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Dude, I Got A Dell Mini

Thanks to my lovely Peg! You’re the best baby!

Earlier this year I had been talking about getting a netbook. It was going to be a neat new toy for me. I kept putting it off waiting for the right price point/feature set. Peg told me one day “Your Christmas/Valentines Day/Birthday gift is $400 towards a netbook!”. Wow, that was great. So I kept my eyes open and waited for what I wanted and Dell came out with the Mini 9.

On October 10th, the expected ship date, I got a notification that my shipment would be delayed until the 15th. I was bummed out. Then Monday morning the 13th I got a note saying that it had shipped on the 12th. What a great surprise. Checking the shipping status on Tuesday I discovered it was on the DHL truck out for delivery. Awsome! I got back from lunch about 2 and the package had still not arrived. I checked the delivery status and there was a note saying ‘consignee premesis closed, will attempt next business day’.

On the phone to DHL customer service. The short of it is that if I have an option DHL will not get my shipping business. The long of it is a story you can ask me about.

So Wednesday evening I started playing with the Mini. Nice little machine. The keys are a good size and feels good typing on them. The alphabet and numbers are near full size. Punctuation keys are smaller and in somewhat awkward positions but I’m sure with time I’ll adjust. The screen is real nice and clear for a 8.9 inch size. I like the interface that Dell has put on it. Large icons to click, easy to read and intuitive to use. For advanced users there is a menu item to switch to a ‘classic desktop’. All the software is quick and responsive. Battery life is real good at about 4 hours or so.

Now for the down sides that I’ve found so far. The camera is a bit sluggish. While it takes good pics, in video mode it lags. Not sure if it’s a processor or software issue. SSH does not work in client or server mode. I have not been able to complete a connection yet. In the brief research I’ve done so far it seems to be a known issue with the wireless chip it is using and there are workarounds that I have yet to try. This is a big problem for me. I’ve also yet to find a way to install Truecrypt so I can work with existing files that I have. Then there’s the 16gb SSD that I ordered with it. Only about 4gb is used and the other ~11 gb is unformatted. I’ll be taking care of this on my own but it’s a concern to me how typical users will react to getting a machine with only a fraction of the drive space available to them compared to what they ordered.

All in all it’s a great effort but I do have to wonder what other basic issues I’ll come across while exploring this device. Some of these things really should have been discovered prerelease and dealt with before the users got their hands on it. I will be playing with installing a regular build of Ubuntu, possibly the Ibex beta, this weekend just to see how it works out.


  1. Peg wrote:

    You’re so welcome sweetie. I’m so glad you love it. Finally you have something to keep you busy! Er … I mean … iloveyou.

    Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 12:29 am | Permalink
  2. Thanks for your article.

    I got my Dell Inspiron Mini running Ubuntu 8.04 on Oct. 15th. So far so good. I really like the battery life because of the work environment it’s for.

    I noticed the unformatted storage and created another Ext3 partition for it. Dell probably should have just made one large Ext3 partition when shipping Ubuntu installed.

    I’ve also experienced the SSH problem you mentioned. I’ll look for the work-around you mentioned. Temporarily I’m moving files via a USB memory key–annoying but it works for now and updates the Mini with the files I need when out of my lab.

    I need to use Grsync with my server and the Mini. (The rest of my network–Dell Inspiron E1505n, a white box server I assembled this year, a white box desktop tower I assembled a few years ago all work just fine with SSH.)

    My Mini is my on-the-road, on-the-job extra helper showing customer diagrams, encrypted passwords, (manager running under Wine) and other things wireless.

    Enjoy your Mini!

    Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 5:54 am | Permalink
  3. Jon wrote:

    Glad to see more detailed likes and dislikes on this. I was considering a dell mini but instead got an eeepc 1000, and am currently waiting for it to be delivered. I think my bride is joyed I too will have something to keep me busy 🙂

    Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 8:35 am | Permalink
  4. chuck.. i’m waiting patiently for my mini9. Ordered it this week and have wait a month for delivery. WHAT!? I have come to expect immediate service from Dell. I also ordered a mouse and external dvd/cd, which are expected to be delivered beginning of dec?? Buz must be insane at dell right now.

    good to hear the good and bad of what to expect. Fairly new user of ubuntu. A bit of experience with Suse and OpenSuse in the past. Minimal though.

    Not sure I understand why only a portion of the HD was formatted?

    are you using any online storage systems? My motivation for the mini is to live in the clouds.

    how about video (joost, hulu, streaming), how is it?

    Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 9:26 am | Permalink
  5. jim wrote:

    Thanks for the info. I have one on order too and am anxious to see what it’s like. I assume yours came with Ubuntu. As for the issues you observed, I have a feeling that is par for the course these days – at least with low end computers. I got an eee 901 a few months ago and the upgrade manager was broken for quite a while. I installed Ubuntu but when back and discovered it’s now fixed. Like ssh, I bet some things are not that important to average users so they ship with bugs and then fix at their leisure.

    Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  6. Aaron wrote:

    I also just got my mini and so far I love it. I’ve had no problems with ssh so far and I was able to scp all the files I needed over from my primary computer.

    I do think it was stupid on Dell’s part to leave most of the drive unformatted (I have the 16GB version). They clearly are trying to market Ubuntu to the mainstream audiences, but most users are not going to know how to create and mount a new partition, so their probably going to get a lot of complaints about people getting smaller drives than they paid for.

    Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 11:23 pm | Permalink
  7. Matt Domsch wrote:

    The unformatted drive space issue noted here has been fixed now for newly-built systems. Noted here on the IdeaStorm web site:

    Thanks for buying a Dell!
    Matt Domsch
    Linux Technology Strategist, Dell Office of the CTO

    Monday, October 20, 2008 at 12:25 am | Permalink

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