Setting up Ubuntu on Samsung NC10

The NC10 is a wonderful Netbook with an amazing 7 hour battery life! There are various sites explaining how to set up Ubuntu on the Samsung NC10 with an excellent one in the Ubuntu community docs here which is constantly being added to. But I have been asked to set out what I did on my machine so here it is.

Installing and setting up Ubuntu on the NC10 is easy. However to get my Samsung NC10 to do Ubuntu started BEFORE the Linux installation, it started with sorting XP.

Mine is cool blue

Mine is cool blue

Sorting the XP side

I decided to keep a small part of the hard disk for XP. I knew I would hardly ever use it but my scanner works well on XP (with the ocr software), so does my Garmin Venture GPS and the Tracklog maps that go with it. Just because I think Linux is better that windows doesn’t mean I have to get all purist about it and vow to never touch XP again. However, I planned to leave XP with little room as I knew I would hardy ever use it.

As the NC10 comes with the XP installation disk along with another disk of drivers, I knew that if I messed everything I could install XP again from scratch and start again. Thanks Samsung! It will have cost them little extra to do this but it makes a huge difference to customers like me.

First I plugged in an external usb disk drive (I could have done it with a live Ubuntu usb stick). I used the partition manager on the live Ubuntu cd to sort the XP part. I deleted the restore partition. Why? Two reasons. It will not be needed if XP is hardly ever used. Also I wanted Ubuntu to sort its own partitions on installation without me having to get too technical. If I left the restore partition it would be one partition too many for the automatic partitioning to take place when Ubuntu installs. I know because I tried it and only after I deleted the restore partition did the automatic partitioning work.

Then using the partition manager I reduced the size of the XP partition to about 30GB. Some would say that is too much but I can reduce it more later and, after all, I have a 160GB hard drive.

I booted up the WindowsXP and got it set up. I uninstalled the promotional virus protection programme that would lock me in to a contract where I would have to keep paying a subscription. Instead I installed the free Comodo (just google it) anti-virus and firewall. This is tedious as whenever I use the XP partition as it wants to update its virus database for the first few minutes. I could turn this off but I would rather be safe, especially considering the virus vulnerability of windows.

The reason I sorted the XP side first, with its anti-virus, is that I once had problems with a Linux installation being affected when I installed an anti-virus on the windows partition afterwards.

Install Ubuntu

The NC10 has a large hard disk so there is no need to use the small netbook remix designed for small solid state drives. You may like to use the netbook remix programme launcher but that can be added separately. I tried it and decided it was not the best way to go with the NC10.

Install the normal Ubuntu distribution (in my case it was version 8.10 ‘Intrepid’).

Even though I have access to an external usb cd drive I used the live usb stick to install. I installed while it was connected to my router with a cable as I knew the wireless would not work at first. General Ubuntu installation instructions can be found elsewhere.

One unusual thing I did, and I don’t know if it did anything good. I used the partition manager to delete the swap partition. I did this to force the machine to use the RAM and to stop it keep writing to disk (using it an extension to the RAM) I had heard that it would make the battery last longer and would stop the hard drive getting worn out. As I said I am not sure it was an advantage but I can add a swap partition later if I want. That is the beauty of Linux, you can experiment. The worst that can happen is the the machine stops working and I can put a live cd in and get all my files back. I can even reinstall the whole thing from scratch.

Set up Ubuntu

The first thing I had to do was get the wireless working. Later installations might have this included but I had to sort it. See the community documentation (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/NC10) which is where I got most of my information on this an other things.

Sound: This may have been sorted on more recent releases of Ubuntu, but it not I used the instructions from here (where new instructions keep getting added so it is worth a look).

Headphones: The problem is that when headphones are plugged in the speakers will still work – not good if you want, on a long journey, to watch a video you have ripped using dvd::rip.

To sort the problem download the latest Alsa from here onto your desktop. Right click on the archive and choose to extract to there.

Then open a terminal. Copy the following text into the terminal and click ‘enter’.

cd Desktop/alsa-driver-*
./configure --with-cards=hda-intel --with-oss=yes --with-sequencer=yes
make
sudo make install

Lots of text will scroll by, pausing now and again to ask questions. You will be asked for your password, a “y” for yes and pressing enter when ready for the next step.

Once it is complete set volume of Alsa by putting “alsamixer” in the terminal then use the up key to set the volume to maximum. Then close that terminal.

By the time you are reading this other things I had to sort (all listed here) may be sorted already by a new upgrade to Ubuntu. If in doubt, don’t start trying to fix things you read about unless you know they are not working and you need to have them fixed I could not get many of the blue Fn keys to work. I was content with that, still am. The sound keys work. The brightness keys freeze the system but then I added the brightness icon to the taskbar. The sleep and hibernation worked already. I have recently found a site that claims to sort the Fn keys but I have not tried it yet.

Windows Logo key: The Windows Logo key can be used to launch something useful. Type gnome-keybinding-properties in the Terminal and bind the key to something of your choice. I have it to launch Terminal.

Sort the Desktop

I wanted to make the best of the small screen and tried the netbook launcher which I downloaded and installed but I didn’t find it helpful.

Taskbars: These are the bars at the top and bottom of your screen that have various isons on. I right clicked on the bottom task bar and selected properties. I changed the size to 27. I then ticked the box to select autohide. Then I clicked the ‘background’ tab and selected ‘solid colour’. I then moved the slider along to make the taskbar transparent (though not totally).

I changed the top taskbar too, sizing it to 26 and doing the autohide and transparency thing as above. With the top bar I right clicked and chose ‘Add to panel..’ I added the broken window icon for killing frozen programmes, the screen brightness adjuster, and the desktop switcher which I had removed from the bottom bar by right-clicking and choosing ‘remove from panel’. Right click on your new desktop switcher and choose preferences and change columns to 4 (I like having the choice of four desktops).

Icons: I wanted an icon theme that would be small and found ‘Mashup’. It is has unusual and attractive icons, they are small which is the key thing. Icon themes can be found by using Add/Remove Software to add the ‘Artworks’ programme then using that, or else you can download ‘Mashup’ from here. Either way you should end up with a package on your desktop. Go to Preferences > Appearance and choose a theme. I chose the blue ‘Glossy’. Click on the one you want and it will change everything automatically (you can change back just as easy). Then drag your icons package onto the ‘Appearance’ window. It should install automatically.

Fonts: Again go to Preferences > Appearance and go to the Fonts tab. Select Subpixel smoothing then click on ‘Details’ at bottom right corner. In the next window select ‘slight’ under the Hinting. You can experiment to see if you prefer slight or medium as the effect takes place straight away.

Firefox: I wanted maximum screen space used in Firefox, and had already made the top and bottom taskbars autohide, which made a big difference. Now I again went System > Preferences > Appearance and chose the ‘Interface’ tab. Where it says ‘toolbar button labels’ I selected icons only. Now in Firefox I have the icons at the top but without any text underneath. This saves a bit more room on the top toobar and allows a bigger browser window.

Programmes

With all the free programmes on offer you are spoilt for choice. This is what I did.

First I went to Administration > Software sources and selected all the software sources I could have. Then I went to Add/Remove Software and clicked on the ones I wanted to install.

To start with I put mp3 in the search field. Do it and you find one called ‘Ubuntu restricted extras’ select it and it will add some important things including some fonts you will probably want to use.

I added Firestarter firewall so I can be sure of being safe when using the NC10 in a public place to connect by wireless.

And I selected Touchfreeze. This is a must for the NC10 as when you are typing it is easy to knock the touchpad accidentally. When you do that you find your typing being inserted in the wrong place. Touchfreeze sorts this problem by delaying the action of the touchpad my a micro second.

Want to try the cool Mac-like launcher called Avant? I like it but sometimes it disappears and has to be relaunched so as backup I kept the bottom taskbar, but I right clicked on the desktop switcher and removed it, having added it to the top bar instead. You can experiment with the Awn Manager which sets the prefrences to see the different ways you can get it to behave.

Finally for this post, I have the Compiz cube so that when I go from one desktop to another the whole thing becomes a cube that spins around. Go to System > Preferences > CompizConfig Setting Manager. Before you start fiddling with the settings, click the Preferences box on the left side. You can then make a new profile which you can call whatever you want. Now you can much about with the settings in that profile as much as you like. If you think you have messed it up you can delete that profile and start again.

Have fun with your NC10, I think mine is great.

[Since writing this post it is now much easier to get your nc10 running linux. Put ‘nc10’ in the search box on this blog and you will see the more recent instructions.]

3 thoughts on “Setting up Ubuntu on Samsung NC10

  1. I assume that if I have an unpartitioned drive with Windows installed I can’t install Linux without re-installing Windows? I’ve never really got the hang of partitioning, and last time I had to install Windows I had urgent work to do, so didn’t really get chance to look into it.

    Maybe I could run Linux off my external hard drive?

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