Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook Review

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Over the past couple of days, I’ve been testing a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook.

Here’s what I found.

Basic Specs:

    1 GB RAM
    30 GB HDD
    Intel Atom 1.6 GB processor.
    Operating System: Ubuntu 8.04
    Kernel 2.6.24.1
    Gnome Desktop Environment 2.22.3

Detailed specs here.

Short : It’s a nice box.

Long Review:

The operating system plus all applications take up approximately two and a half gigs of hard drive space.

Here’s a picture. I drew back and pulled a standard keyboard into the picture for perspective.

Picture of the Netbook

When I first booted the machine, the wireless detection worked perfectly. It detected my wireless network and allowed me to login with my password. It has since remembered it.

The machine came with Linux, which is based on Debian and defaults to the Gnome Desktop (Windows XP is an option). Consequently, the menu setup and appearance is similar to what I described here, but without as many included applications.

Here are the menus for Internet and Office appications. (Depending on your browser, click or right-click on the picture for a larger view.)

Sample Menus

The office suite is a stripped down version of Open Office; it includes the word processor, the spreadsheet application, and the presentation program; it omits the drawing and database elements.

A number of internet tools are included–after all, it is a . The three that I suspect most persons are likely to use are the Firefox browser,

Firefox

which is fully extendable (here is Firefox with the Sage RSS reader and the Fire Gestures extensions installed),

Firefox Extended

the Pidgin chat client (I left the “add account” dialog open to illustrate the number of different protocols that Pidgen supports; Pidgin, by the way, is available for a number of different operating systems, including Windows, and does not try to sell you anything),

and the Evolution email client.

Evolution

I had to download Samba to enable networking, but Ubuntu made it easy. I clicked on the menu item for my local network and Ubuntu popped up a message saying, “You need additional software for that; do you want it?” I clicked “Yes” and within a minute I was my home network. Then I was able to connect to my printer, which is attached to an HP box around the corner and down the steps.

Here’s a picture of the network browser:

Samba

The machine takes 29 seconds to boot and 25 seconds to shutdown.

Here is a short video of the boot and one of the shutdown (unfortunately, I can’t find my tripod; I’ll blame my son, since he’s not here).

Issues:

The biggest problem I had was my big fat fingers on the itsy-bitsy keyboard. I am a trained touch-typist and where my fingers are trained to go is not where the keys are. I actually had to restore the box after the first boot because I typed my standard testing-mode password incorrectly on initial setup. ( provides a restoration CD).

(In so doing, I proved that the hardware detection worked find with my Memorex Model 3202 3288 External USB CD/DVD RW drive. I plugged it into the , booted, and the went right to the Restoration CD.)

It’s Linux–“no password” is not an option. It will ask you to create a user password on initial startup. It also gives you the option to log in automatically as user on bootup. You cannot log in as “root” (equivalent to the Windows Administrator) automatically.

I had the optional mouse. I got it working once and haven’t gotten it working again. I think that has more to do with my lack of experience with than anything else.

But here is one area where Dell’s performance was less than satisfactory: The little pamphlet that comes with the mouse does not address trouble-shooting problems in a Linux environment. It got a nice little section on shooting trouble on XP and Vista, but they are not Ubuntu Linux.

The machine works fine with a standard USB wired mouse and the touchpad–I hate touchpads–is actually not too bad.

I’m sure I’ll have fun playing with this over the next few days.

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