I should note that in desktop PCs, laptops, and servers, we get an amazing amount of bang for our hardware buck. Five hundred US dollars buys a desktop system that not too long ago would have been an expensive, high-end server. And thanks to Linux and Free/Open/NetBSD we can actually run nice sleek efficient software that doesn't require all that horsepower just to get out of its own way.
The Eee PC is very Linux-hackable, so there are many specialized netbook Linux distributions that run well on it, and it supports stock distros as well. The gang at ZaReason, my personal favorite Linux OEM vendor, think highly of the Eee PC and sell boatloads of them. Fast-forward to now, and everyone is selling netbooks, almost (but not quite) like hotcakes. And thus we arrive at the subject of this review, the Lenovo S10 IdeaPad, which I have had in my possession for a couple of weeks now, and have enjoyed greatly. This is on loan to me thanks to the nice folks at Phoenix Technologies, who sent it to me to show off their instant-on Linux-based environment, Phoenix HyperSpace. It also came with Genuine Windows XP Home, SP3.
I'm a Thinkpad fan from way back, though anymore I think it's a misplaced loyalty because Lenovo treats Linux like the perv uncle and keeps it hidden away, and plasters "We recommend Windows!" all over the place. It took some detective work to find the S-series IdeaPad netbooks on Lenovo.com, and forget finding one with Linux. I about Googled my fingers off and found a number of reviews and announcements that claimed it had either SUSE Linux or Linpus Linux options, but I never found them. In fact I am getting very tired of vendors who claim to love the penguin and Free/Open Source software, and then make it impossible to actually purchase any OEM Linux computers. That is why I stick with independent vendors like ZaReason. They tell the truth.
Even so I had high expectations for the IdeaPad. This model has the following specs:
Windows XP was good for about 3 hours on battery, and suspend and hibernate worked fine. The Phoenix HyperSpace environment lived up to its claim of extended battery life and delivered a little over 4 hours. At first I thought I would install Linux on it and see how it works. Then I decided not to because there is no Linux option in the US, so to heck with them. I know some people who do run Linux on this little machine in various configurations-- some dual-boot, some with Linux-only, this distro, that distro-- and it runs well. Everything works, even the card reader. So for you fine readers who want by whatever means to run Linux on this little cutie, be assured it will do just fine.
The keyboard is smaller than standard, and it is only OK. I have small hands so a slightly smaller keyboard doesn't bother me, but the keys are too flat, without enough differentiation between them, and there are inadequate cues for touch-typing, like perceptible bumps on the F and J keys.
Another drawback is it doesn't sit on my lap nicely like a bigger machine because it's too small.
I wish, I wish, I wish that hardware vendors would quit letting Redmond call the shots. It is dead easy to roll and deploy a customized image of a standard Linux distribution. Even the good commercially-supported Linuxes like Red Hat and Ubuntu let you do this. There are a number of freely-available utilities for doing this for all Linuxes, and system administrators and power users do it all the time. Use the distro repositories, let users use the standard sophisticated built-in Linux utilities for software and updates management, quit wrapping all that Linux goodness in dopey proprietary crud, and freaking relax. It is astounding how these giant tech companies overcomplicate Linux by trying to build their own "simplified" interfaces and custom repositories, which only creates confusion and disappointment, and then forget to make sure that the limited netbook hardware set and important software functionality all work.
I would even settle for a naked netbook with no bundled software, but I reckon it will be a cold day in monopoly hell before that happens.
This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.