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!


Mark said...

Want to sell that windows 7 liscense?

Unknown said...

Steve -

1. Does it come with Bluetooth?
2. Does it come with a sleeve or case?
3. How is build quality?
4. How is performance? pretty snappy?
5. Any other comments?

i'm thinking of getting one.


Anonymous said...

It didn't come with Windows Vista and Windows 7 on it. Did you bother reading the rest of the screen? You think Windows 7 fits on a 100mb partition? :-)

Tommy McClain said...

1. Yes 2.1+EDR
2. No
3. Not too bad, felt better than some of the Eee PCs. Glossy lid finish, brushed aluminum finish on on keyboard.
4. Pretty snappy for 1gb ram & Win7 Starter I guess. I have no comparison.
5. Great deal for $228 & no I don't plan on putting Linux on it.

Also, has monitor out, multi-card reader (SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro, xD), easy access switch to turn on/off WiFi. Upgradable to 2gb soDIMMs DDR2 533/677 MHz.

Mark said...

Hi tommy,

Great little review. Just picked one up today for the wife. This windows 7 starter has to go though. Now I will admit I'm a fan of 7 for my desktop but I'm thinking I'm going to finally try Ubuntu.

How did you go about wiping out 7 starter and formatting?

Any thing I should know about installing Ubuntu?

Oh and you said you have Bluetooth? Not on this one. So not only did the kid put them out early he also installed BT for you, lol.


Unknown said...

I installed Ubuntu with a flashdrive and after the install I got a black screen. I tried deleting the flashdrive and putting it back on there and then I was going to load from the flashdrive and it did the same thing again! It starts searching for the root file system and it says "gave up waiting for root device" and then it drops to the shell. I have been on the Ubuntu forums but nothing has really helped. How did you get yours to work? Thanks so much!!

Steve Garner said...

John -

1. No it does not come with Bluetooth
2. No, it does not come with a sleeve or case. On that, think carefully before buying a sleeve or case, to be clear on whether you want it to also store or carry the power adaptor.
3. VERY happy with the build quality.
4. The performance is typical of the Atom CPU. Much snappier with Ubuntu than running Windows. No problem running a browser while talking on Skype (on Ubuntu)
5. VERY happy with the acceptance of my son - a computer-literate 10-year old already quite comfortable on his own 17 inch Mac OS-X Intel Core 2 Duo desktop. He has really embraced the built-in games, the video and Open Office. Plus I get to talk with him over Skype when he is at his mom's! A great "first" computer or a wonderful supplemental computer for anyone needing portability. I have done some keyboard-intensive Terminal programming, and I love the keyboard for a netback - way more usable than the Samsung N130. I also used VNC on it with good performance to control other systems. Can't argue with $228.

In response to the other comments about installing Ubuntu - personally I do not recommend installing Ubuntu (or any other operating system) from a flash drive. While the BIOS sees the flash-drive, there are definitely issues when installing from them. I bought an external CD/DVD drive for just $44.99 (, which I use on other systems - but also worked like a charm when installing Ubuntu on both the eM250 and the N130.

Unknown said...

Just bought one today - very happy w/ the build quality. Although I'll be running Windows 7, I uninstalled the MS Office trial and installed Open Office 3.2.

Very snappy performance for only having 1G. I suspect that an upgrade to 2G is in my future, though.

Impressive little machine for only $228. Wireless connectivity is flawless. And I was able to easily setup both a VPN and remote desktop connection.

Display is very bright and clear (1024 x 600).

Anonymous said...

I bought one of these a couple of nights ago. I was stunned...heck the memory and the harddrive alone are almost worth the price. The fit and finish, and performance were way better than I expected. The keyboards cramped for my hands, but I have very large paws, but still usable. Nicest screen on such a small machine, handles video real well.

I had it out of the box and connected to my home network (WPA-2) in 5 minutes. I've never had such an easy time with a new computer. I haven't blown up the windows partition, as I want to play with Windows 7 some. I'll just shrink the partition down and install Ubuntu along side it.

Mark said...

The thing that gets me is they are still $228 and they have the Asus model next to it for $298 and they are the exact same. lol.

I took starter off and uploaded Ubuntu Netbook remix and this bad boy is awesome now. Great media center netbook with Boxee on it.

Unknown said...

I am typing this on the M250 with Ubuntu running off a flash drive.(See The first attempt failed because I had knoppix on the flash drive and the utility did not overwrite it. I formatted the drive and reinstalled Ubuntu and it booted.

However, first attempt got stuck in the startup text screens. Second boot was successful. Only problem is I can't get the WiFi set up. It does not show up in the task bar with the wired network connection and "rfkill list" does not show any wireless devices.

Any advice?

spitzspot said...


Try installing wicd.


Gertsy said...

"Much snappier running Ubuntu than Windows?" Considering you blew Win7 away asap not sure of the objectivness of that comment. It'd be great if you did a few real world productive things on Win7 then did the same on U9.10 and showed us the results. Eg. Skype video / Youtube videos @ HD (~600) My experience between U10 and Win7 on the same hardware is that there is very little difference in normal operations between the two OS's or even IE v Firefox for that matter. (In general Internet usage.)