In my recent blog post about the ASUS N10J, I mentioned that with the nVidia graphics enabled, Ubuntu Netbook Remix performed very poorly on it, presumably because of the lack of 3D support in the nVidia driver. Well, DUH! Sometimes it takes me a little while to stumble over the obvious.
Ubuntu loads the open source nv drivers by default. It is true, they don't have 3D support. But if you are not troubled by proprietary, binary-only software on your computer, you can also load the drivers provided by nVidia themselves. They DO have 3D support, and thus UNR should work very nicely.
There are a variety of ways to download and install those drivers. So far, the easiest way I have found is in Ubuntu, go to the System/Administration menu, and choose "Hardware Drivers". If you have the nVidia graphic adapter on, the Hardware Drivers utility will see it and ask if you want to use the proprietary drivers for it. Simply say yes, let it download and install, and then reboot. Once you have done this, the UNR desktop performance is just fine.
Alternatively, on Ubuntu or most other Linux distributions, you can go to the Package Manager, and select the nVidia proprietary binary drivers for download. I haven't been all the way through this yet, but I did get far enough to see that there are some reasonable installation instructions included. The packages are typically called something like nvidia-glx-*.
Finally, of course, you can go directly to nVidia and download the Linux driver package. I haven't tried this yet, as I prefer to get the software from the Linux distribution, but I will probably give it a shot sometime soon.
Any one of these should take care of the graphic performance problem with the nVidia card enabled. WARNING - if you decide to do this, be aware that at least on Ubuntu, you will not be able to use the N10J with the nVidia graphics switched off! The proprietary driver replaces some standard libraries and configuration files, and the Intel 950 graphic controller will not work properly. This is likely to be the case with other LInux distributions as well, but I have not tested them yet.
The smaller DUH, also for me, is that it is not necessary to make changes in the BIOS setup in order to book USB sticks and/or USB CD/DVD drives. You can simply hit Escape while the POST screen is displayed during boot, and a dynamic boot selection menu will come up, showing the currently available bootable devices. Good.