Linux Netbook My Mobile Internet Experience

I was lucky recently being offered an HP Mini 1000 Mi netbook for review from Buzzcorps, which is a marketing agency running word-of-mouth campaigns — in this particular case for Hewlett Packard. HP obviously have an understanding of viral marketing and its potential, which they proved before with campaigns like the 31 Days of the Dragon and kindly provide the review units.

Being offered such a nice gadget is certainly motivating, but of equal importance for participating in the Mini 1000 Mi promotion is the fact that I have complete editorial freedom of how and what I write about my Mobile Internet Experience (MIE) with the HP Mini 1000 Mi.

Today, I'll briefly introduce the HP Mini 1000 and talk about my first impressions after spending some time getting to know the user interface, running and installing applications, and configuring system settings.

The Hardware

First, let's take a look at the hardware. The design of Mini 1000 is simple yet elegant and the netbook makes a robust and well built impression, while being only 1" thin and weighing about 3 lbs with the battery installed.

The device I am talking about is the 10" screen version of the Mini 1000 with a maximum resolution of 1024x576 px, 1 GB RAM, 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, and 12 GB hard disk space. Below you see a screenshot showing the System tab of System Monitor.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Mini 1000 has a 82 key keyboard which is 92% the size of a full size keyboard. Considering the dimensions of the Mini 1000 Mi the real estate available for the keyboard could hardly be used better.

There are two special keys worth mentioning: next to the left ALT key a key showing the HP logo, and next to the right ALT key a key showing two arrows forming a square shape. Pressing the former brings you to the dashboard and pressing the latter brings up the application switcher that you can also access by pressing ALT+TAB.

As usual for laptop computers the touchpad is positioned below the keyboard. The buttons are aligned to the left and the right of the touchpad, which is pretty uncommon and may take some time to get used to.

A bigger problem for me was the default sensitivity of the touchpad, which resulted in scrolling too fast or accidentally hitting buttons, before adjusting the corresponding system settings. For example, when choosing my location while booting the system for the first time, I was not able to use the interactive map, but had to choose the location from the country dropdown list, which wasn't easy either.

As a consequence I set the Sensitivity to the lowest possible value and the Acceleration to a medium value in the System Settings under Mouse Preferences which improved the situation.

Audio / Video

The 10.1" diagonal WSVGA LED BrightView display with a maximum resolution of 1024x576px is a big plus producing brilliant colors and contrast ratios. Small fonts are well readable and the sample photos included look really nice. Watching videos and viewing photos is certainly something to enjoy with this netbook.

The audio quality though is not satisfying. The audio output does not sound distorted but the background noise is too loud. I don't consider this a problem when watching online video, where sound quality is generally not very good, but listening to your favorite music is probably more fun with your mp3 player.


I am quite impressed with performance in general. Booting the operating system takes about 40 seconds including login. The installed applications I have checked out so far, including Firefox and Writer, launch and run quickly.

To better illustrate my experience with the Mini 1000 I intended to record screencasts using recordMyDesktop. The audio quality of the first brief introduction video is pretty bad though, as you will notice while listening. I'll think about alternative approaches to stick with my intention.

To be fair, recording and encoding video and audio from desktop sessions is not what netbooks are intended for and may be too demanding, if you expect high quality results. The system performance for accomplishing typical net-centric tasks is very good.

MIE Software

Mobile Internet Experience (MIE) is a Linux distribution developed by HP on top of Ubuntu Linux. The user interface is designed to make browsing, communication, and entertainment easily accessible on small devices. To see it in action, check out this video introducing the Mobile Internet experience software.


The dashboard or home screen is divided into three main parts that reflect the intended use cases for this device. The Mail section on the left, the Web section in the middle and the Media section for accessing music and photos on the right as shown on the screenshot below.

The menu in the top right part of the dashbaord links to the Nautilus file manager, the system settings section, and the logout screen. On the bottom there is a button for starting new applications.

Having a simple, non-cluttered start screen to make the presumably most often used applications quickly accessible is good in the first place, but I would like to see various improvements.

When entering text in the field on top of the Web section and hitting return, the text is interpreted as a location and not as text to search for. So entering HP Mini Netbook and hitting return results in Firefox trying to open the location file:///home/USERNAME/hp mini netbook.

To use the search function you need to click on the magnifier icon next to the text field. The default search engine is Yahoo! and it stays the default even after setting another search engine as default in Firefox. There should be an easy to find method to customize this setting.

I would also like to be able to replace the Music section in the dashboard with something else, since I won't use the music player often. One reason being the lack in sound quality and the other not feeling comfortable with HP MediaStyle, which is based on the Elisa Media Center.


To launch a program you can hit the Start New Program button on the dashboard. A screen like the one below will be displayed, letting you choose from the installed applications in the selected section, in this case the Utilities section.

Available applications are organized in sections, that you reach by clicking on the tabs in the top left part of the screen and include:

  • Internet
  • Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Skype
  • Media
  • HP MediaStyle, Cheese, Sound recorder
  • Utilities
  • gEdit, Nautilus, About Me, Add/Remove (package manager), Time and Date, Update Manager, HP Device Manager
  • Work
  • OpenOffice Writer, OpenOffice Calc, Sunbird, Adobe Reader 8
  • Play
  • Blackjack, Chess, Five or More, Gnometris, Mahjongg, Mines, Nibbles, Robots, Sudoku
  • All
  • All installed applications
The above list is not complete, but it includes most of the applications currently available via HP's package manager, that lets you only access packages approved by HP.

For typical netbook use cases the selection of software may be sufficient, though you may well prefer other tools for listening to music, watching video, etc.

The good news is that you can install a much wider range of packages using Apt from the command line or via the Synaptic package manager GUI, which I will cover in a separate article to come.


So far my experience with the HP Mini 1000 Mi is quite satisfying. It's very well suited for typical netbook tasks such as browsing the Web, looking up information online, viewing photos, watching online video, and messaging. I wouldn't use it for listening to music due to the sound quality, which is certainly a drawback.
The netbook makes a very robust impression and I am positively surprised by the good system performance. I really like the awesome high quality display. The touchpad works for me with the lowest possible sensitivity setting and medium acceleration and the available space for the keyboard is well used.

Being a long time Linux user and fan I am happy with the choice on building a system on top of Ubuntu Linux. I do hope that the increasing popularity of netbooks will drive Linux adoption, since I like it a lot better than the Windows family of operating systems.

Building an easy to use interface optimized for everyday tasks is a step in the right direction to make Linux accessible to more users and take away their fear of the unknown. To make the user interface even better, it should allow for a higher degree of customizations.

One more thing I would really like to see is HP rethink their decision to not sell the Linux model in EMEA. I cannot judge this from an economic perspective, but as a proponent of Open Source software I want to see Linux everywhere, in the end it's better than Windows.


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