An update on the netbook:

I’ve been using my Dell Mini 9 pretty much as my main machine. Even coding on it. I just like the portability of it. This past weekend however, things went awry.

A batch of routine updates caused my install of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) to break. At the same time, my network connections broke. No wireless and no ethernet. And though Ubuntu has a different way of managing packages and updates than Windows and it’s frustrating to have to open another machine and look up the instructions for Ubuntu, I gotta say, it’s nothing compared to the frustration of dealing with Windows’ blue screens and broken .dll files.

After much struggle and many choice words, I got the network connections back up. And after several attempts, I got JRE repaired and properly installed. But Firefox was acting crazy. The back and forward buttons didn’t work. The search bar didn’t work. And the Ubuntu toolbar was busted. When I’d click on the power switch to shut down or restart, the whole toolbar would just disappear. (I eventually found the Terminal command to shutdown so I didn’t have to do hard shut-downs.)

I decided to move from Ubuntu 8.04 which came pre-installed on the Dell Mini to 8.10 and 9.04 to try to fix all these remaining problems. The hiccup here was that the 8.04 version installed was a Long Term Support (LTS) version and not automatically updated with every new release. To change this I needed to go to Software Sources and change the Update option. But my Updates tab had also disappeared.

So after all these hours of working on it, I finally decided this combination of problems was a Dell-created error and not Ubuntu.

Today, I bought a new 2GB USB stick, downloaded the Netbook Remix of Ubuntu 9.04 on my Windows machine, used the Disk Imager to create a disk image on the USB stick, booted up the netbook from the USB stick, played with the Netbook Remix for a while and did the full install, wiping my machine of Dell’s version of 8.04.

So far, it’s working like a charm and I love the Remix desktop.

One further note: when I bought the netbook, I wanted the netbook qua netbook so I went with Dell’s default 4GB harddrive. Little did I know that Ubuntu 8.04 took up 3.5GB. Ubuntu 9.04 uses 3.8GB. Though I’m not planning to keep any files on the netbook, I have few resources left for additional applications which I might one day want. This annoys me. It’s bad service from Dell. Just as their custom version of Ubuntu is bad service.

But their hardware is top-notch. So I’m torn.

I heard today that Dell is actually going to discontinue the Mini. I wonder what the reasons behind that are. If a Mini 9 with 16GB harddrive goes on sale for less than $200, would I buy?