I am preparing for a trip to Iceland this summer, and have been considering which computers to take along. First, why plural "computers"? Because if anything happens, whether it be lost/stolen/damaged baggage along the way, or equipment failure/malfunction while we are there, I don't want to be without a netbook. We stay in touch, check routes, roads, conditions and weather, unload pictures from cameras, send postcards and much more that we would not want to do without. So I take two, and I make sure that one is in checked baggage and one is in a carry-on.
The obvious question is, which netbooks, and with what software? I have settled on two of my Samsung systems, the N150 Plus and the NF310. I chose these because they are small and light, they work well, they both use the same power supply, and I have a Samsung tip for my iGo multi-input power adapter so I can pack one adapter with each netbook, and I will be able to charge them from the 12v plug in the truck (previously know as the "cigarette lighter", now politically incorrect to call it that) or from 110v/220v power in the camper and buildings.
The software part of the question is a bit more challenging. It obviously won't be Windows (why on earth would I go on vacation and still subject myself to Windows!?!?!?). Based on a tip from Thomas Gellhaus when I wrote about the recent release of Fedora 17, I decided to take a closer look at the Fedora KDE spin. I was quite pleased to find that not only does it include the latest GIMP (2.8), as Thomas mentioned, but it also includes the latest digiKam (2.6.0), which is my favorite photo management application by far. Of course using the KDE version means that I can also have my preferred desktop, KDE Netbook.
I loaded F17 KDE onto both of the Samsung netbooks, and did some more serious testing. The results are quite impressive - everything works, and I really mean absolutely everything. Here are the high points, particularly for things which have been a problem with other LInux distributions and/or previous Fedora releases:
- All hardware works perfectly. That includes WiFi (Broadcom 4313 in both), Bluetooth, graphics, displays (built-in and external VGA), touchpad (with two-finger scrolling), power management... everything.
- WiFi connects easily, consistently and quickly.
- Bluetooth devices connect (and reconnect) quickly and consistently.
- Screen brightness control works properly, including dimming and blanking for power management.
- Fn-keys work for volume up/down/mute, brightness up/down, touchpad off/on, WiFi off/on and Sleep.
- Sleep on closing the netbook lid works, and is very quick (about 5 seconds to sleep and about 2 seconds to wake up).
The power management was particularly important, because it has been such a problem on the Samsung netbooks in the past. If the brightness fluctation problem had still been there, I would not even have considered taking them. If Suspend/Resume had not worked properly, it would have been just as bad because when I am traveling, especially in Iceland, I don't want to have to sit around and wait for a complete boot every time I turn a netbook on.
In fact, after quite a lot of testing of everything I could think of, I haven't found a single thing that doesn't work properly under Fedora 17 KDE on either of these netbooks. Good stuff!