The HP Mini – Two Weeks Later

Now that I’ve had my HP Mini for a couple of weeks, here are a few more things I’ve noticed about it:

  • When people said in their reviews that the touchpad buttons on the side meant you have to use two hands, I thought they meant the right hand index finger using the touchpad and the left hand index finger using the button. In fact, it’s better to rest the left hand in normal keyboard position and then pop the left hand thumb down to press the button as needed.
  • The touchpad on/off button is stupid. Yes, I know I already said it in my initial review, but now I hate it even more, because it emits a very bright white light that is wholly unnecessary, impossible to turn off, and probably the reason the battery life on the HP Mini is so poor.
  • The speaker sound, while loud, is still kind of tinny. I have yet to see a non-Apple laptop (or netbook) have the same full sound that a Macbook or Powerbook internal speaker has. Of course, this isn’t intended to be a multimedia machine, but I do occasionally listen to music on it, and it’d be nice to have it sound less tinny.
  • The underside of the netbook gets very hot. Granted, it’s no hotter than the underside of my wife’s Macbook Pro, but it is considerably hotter than the Eee PC 701. Oddly enough, the heat is on the front part of the bottom (near the RAM) and nowhere near the back part of the bottom (near the battery).
  • I pretty much never use the webcam. I did try it out, though, just to see what it’s like, and it’s terrible. You need some serious lighting in order to get it to work. I’d say there are probably no conditions under which you could have an ideal video chat with someone on the HP Mini 1120nr with the 10″ screen. If it’s too bright out, you will see mainly your reflection in the screen and not what’s displayed on the screen. If it’s too dark out, the person you’re talking to won’t be able to see you through your webcam. Way to go, HP.

All the positives are still the same. It’s still light. It’s still cute and sleek. The keyboard still feels huge to me. The bootup times are quick. Resume from suspend works. Vanilla Ubuntu 9.04 runs like a champ on it.

Just thought I’d share a few more annoyances, in case anyone’s curious.

Computers hp mini Linux Ubuntu

Vanilla Ubuntu on the HP Mini 1120nr

Anyone who read my last post knows I am not a fan at all of the HP Mobile Internet Experience. It was a huge disappointment that made me almost regret buying the HP Mini 1120nr.

Good thing I didn’t give up on it, though, just because of the bad MIE interface. I installed vanilla Ubuntu on it, and it’s great now!

First I had to consider whether to install Ubuntu lpia (lower-powered Intel architecture) or the regular i386 version. Presumably the lpia version is optimized for the Intel Atom processor in my HP Mini, but…

…not to mention the fact that almost all third-party .deb files (TrueCrypt, DropBox, Opera) are compiled for i386. Since the battery life on the HP Mini appears to be between 2 and 2.5 hours (less than the 3 hours I got on my Eee PC 701), an added 12 to 15 minutes of battery life wouldn’t really help anyway. In any case, I don’t travel much, so battery life would be just something to brag about, not necessarily something I would need.

Instead of the hours I spent trying to make the MIE interface usable (to no avail, by the way, and it wasn’t any more responsive even after I switched from 1 GB to 2 GB of RAM), the Ubuntu installation and configuration took me only about 40 minutes and was extremely painless.

I took a vanilla Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope), booted it from USB, clicked the Install button on the desktop, answered the easy questions quickly, resized my MIE partition to make way for regular Ubuntu, took 20 minutes to install, then rebooted.

Almost everything worked straight away—Compiz, screen resolution, function keys, resume from suspend. Even wireless worked (and it’s a Broadcom card, which is notoriously Linux-unfriendly). The only thing broken was sound. So I did a quick Google search and came across this fix. I pasted those few commands into the terminal, rebooted, checked a couple of boxes in the sound preferences (check to enable speakers, uncheck to disable PC beep), and everything was running quite smoothly—and with no lag at all.

It’s a shame HP didn’t put more usability testing into their preinstalled version of Ubuntu… or just put more thought into sticking with regular Ubuntu.

Edit (26 May, 2009): Actually, the sound settings would reset after each reboot. Usually, I just suspend to RAM, but every now and then I reboot, and it’s annoying to have to mute the PC Beep and unmute the PC Speaker every time.

The fix is:

  1. Get the volume settings exactly the way you want them.
  2. Paste the command sudo alsactl store into the terminal.
  3. Edit the /etc/rc.local file as root (sudo nano -B /etc/rc.local) and then add in the line alsactl restore before exit 0

Now if you reboot, your sound settings should stay the same.