Linux on the Lenovo S10-3s: Scorecard (Rap Sheet?)

I have spent the past few days trying to load and test my usual variety of Linux distributions on my lovely new Lenovo S10-3s netbook. The results have been interesting, sometimes rewarding, and a bit too often frustrating.

I have spent the past few days trying to load and test my usual variety of Linux distributions on my lovely new Lenovo S10-3s netbook. The results have been interesting, sometimes rewarding, and a bit too often frustrating.

- Windows 7 Stunted (aka Starter): This would, without a shadow of a doubt, be useless on such a netbook, and it wouldn't even co-exist peacefully with other operating systems (I couldn't resize the main partition), so it has been banished. All four original partitions on the disk have been deleted, and replaced with Linux partitions.

- PCLinuxOS 2010.10: The clear winner in this case. This was the only Linux distribution which loaded on the Lenovo S10-3s without any problem, and on which absolutely everything I have tested works - CPU, graphics, wired/wireless/bluetooth networking, touchpad (including buttons and tapping), camera, Fn-keys for brightness and sound, and everything else. This will be the distribution I will be primarily using on this netbook.

- The wireless networking (WiFi) doesn't work. Other than that everything else seems to work, including the touchpad and buttons. But considering that one of the primary uses of a netbook is likely to be WiFi connection while traveling, the lack of a Broadcom wireless driver is a pretty serious problem. There are instructions on the web for how to install the broadcom-wl drivers from the backports repository, but I found them to be confusing and contradictory, and couldn't get the driver installed in a reasonable amount of time.

- Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat): The touchpad buttons are not recognized, but at least tapping works. The Broadcom WiFi driver is not installed in the base distribution, but the Additional Hardware Drivers utility offers to install it for you on first boot. But, unfortunately, even after the driver is installed and working the wireless networking is disabled on every boot, so you have to manually enable it each time. That's not as bad as having no WiFi driver at all, and I suppose if you have an external mouse of some sort (I have used Logitech Bluetooth and VX nano), it would be reasonably useable.

- Linux Mint 10 (Julia): The Ubuntu heritage shows here, it has exactly the same problems as described previously for Ubuntu 10.10.

- Jolicloud 1.1: I took advantage of the timing and downloaded the brand-new 1.1 preview release. Again the Ubuntu heritage shows, but not quite the same way. Even after loading the Broadcom WiFi driver, I couldn't enable wireless networking in the Network Manager. Very strange, but try as I might I couldn't figure it out or find a way around it. Other than that, it had the same problem with touchpad buttons not being recognized.

- Fedora 14 (Laughlin): No touchpad buttons or taps were recognized, so I had to use an external mouse just to install the operating system. Once installed I was able to go to System/Preferences/Touchpad and enable tapping, but I couldn't get the buttons working. No Broadcom driver in the base distribution, and I wasn't able to get it working from the Fedora Unity / RPMFusion web sites either.

- openSuSE 11.4 Milestone 3: Basically the same as Fedora, no touchpad buttons or taps and no driver for the Broadcom WiFi.

So, overall not a very good result, but I'm very pleased with PCLinuxOS on the Lenovo, so that is good for now. I think it shows that you still need to be a bit careful when buying some of the very newest systems if you intend to put Linux on them. It reminds me of when I bought my first HP 2133 Mini-Note, actually, as there were quite a few things on that which didn't work with any Linux distribution at that time. Within a few months, though everything was supported by the major Linux distributions, and I have little doubt that the same will happen with this Lenovo S10-3s.

jw 22/11/2010

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