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Ubuntu on Toshiba NB200 / NB 205 Netbook

August 28, 2009

Here’s an update on my experiences with Ubuntu Netbook Remix (v 9.10 Karmic) on the Toshiba NB200 so far:

Sound: it’s working through both the headphones and speaker now!! Thanks to the kernel patch that is being developed by Leann on the bugreports thread. Installing the .deb was very easy. It’s not perfect yet, but the latest patch for Jaunty has the mic working as well! I’m looking forward to using skype with mic and camera on this netbook soon!

Wireless: I still find I need to run this command in the terminal after resuming sometimes, or wifi grinds to a useless halt.
$ sudo ifconfig wlan0 down
All it does is force the wifi to shut down and it reconnects automatically to my wireless router and we’re back at full speed. It’s a tiny bit annoying, I’m sure it could be put into a script for resuming from sleep mode.

Windows: I wish setting up a dual boot Windows and Ubuntu, “just worked” as is often said about Ubuntu, but not this time. After installing Ubuntu, I needed to modify my grub2 scripts in order to add the windows partition to the grub menu. It works now, and I can boot into windows or Ubuntu. I’d read many people’s experiences who had ‘destroyed’ their windows partition installing Ubuntu, and was pleased to find that didn’t happen!
To set up a dual boot involves editing some code, and it turns out Ubuntu v 9.10 Karmic is using grub2 now, which is quite different from what the old grub. There is no menu.lst in /boot/grub/ like there was in the old grub. Now it’s autogenerated and at /boot/grub/grub.cfg It’s not ideal to manually edit this file, because it will be overwritten by the scripts which generate it each time grub2 is updated.

A solution posted by editing /boot/grub/grub.cfg is posted here
This not recommended as it is temporary and will be overwritten on the next automatic update of grub.cfg

Another solution (I’ve not used) that’s posted to get it to autodetect is on bugreports here

Here’s a guide that’s posted on Erics blog (but change your entry to Windows XP instead of Windows 7)

A rather detailed tutorial on using grub2 in ubuntu is posted here:

Case: I found a perfectly sized slip case made by Targus at Walmart for $25 CAD. It’s called the “NETBOOK Slipskin Peel mini-notebook case, lightweight slim case. Fits up to 10.2 widescreen compatible”. The code at the bottom reads TSS111CA. I didn’t want anything bulkier than than, or a separate bag for it, so I can slip it into my work bag, protected from bumps, but taking up the least bulk possible.

Battery life: At first I thought the charger was annoyingly big, but I find I can leave it at home during the day and charge at night when I get home. Battery life on this netbook is mindblowing, and unlike anything I’ve ever used before. I can use it all day without needing a charger.
There are a few things that can be done to extend the battery. With heavy use, the battery life is less than the advertised time of 9 hours at max. I’ve been experimenting with powertop in the terminal, and with a fully charged battery, running only the terminal, screen dimmed to min, wifi off, and other tweaks recommended by powertop, the ACPI estimate went down to 9 hours power remaining and something like 7.5 watts power use estimate. In reality, I’d be sucking up the power much faster with wifi on, screen brightened up to be seen in bright light, running Firefox and multiple programs at once. The other factor that helps to give the all day computing is how I can close the lid, and instantly it’s in sleep mode. And then upon opening the lid, resume is instant (after entering my password for security).

Bluetooth: I’ve read in the dedicated thread on the forums here that people now have it working. I’ve not much use for it currently so I’ve not personally tried messing with it yet.

Going paperless: I can see this netbook replacing the multiple binders I’ve been using at work every day, and carting a ton of paper to and from home. This netbook will weigh the same no matter how many ‘pages’ I store on it. I have been using multiple binders that increase in weight with every page added. This netbook weighs about the same as a light binder with 200 pages of standard copy paper in it.
This netbook should replace my pocket filofax, my notepad journal too record daily events at work, and my binder of documents. These days 90% of the info distributed to staff at work is posted online in our groupware or sent via email. Printing to PDF to store on my netbook is better than printing to paper and storing it in a binder.
For anything that is sent to me in paper, I will need to type it into an app on the netbook or perhaps scan it to pdf or something
I’m setting a goal for myself with this netbook to become more ‘paperless’ than I’ve ever done before–and I think it may more possible than ever before. I’m sure to blog about this more later.

Ebook Reader: Why would anyone buy a Kindle or Sony ebook reader when for about the same price they can get this netbook, which is a full computer and beautiful ebook reader. After installing the latest adobe acrobat reader, I’m loving the ability to fullscreen and rotate pages using keyboard commands.
If you haven’t yet, try reading an pdf ebook with your netbook oriented on your lap like a regular book (with the keyboard on the side). CRTL-L for fullscreen and CTRL-SHIFT-+ for rotate. Use CRTL and numbers 1 to 4 for adjusting the size of the page onscreen. The left and right mouse buttons (or page up and page down) flip pages while reading. In the preferences you can set page to black and text to white for easier on your eyes in the evening. You will find many great novels are available in pdf for leisure reading (on bittorrent).

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. MetroPietro permalink
    September 6, 2009 8:37 am

    Hi Dimeotane, followed your link to Bug #389040 and based on comments #94 and #96, I downloaded and installed kernel 2.6.28-15.50~lp389040oga2-generic. I have not tried to boot from it yet, but I did look at my filesystem from / and did not see the inird or vmlinuz files corresponding to this new patched kernel. Can you provide a quick HowTo, i.e. the syntax for the lines we should add to /boot/grub/menu.lst so that GRUB will find the newly-installed kernel? Or if we should boot somehow differently, can you explain? Thanks.

    • dimeotane permalink
      October 25, 2009 11:06 am

      I just installed the audio patch and rebooted and it worked for me. I didn’t need to change /boot/grub/menu.lst

  2. dingo permalink
    September 10, 2009 7:31 am

    not sure where their at with this but reading this post one would be hopeful it really did work, however experience shows me that with karmic on a fresh daily build of both ubuntu netbook remix and kubuntu netbook, i have 0 sound from UNR, but kubuntu netbook sound works great, kinda odd their from the same karmic base one works the other plainly doesnt. So something recently has seemed to change. I can say the new UNR desktop look is very useable, however without sound UNR itself is useless.

    • dimeotane permalink
      October 25, 2009 11:04 am

      UNR on the NB200 has had sound from day 1, just not from the internal speaker until the patch came out. With the latest kernel patch this has been fixed. The built in speaker is small, and not ideal for serious audio. It’s fine for everyday casual stuff. In the past, some people are ok with using external speakers or headphones. I’d say that without sound URN is VERY usable, although it depends on what you need your netbook for…. for a musician / sound editor you’d be likely to be using higher end audio equipment anyway.

  3. Anmar Oueja permalink
    September 15, 2009 2:09 am

    Hello:

    I am an avid linux user and wish to purchase the NB200 for my travels. I am interested in knowing more about your Karmic experience. I would appreciate it if you can let me know the following please:

    1. Does suspend and resume work (as of Alpha 5)?
    2. Does audio work with the stock Ubuntu kernel in Alpha 5?
    3. Do the hot keys on the keyboard (enable disable touchpad, enable disable wireless, etc?)
    4. Does Bluetooth work out of the box?

    I am interested in Karmic (9.10) and how it works with this machine out of the box.

    Cheers!

    anmar

    • dimeotane permalink
      October 25, 2009 10:56 am

      Hi Anmar, thankyou for reading my blog. I’ve found that suspend and resume work really well since day one with Karmic. I just close the lid for suspend, and then powerbutton for instant resume… the only finicky thing at first was the wifi. Now that works flawlessly as well I find.
      Bluetooth did not seem to be detected, but I haven’t really tried as I have nothing bluetooth I need to work on it. I suppose sometime I could check to see if it works with my phone. Users of the NB200 on the ubuntu forums NB200 setup thread may be able to tell you more.
      Audio still seems to be waiting for the final patches to be included (as of this date). I imagine it will be fixed by the end of the month when Karmic is officially released.
      The hotkeys that I’ve used that work are volume up/down, brightness up/down, mute, suspend to ram: those seem to work… some of the others don’t seem to work.
      I’m finding Karmic very useable. The only real challenge I’ve had was dealing with a broken update while using the daily build a few months ago. No problem since.

      • Simon permalink
        November 3, 2009 4:02 pm

        Hi,

        I am interested in getting this netbook, but was holding off because of the Jaunty issues with it. Do you have any updates about Karmic final? Most notably the audio (including speakers, headphones and microphone). I can’t see any evidence that the patches have been included in the final Karmic kernel.

        Thanks.

      • dimeotane permalink*
        November 4, 2009 10:44 am

        Right now with the latest karmic updates I am playing audio from the headphone jack through powered speakers for multimedia presentations in my classroom. Yes, I agree, it doesn’t look like the patches are included in Karmic yet though.

        By installing a patch I did have the internal speaker working as well, (but haven’t reapplied it yet since updating to the newest kernel) It’s a small speaker but good enough for a little sound. You wouldn’t get this netbook for studio quality audio. I didn’t have the internal mic working yet though.

        These threads are where the latest patches are being discussed:
        https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/438318
        https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/389040?comments=all

      • Simon permalink
        November 9, 2009 9:17 am

        Thanks for your writings on this and your swift responses to questions. You have left me with confidence that the NB200 will be functional enough for my purposes (highly portable, good battery life so I can work on the move). I have ordered mine πŸ™‚

        Now I just need to evaluate whether or not I can make it functional enough to get as a Christmas present for my mother. It looks like everything except sound works fully, so I will spend a bit of time seeing if I can get that ironed out. Otherwise it’ll probably be a Dell for her 😦

      • myhelipad permalink
        January 8, 2010 10:46 pm

        hi dimeotane,

        Please teach me how to apply the patches, coz i’m very new to this ubuntu.

        Regards

      • dimeotane permalink*
        January 10, 2010 2:56 pm

        Hi can you say a bit more about what patches you’re thinking of?

        You can update your Ubuntu if you have an internet connection by going in the menu to System–>administration–>update manager. Click check and install updates.

        If you want to learn how to do this using the terminal, one of the most basic ‘patches’ you can easily learn to do is entering this command in the terminal. Go in the menu to Accessories, then to Terminal and then type in (or copy and past this)
        sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
        You will need to enter your admin password. Then it will begin updating the list of available packages.
        Then it will ask you to enter Y for yes if you want to download and install the new updates.
        It will begin downloading and give you a status of how long it will take.

        I think it’s worth learning how to do these commands in a terminal. Learning to use a terminal can seem daunting at first if you’ve only ever used a graphical interface all your life. The terminal is extremely powerful, and you can accomplish in a few commands what takes dozens of mouse functions to do, or you can’t do at all with a mouse. It’s easy to share terminal commands online by copying and pasting text (like a little micro sized program). Sometimes you only have access to a terminal on a machine when it’s malfunctioning, and knowing how to use the terminal means you can recover the graphical interface.

        Thanks for reading, and hope this helps to get you started.

      • myhelipad permalink
        January 10, 2010 9:08 pm

        Hi dimeotane;

        Thank you for valuable advise; I have try & learn few terminal command also for update & upgrade maybe more in future I hope. Patches that i mean is how to make internal speaker working. I have done few time update & upgrade but still no sound from internal speaker.

        Regards

  4. Roger permalink
    December 25, 2009 6:45 am

    Hi Dimeotane!
    First of all I have to say that my English is not perfect, I’m Catalan ;D.
    I’ve just bought a Toshiba NB 200, and I’d like to know if something “unexpected” is going to happen after installing Ubuntu Netbook Remix. I mean: Will everything go OK? Keyboard shortcuts would stay the same?

    PD:Nice blog!

    Thank you!

    • dimeotane permalink*
      December 26, 2009 3:35 pm

      Hey Roger, thanks for reading. I hope your experience will go smoothly. In short, no, not everything will work perfectly after installing. Some keyboard shortcuts work, some don’t. Sound and bluetooth need tweaking after installing Ubuntu to get them to work, but it’s not hard. You can read more on the NB200/NB205 Ubuntu forums threadhere

      A couple of things that may be worth considering:

      1) As always with computers/life in general, “prepare for the unexpected’. I don’t know of a single computer brand, type or OS that works perfect. Ever. But I like to think of my enjoyment of an open source OS like Ubuntu as a hobby. Sometimes a little extra learning or tweaking is needed to get what I want out of it, but makes for great self-education.

      2) Are you a veteran Ubuntu user, or will this be your first time with an OS other than windows? If you’re a veteran Ubuntu user you might feel at home, but someone new to Ubuntu will need time to adjust.

      3) You may wish to first image the hard drive when you unbox the netbook, to an external USB drive. It’s always good to have a backup. If something goes really wrong then you can at least re-image the drive back to the way it was when you first bought it.
      To do this, I ran ubuntu from USB and used dd to image the netbook drive to an external USB drive.

      4) I recommend to not just erase the windows partition when you install Ubuntu. I keep reading about NB200 users who regret doing so, as they later wanted to log into windows for various reasons. I have mine as a dual boot. I resized my windows partition to make room for Ubuntu. (I also like putting my /home directory on a separate partition). On other laptops I owned in the past where I installed Ubuntu, I eventually deleted my windows partition so that Ubuntu can fill the drive, but I waited a few months of use to be sure I didn’t need it and Ubuntu was working good enough for me.
      Some users report that they can’t boot windows after installng Ubuntu however, and needed to figure out how to fix Grub so that windows would boot. I didn’t have this problem however.

      5) Be aware that not *everything* on the NB200 works flawlessly after installation. Bluetooth was not hard to get working, but didn’t work automatically right after installing. Also, no sound from the internal speaker right after installing, but it was very easy to get the headphones/external speakers working with a few tweaks. I read on the forums that some have the internal speaker working now as well. I had mine working for a while on an older kernel, but with the latest updates I’m back to headphones, until I configure it to work again.

  5. Roger permalink
    December 27, 2009 2:11 pm

    Thanks for your reply.
    I’m running a dual boot and I have the problems you mentioned above. The internal speaker doesen’t work, but it’s not a huge problems since I can use headphones. But now I have another question. When I’m running Windows and move my nb 200, it tells me that the hard disk protection has been activated (I didn’t know how to say that in English!). As you know, when I’m in Ubuntu I don’t get that notification, so I supose that nothing changes on my hard disk. Is there any way to fix that?

    Answering to your question, it’s not the first time I use Ubuntu, but I’m not really a veteran haha.

    Thank you!!

    • dimeotane permalink*
      December 27, 2009 8:05 pm

      Hi Roger,
      When I bought the NB200, that was one of the features I was attracted to; how the hard drive would be ‘frozen’ if movement was detected to protect the hard drive. IMHO that should be built into all hard drives and operate automatically! The next best thing to a solid state hard drive.

      Anyway, in answer to your question, it seems that feature is ‘windows only’ at the moment. I believe it operates using Toshiba windows drivers. Maybe someday a brilliant ubuntu hacker will develop drivers for it in Ubuntu? Keep us posted if you find anything for the ‘shock protection’ feature in Ubuntu, and I’ll be sure to blog about it if I find anything !

  6. myhelipad permalink
    January 6, 2010 11:20 pm

    Hi Dimeotane!

    I just install UNR 9.10 on NB200 with confidence a lot of thing has solve after reading your writings on this blog and few responses to questions i have read here.

    As newbie with very less experience on Linux or Ubuntu itself i would like to please you if there any new update since your last post on this UNR and NB200 installation.

    Sorry for my poor English.

    Regards

  7. January 7, 2010 1:52 am

    I solved my WiFi problems by switching to WICD (http://www.wicd.net/).
    I think that’s a problem between the network manager backend and the wpa_supplicant.

  8. Hugo Rabson permalink
    February 3, 2010 8:29 pm

    Thank you for an interesting journal entry.

    Re: Bluetooth – I installed the Blueman package, then bought one of those *tiny*, fingernail-sized Bluetooth adapters and plugged it in. Bluetooth now works.

    Re: speakers – I never got mine to work; I bought some USB speakers instead. They work. They sound much better than the built-in speakers anyway. πŸ™‚

    Re: wifi – there are no issues w/ latest Karmic NBR, for me at least.

  9. Mspirit permalink
    May 6, 2010 6:04 am

    Like the paperless thing,

    I decided this a while ago and began to use my netbook to take notes during lectures instead of having to carry around paper and pen. At first it looked odd to be using it while every body else is just writing with pens. But after I posted these well shaped notes, tables and figures for all my colleagues. It was no odd no more XD…it’s the future

    By the way, I tried the page orientation thing and it was awesome πŸ™‚

  10. July 2, 2010 10:04 am

    Kindle Wireless can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and your spot is automatically saved. Pages automatically turn while the content is being read, so you can listen hands-free. You can choose from both male and female voices which can be sped up or slowed down to suit your preference. In the middle of a great book or article but have to jump in the car? Simply turn on Text-to-Speech and listen on the go.

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