not to because there is no Linux option in the US, so to heck with them. I know some people who do run Linux on this little machine in various configurations-- some dual-boot, some with Linux-only, this distro, that distro-- and it runs well. Everything works, even the card reader. So for you fine readers who want by whatever means to run Linux on this little cutie, be assured it will do just fine.

Doing Surgery

Like its big sibling Thinkpad, it is easy to open up and get inside the guts. The overall build is solid, with good fit and finish. It fits nicely in the hand, and tucks under the arm like a book. The hinges seem stout; it opens easily one-handed, yet stays securely closed without the usual type of latch. A nice touch is a Home key instead of a Windows key, so perhaps there is hope. It has an actual hardware switch to turn off the wireless radio card, and useful status LEDS for power, hard drive activity, and wireless.

Excellent Screen

The display is the real prize of this little computer. It is very sharp and bright, so that even my fading old eyeballs can read tiny fonts. The colors are bright and attractive, and while I didn't try any super-FPS (frames per second) games on it, screen redraws were smooth.

The keyboard is smaller than standard, and it is only OK. I have small hands so a slightly smaller keyboard doesn't bother me, but the keys are too flat, without enough differentiation between them, and there are inadequate cues for touch-typing, like perceptible bumps on the F and J keys.

Another drawback is it doesn't sit on my lap nicely like a bigger machine because it's too small.

The Verdict

A very sad, regretful thumbs down, because as much as I like this little computer I hate how Lenovo mis-markets Linux, and I refuse to pay for a Windows license when I don't want one. It's a stupid ripoff.

I wish, I wish, I wish that hardware vendors would quit letting Redmond call the shots. It is dead easy to roll and deploy a customized image of a standard Linux distribution. Even the good commercially-supported Linuxes like Red Hat and Ubuntu let you do this. There are a number of freely-available utilities for doing this for all Linuxes, and system administrators and power users do it all the time. Use the distro repositories, let users use the standard sophisticated built-in Linux utilities for software and updates management, quit wrapping all that Linux goodness in dopey proprietary crud, and freaking relax. It is astounding how these giant tech companies overcomplicate Linux by trying to build their own "simplified" interfaces and custom repositories, which only creates confusion and disappointment, and then forget to make sure that the limited netbook hardware set and important software functionality all work.

I would even settle for a naked netbook with no bundled software, but I reckon it will be a cold day in monopoly hell before that happens.

References

You can't keep a good Linux geek down, so here are a few useful netbook sites:

Lilliputing
Linux Laptop Wiki
Linux Netbook

Carla Schroder is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the Linux Networking Cookbook (O'Reilly Media), the upcoming "Building a Digital Sound Studio with Audacity" (NoStarch Press), a lifelong book lover, and the managing editor of LinuxPlanet and Linux Today.

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