Kattekrab has been lusting after a netbook for ages. Her old laptop, a G4 iBook, just isn't cutting the mustard anymore and Ubuntu even dropped PPC support some time ago. It runs Debian just fine, but even then because it's PPC there are issues with Java and there is no Flash or Acrobat*.
Last weekend we decided to put our free** Rudd money into the economy and went shopping.
Ever since my Dell disintegrated in the early naughties I've had HP laptops and loved them. During 2008 I used a small HP laptop that was donated for linux.conf.au (the 2009 team used and loved it last year). Thank you HP!
Late last year I got a new laptop, an HP 6730b, and am loving that too.
It should come as no surprise then that the netbook we chose was also a Hewlett Packard.
After having played with various netbooks at several retail outlets Kattekrab decided she wanted a mini 1000, on account of having a decently sized keyboard. Unfortunately neither these nor the 2133 appeared to be available anywhere, so instead she went with an HP Mini 2140.
It has a 1.6GHz Atom chip, 2GB of RAM, a 160GB sata harddisk and Broadcom 43xx based wifi.
This machine ship with Windows XP preinstalled and a Vista "upgrade" on DVD, so we downloaded the Ubuntu netbook remix image and stuck that on a USB key.
After showing the normal Ubuntu pre-install menu, the machine then reliably hard locked each time it started the kernel.
After a bunch of Googling and a set of misleading hints about turning the system fan on or off, booting with acpi disabled and varioius scary irq options enabled, I finally stumbled across the right answer.
The machine ships with the BIOS set to support dual core CPUs and upon booting this causes the kernel to try and run SMP based routines. However, the Atom is a single core CPU, and the whole thing falls over in a heap as soon as the kernel tries this trick.
The fix is simple: Hit F10 at bootup, go into System Configuration > Device Configurations and set Dual Core CPU to Disable.
Save the new setup and reboot. Hurray, Linux works!
And it works perfectly. All devices are detected and work just fine, from the camera to the SD card reader. However, you do need to grab and install some non-free*** firmware files for the wifi chip.
* Yes, these are non-free and there are free alternatives. I know. However, the free alternatives don't always work particularly well and sometimes don't include features the user needs.
** As in beer.
*** As in speech.