Monday, May 04, 2009

HP Mini 1120NR Mi Edition


My wife surprised me with an HP Mini 1120NR Mi Edition for an anniversary gift!

While it runs Linux, it uses an HP-modified version of Ubuntu, which is a Debian-based Linux. Nothing wrong with that, except that Debian/Ubuntu organizes things differently than Mandriva/RedHat, so it took some getting used to.

The first thing I did was to increase the memory from 1GB of RAM to 2GB of RAM, not that I needed it right now, but RAM is currently very inexpensive. Previous version of Ubuntu for the Mini did not have kernels compiled for >1GB support, but this one recognized it upon re-boot.

The interface is unlike a conventional desktop and is called harbour-launcer. you can see how HP modified the Ubuntu/GNOME desktop by reading how others have modified their desktops to mimic HP.

The first thing that I need to do was install some familiar apps, like mc.

Alt-F2 brings up a RUN dialog, and entering gnome-terminal launches a terminal window. I couldn't become the superuser since I didn't know the password, but HP kindly provides a menu that open a terminal as the superuser, so I did and used passwd to change root's password. HP also provides a menu to launch a software installer, but I just used from the terminal window to update the computer and then to install the Midnight Commander and have a look around the filesystem. HP provides a GUI filesystem browser link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, but my preference is mc. call me old-fashioned.

The default X configuration sucked, so I changed that to employ all the advanced features of the Intel Mobile GM965/GL960. It's no nVidia graphics card, so the Mini won't be much of a game platform. (config details coming)

My biggest problem was configuring the Mini to use my Verizon UM175 USB modem. The provided Network-Manager app will not allow me to configure it as a serial modem, but insists on telling me that is a GMRS device, even insisting to the point of changing my hand-edited configuration file set to read-only! I am told my knowledgeable Debian gurus that the most recent version of network-manager will work fine, it's just that HP has not released the newer of their variant on Debian/Ubuntu and I'm hesitant to update the non-i386 processor-based Mini from i386 repositories. In the meantime, I installed gnome-ppp and that works just fine, it's just not automatic. WIFI does work fine and network-manager easily configured it.

Oh, gnome-terminal doesn't play well with mc because they both use the F10 key. Fixing this is simple: In the gnome terminal, choose the "edit" menu then choose "keyboard shortcuts"; then tick "Disable menu shortcut key (F10 by default)". No more annoyance.

There is a hidden VFAT partition, sda3, that contains the image files and scripts to restore the drive to "factory fresh" condition from a USB drive. That's great except I've changed so much, but It's worth exploring when I find the time just to see how they did it.

I'll document more of my adventures as I get around to it.

Thanks, Bobbie! 1-4-3

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