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"I can haz Linux back pls?" -- netbook help

Discussion in 'Linux & Open Source' started by Rainmaker, 31 May 2010.

  1. Rainmaker

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 18 Aug 2007

    Posts: 8,772

    Location: Liverpool

    Long story short, our house runs a mix of Linux, Windows and OS X desktops and servers. My step daughters have a desktop computer, a laptop and a netbook between them which as a rule are running Windows 7 simply because it makes remote administration and sharing easier (Libraries).

    However, I've only recently added Win 7 to the netbook. I have to admit - and I know this is the *nix forum, but bear with me - that 7 runs beautifully on the netbook. Even I was surprised. So fast to boot, everything loads almost instantly, and it's just "nice". Bearing in mind it's only an oldish Samsung NC10 1.6 Atom with 1GB RAM.

    Anyway my stepdaughter just approached me looking sheepish, netbook in hand. "It hasn't got many games, there's no webcam apps to have fun with and it's just boring. Can I have Linux back please?"...

    I must admit I was a bit like this: :D

    Since kids don't get drawn into fanboi-ism and just tend to use what's easy and works for them, it was nice to have the girls asking for Linux back because it "just works", it's amusing for them (tons of pre-installed basic games, webcam utilities etc) and was easy to use. That's a pretty nice endorsement imho.

    Anyway the reason for the post (yeah yeah, cool story bro etc) is that I've had a little difficulty with the brightness on the netbook. Using PCLinuxOS 2010 Gnome edition the screen brightness auto-adapts to the AC adapter being plugged in and removed and it's possible to play around with the brightness manually.

    In Mint 9 (which, despite my love for PCLOS I'd rather use), the manual control doesn't work for the brightness, nor does the brightness applet on the Gnome panel. Plugging in the adapter doesn't do much either. :( Any suggestions or ideas before I just give up and put PCLOS back on? I know they're much of a muchness considering the intended function, but I do prefer Mint from an admin perspective.

    TIA. :)
     
  2. tntcoder

    Mobster

    Joined: 7 Apr 2004

    Posts: 4,213

    You should be able to set the brightness like this (as root or sudo):

    echo -n 100 > /proc/acpi/video/VGA/LCD/brightness

    Although the path to brightness will probably be different for you, for example my laptop is: /proc/acpi/video/IGFX/LCD/brightness so navigate around /proc/acpi/video till you find it, then 'cat brightness' and it will tell you the valid levels you can echo to it:

    Code:
    [[email protected] LCD]# cat brightness 
    levels:  30 37 44 51 58 65 72 79 86 93 100
    current: 100
    
    So you could for example echo -n 44 > brightness.

    Hope that helps.
     
  3. Rainmaker

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 18 Aug 2007

    Posts: 8,772

    Location: Liverpool

    Brilliant, thanks! :)
     
  4. alex24

    Capodecina

    Joined: 1 Jan 2008

    Posts: 10,849

    Useful post tntcoder.

    Rainmaker, based on your experiences, what linux netbook OS would you recommend?
     
  5. Rainmaker

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 18 Aug 2007

    Posts: 8,772

    Location: Liverpool

    Depends on what you want it for alexhull24. About the best all-round distro I've found so far was PCLinuxOS 2010 Gnome, simply because everything worked out of the box, it's fast enough (if you ignore synaptic loading all those rpms) and it's light enough to multitask.

    If you have the stomach for it and aren't a total noob, a custom Arch or Debian install would probably be best so you can spec it from the ground up. I hear Ubuntu's netbook remix is meant to be fairly decent too, though I've not tried it.
     
  6. alex24

    Capodecina

    Joined: 1 Jan 2008

    Posts: 10,849

    Well, I've already posted some comments today on the lack of a decent all-round OS for netbooks. I've tried Ubuntu netbook remix, too heavy, took lots off the battery. I unfortunately don't have the expertise to customise an Arch linux install yet, though it seems popular with those who do. Windows XP does everything I need so far, but it's more bloated than I would prefer, a bit outdated and very insecure. What I really want is something that's simple, slick, but functional enough to handle skype, google chrome, flash video, and compatible for word documents and pdfs. Can't see me needing much more. I'll look into PCLinuxOS 2010 shortly, though it seems the OS I want doesn't exist.
     
  7. Rainmaker

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 18 Aug 2007

    Posts: 8,772

    Location: Liverpool

    PCLOS 2010 will do you nicely enough, the kids certainly get on fine with it and it's faster than XP was on the same machine. I've just been having this same conversation with a guy I know on IRC and he recommended "Jolicloud" OS to me. It's designed entirely for netbooks and seems to do the job admirably. From the screenies it's got Ubuntu under the hood somewhere but he reckons it's great for basics like Facebook, Skype, YouTube etc (especially for the kids). I'm downloading the ISO now, I'll let you know how I get along.

    EDIT: According to their FAQ, Jolicloud is based mostly around Debian with an emphasis on full screen multimedia and web apps. Sounds ideal tbh.
     
    Last edited: 31 May 2010
  8. alex24

    Capodecina

    Joined: 1 Jan 2008

    Posts: 10,849

    Funny you should mention Jolicloud, I'm briefly dual booting it with XP to try it out. It's fast, pretty slick, but way too web and social networking centric for my needs.

    I also tried out MeeGo yesterday, and it's certainly promising, but too many bugs at the moment. Impressive how it just works, and the interface is delightfully simple.

    EDIT:

    Forgot to ask, you said you were using Gnome with PLCOS, is that for compatibility or is it generally the best desktop to go for? I'd have thought something more lightweight would be better for a netbook, if you're using Gnome you may as well use mint right? Sorry if I misinterpreted, there's so many variations out there it's hard to keep track!
     
    Last edited: 31 May 2010
  9. Rainmaker

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 18 Aug 2007

    Posts: 8,772

    Location: Liverpool

    No, you're quite correct. Gnome isn't known for being the lightest of environments but it's 100% my preferred way to work with Linux through a GUI. Since this netbook will happily run Windows 7 with full Aero/3D, Gnome literally flies along on it no problems at all. Why 'demote' yourself to something spartan and basic if you can run the full thing? That's JMHO, obviously everyone has their own tastes and ideas.

    BTW the only reason I was running PCLOS 2010 instead of Mint was due to the brightness issue as per the OP, nothing to do with PCLOS being any faster or anything. :)
     
  10. PermaBanned

    Capodecina

    Joined: 7 Jul 2009

    Posts: 16,239

    Location: Newcastle/Aberdeen

    I think XFCE has easily caught up with Gnome in terms of ease of use, but has lost some of it's advantages in terms of lightness.
     
  11. alex24

    Capodecina

    Joined: 1 Jan 2008

    Posts: 10,849

    I'm going to give them both a shot, but I agree, you can't totally starve yourself of nice features if the PC can run it, and since most netbooks sport almost identical hardware, they should be OK I guess. I would have Win 7 on there, but I've already bought 2 copies in the last year, I can't justify yet another, and Linux has come on leaps and bounds recently. I tried Ubuntu 10.04 and it was lovely, but too heavy. A really good alternative for a full laptop though.
     
  12. craptakular

    Capodecina

    Joined: 7 Jan 2007

    Posts: 10,615

    Location: Sussex, UK


    Arch is fairly straightforward if you follow the Beginners guide on the wiki and research your hardware first.
     
  13. alex24

    Capodecina

    Joined: 1 Jan 2008

    Posts: 10,849

    Hence the 'yet'. I will be giving a variety of OSs a try now I have more free time on my hands (end of uni term!). The question is, is it worth investing the time over a more simple to install OS?

    Just for reference, I'm using a totally stock Asus EeePC 1001HA.
     
  14. craptakular

    Capodecina

    Joined: 7 Jan 2007

    Posts: 10,615

    Location: Sussex, UK


    All these linux distro's have different directions, different methods and different aims. I like Arch because it follows the KISS principle, its really quick, I built it so I understand it way more than Ubuntu or Mint.
     
  15. Rainmaker

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 18 Aug 2007

    Posts: 8,772

    Location: Liverpool

    Well I have to admit, certainly from the kids' perspective, I'm in love with Jolicloud. It's not the best ever, but it's bloody nicely done. I can't wait to see their face tomorrow. :D The graphics/icons/splashies are good quality, and it's very nicely laid out. The Jolicloud area for each user can be tied to facebook, so when the netbook is logged in it says "Welcome (child's name)!" and has their FB profile pic in the corner. It has FB chat and Farmville on the apps list (duly installed) so they're going to be stoked.

    It's not the fastest distro (PCLOS was faster, and Win7) but it's fluid and looks great so I can see this being a keeper in an 11 year old's eyes. Desktop area (this is way more cluttered than the default, which I kept):

    [​IMG]

    The noob-friendly replacement for synaptic, allowing point-and-click app installs (synaptic is still available from the terminal with sudo synaptic):
    [​IMG]

    EDIT: Oh and yes, screen brightness is automagically controlled so my concerns from the OP are now moot. :D
     
    Last edited: 1 Jun 2010
  16. zinc

    Gangster

    Joined: 25 Oct 2004

    Posts: 454

    Location: Northern Ireland

    I used to have a problem with brightness when I plugged in my AC adapter on my laptop on ubuntu, and it turned out that the bios was causing it. The laptop had some obscure bios feature that would dim the screen.