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.

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6 Comments

  1. Have you thought about giving the new Moblin beta a shot? It seems like a promising project.

  2. I’m intrigued by Moblin, but this is my main computer, so I don’t really want to be trying out beta stuff. I just want to use it.

    According to SlashGear, “Intel tell us that it’s only the HP Mini 1120NR which has problems with WiFi and Moblin v2.0; other netbooks they’ve tested it with (Acer Aspire One, ASUS Eee PC 901, 1000H, Dell Mini 9, MSI Wind, Lenovo S10, Samsung NC10, HP Mini 1010) have WiFi working fine. If you have a 1120NR, for the moment you’ll be stuck with wired networking only.”

    That doesn’t sound like fun.

  3. You take a netbook as your main computer ? That sounds no good…
    Beside, did you tried the Ubuntu or the netbook remix in your post? Presumably, you used the vanilla, then why dont try the remix one?

  4. Hey I just had to let you know that your information on the Ubuntu distro is second to none. That includes the official documentation. You have been a life saver to me on several occasions and I just had to drop by and say thank you.

  5. I had purchased an HP Mini 1035NR loaded with XP stock with the intention of putting Ubuntu on it. Tried the standard Ubuntu Netbook Remix twice and each time I would reboot during the setup and I couldn’t use it…as it was left with a desktop that showed me my mounted drives but nothing else was accessible. Relented and loaded HP’s Mi/Ubuntu hybrid. Worked flawlessly, but I really didn’t like the feel of it at all. Was looking for a way to make Ubuntu work and ran across your ISO this morning, loaded it to a USB stick, installed over HP Mi and it just works beautifully!
    Thank you!

    (Just a note to let you know that it works perfectly on a 1035NR as well!

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