Where did all the Linux netbooks go?

Adam Williamson asks the question after doing a bit of research across several major vendors and online shops.

where the hell did all the Linux netbooks go? In 2007 you couldn’t buy a netbook with Windows; in 2008 to 2009 you could still walk into a big box store just about anywhere and pick from a few with Linux; now, you can buy one from one store in England with an Android dual boot, one from a hidden page on Ubuntu’s site with an inferior configuration to its equally-priced Windows equivalent, and one from a very well hidden bit of HP’s site with a $132 premium over its identically-specified Windows equivalent.

I am not a big expert in this matter, but I tend to agree with some of his conclusions:

the cynical side of me can come up with a lot of explanations as to where all those pre-loads went, and all of them involve large amounts of money going out of Microsoft bank accounts

And I think that’s pretty reasonable.  After the netbook market is different from the desktop one.  In the desktop world, Linux has a number of ongoing problems, such as office applications, games, and so on and so forth.  But most netbooks aren’t powerful enough to run those applications.  Their primary use is of a simple Internet device – browsing the web, reading email, chatting, etc.  And for this purpose, the operating system is pretty much irrelevant.  Most of these tasks are done in the browser.  And browser-wise Linux is rich – Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and more.

So, how come all these netbooks are now selling with Windows and not Linux.  It can’t be just Microsoft Internet Explorer.  After all, most end users don’t even know what the browser is.  There must be another reason.  And probably it’s not a technical reason.  And as Adam says, it must be some of those reasons that involve large amounts of money going out of Microsoft bank accounts.

If you have any other ideas, please do share via comments.

Fedora 12 and IntelliBook (rtl8187se)

I recently got my hands on an IntelliBook netbook (site in German, but the machine is actually Clevo M810L).  It’s a really small, light, and simple machine, which I got for nothing, and which, I haven’t got it for nothing, would cost me around 400 EUR.  The truth is, if I wouldn’t have bought it for 400 EUR.


The good things about it are: small, light, built-in WiFi and a rather large 160 GB hard disk.  The bad things are: non-standard keyboard layout (I touch type, so I don’t mind, but the other people in my home do), non-Linux-supported web camera, and really low battery life (around 2 hours or so).  Also the touchpad always gets in the way, and the whole case has this cheap plastic feel to it.

When I first got the machine, it was running Ubuntu 9.10.  While I have nothing against Ubuntu, I am a Fedora person.  I want a regular desktop, and I want my commands and configurations to be where I am looking for them.  So I replaced Ubuntu 9.10 with a recently released Fedora 12.  The Live USB installation was as simple as it can possible be – boot from USB stick into a desktop, click “Install to hard disk“, and click Next three or four times.

Once the Fedora 12 Gnome desktop booted up, I was slightly disappointed to find out that wireless wasn’t working.  Since it was working just fine in Ubuntu, I was pretty sure that fixing the problem won’t be hard.  And  I was right.

First, I established that the wireless card uses RealTek chipset (rtl8187se).  Secondly, I Googled for rtl8187se and Fedora 12, which led me to this blog post, comments to which suggested that I need to add RPMFusion to my yum repositories and install kmod-staging* packages (there are two of them, one generic, and one with specific kernel version).  Once the packages are installed, loaded up the driver with “modprobe rtl817se“, and restart both network and NetworkManager servers.  Not even a reboot is needed – NeworkManager picks up the wireless network adapter and connects to the network.  A test reboot confirmed that nothing else needs to be done and everything is just fine.

With that, I now have a little computer, which is easy to move around, and can even be given to my kid to play with.  If it wasn’t for the short battery life, it would be perfect for travelling.  So, either I’ll find an extended battery for this thing (which I doubt), or I will get myself another netbook for all the travels that I do.  Carrying around a full fledged laptop becomes heavy and ridiculous.