Practical Technology

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Dell & Ubuntu’s mighty Mini 9


Want a great Linux netbook for a great price? Then, give Dell’s Ubuntu-powered Mini 9 a try. I like netbooks. They tend to be small, powerful and you can easily get them with Linux. Not all netbooks are created equal, though, and some are clearly better than others. One of the best is the Dell Mini 9.

In the not even two years since Asus changed the laptop world with the first true netbook, the Eee PC 4G, I’ve used many netbooks, such as the ASUS Eee 1000. My new favorite though is the Dell Inspiron Mini 9.

It starts with the look and heft of the device. Some netbooks feel like their prices: cheap. Not, the Mini 9. It feels solid and well-made.

The keyboard backs up that initial impression. Other than squeezing the quote mark key down on the spacebar row, I found the keyboard to be quite comfortable. And, as someone who spends hours every day pounding out thousands of words, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to keyboards.

Powering this up is an Intel Atom 270 Diamondville CPU running at 1.6GHz. The one I bought came with a gigabyte of RAM and an 8GB SSD (solid state drives). The display is not quite nine-inches-8.9-inches with the graphics pushed by the Diamondville’s built-in 945GSE graphics. The default resolution is 1,024×600 and it looks great.

The Mini 9 comes with 3 USB 2.0 ports, an RJ-45 10/100Mbps Ethernet port and a media-card reader. Most of though will use Inspiron 910’s built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi.

Oh, and have I mentioned the battery life? It gave me an honest 4-hours of work. I like this netbook! Ubuntu 8.04, the latest long term support version of Ubuntu, runs great on this hardware. Its performance was, in a word, ‘snappy.’

Making it even better, Dell has already added such optional, but ‘must-have’ as far as I’m concerned programs such as Adobe Acrobat and Flash. Nicer still, Dell has thrown in the Fluendo Codecs. This allows you to play pretty much any multimedia file you’re likely to find on the Web including the Windows Media formats and MP4 videos.

I have a few quibbles, but that’s really all they are. For example, this Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice 2.4, instead of the newer and faster OpenOffice 3.0. I can live with that though. It’s still more than fast enough on this portable powerhouse.

Oh and the best part? All of this computing goodness came to me with a $289 price-tag. Now, this, this is my kind of computer.

A version of this story was first published in ComputerWorld.

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