Thursday, December 24, 2009

eMachines eM250 with Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix

My 10-year old son really wants a laptop for Christmas. He wants the portability, and he wants to access his Mac Mini desktop at my place (over VNC) when he is with his mom. The idea of him using Skype over wireless Internet appealed to me much more than getting him a cell phone. After much deliberation, I decided to get him an entry-level notebook and install Ubuntu for him.

I made my mind up to get an HP Mini 110-116NR Netbook. I had just installed Ubuntu on a Samsung N130. Although it worked fine, there were a few things I did not like about the N130. My biggest problem is that the screen does not tilt back far enough, so you end up typing with the unit not flat, but tilted. Far from ideal. Also, the trackpad and keyboard just felt cheap and flimsy.

So yesterday I drove over to my local Walmart Super Center in Ottumwa, Iowa. They were out of stock. Said that they nearest store that had it actually had 5 and it was about 45 minutes up the road in Oskaloosa. At the Oskaloosa Walmart there were no HP notebooks to be found, although they had a few Acers at $298. Hmmm.

After fossicking around a bit, I found several eMachine eM250's, which they were selling at $228. Never heard of that model. Checked all the spec's and I liked it - all except no listing for 802.1n wireless Internet (does have the slower 802.1b/g wireless though). The other specs included:

Intel Atom CPU N270 1.60GHz
InsydeH20 BIOS
250GB HD
3-cell Li-ion battery
10.1 " LED LCD
3 x USB

Nice! I pulled out $228, but their cash register rang it up "Not For Sale". I was told I could buy something else. After making a bit of a rukus, they checked it out - I was a little scared it might have been under recall or something. But no, some zealous Walmart associate had prematurely put the units out in the store, when in fact the retailer was under strict instructions not to sell them until the day AFTER Christmas. They had my money, so I got a receipt . . . AND the eM250.

Got it home, turned it on.

Blew away all vestiges of Microsoft, erasing Windows 7, formatting the 250 GB hard drive and installing Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix . . . for free of course. Please take note eMachines, Acer, Samsung, HP and other manufacturers . . . we want your hardware, but we DO NOT WANT Windows or anything else by Microsoft. Bloated, buggy, unstable, not secure ... and way, way too expensive. I wonder how much cheaper they could actually sell these things without having to fork out for the Windows license?

It was interesting that the netbook came with both Windows Vista and Windows 7 on it (or is Windows 7 just another alias for Vista?).

After installing Ubuntu, the built-in webcam and Ethernet worked "out-of-the-box". I also got my son a Logitech USB headset, which worked with the sound interface just fine.

Hope he likes it!