July 28, 2009

HP 2133 Mini-Note Tips, Tricks and Warnings

I currently own two of these netbooks, one high resolution (1280x768) and one low resolution (1024x600), and they are both very good, very solid, and they run a variety of Linux distributions very well.  The following are a few comments based on my experience with them:

- The Ubuntu Netbook Remix does not work at all well on the 2133, because the openchrome driver doesn't have 3D support.  That makes the UNR desktop painfully slow.  So slow that you almost certainly don't want to use it.

- When installing Linux, start by simply booting the LiveCD or USB image.  If there is a direct "Install" boot option (as in Ubuntu and its derivatives, for example), don't use it.  The difference is that  when you boot directly to install, the installation window is automatically full screen, and can not be moved or resized.  This can be a problem, for example, with Ubuntu installation when you have a number of partitions on the disk, and it draws a graphic bar that exceeds the size of the display, and you can't drag the window to see it.

- I have tried the following distributions on the 2133: Ubuntu (up to and including 9.10 "Karmic Koala" Alpha releases), Mandriva, openSuSE (up to and including 11.2 Milestone 4), Debian, MEPIS and PCLinuxOS.  Although Fedora 10 installs, Fedora 11 does not.

- There are two drivers to choose from for the Broadcom 4312 Wireless controller, known as the "B43" driver and the "STA" (or sometimes "WL") driver.  Each of them have advantages and problems.  In general the problem is that when the 2133 is left idle for a while, the wireless adapter loses the connection (probably because of power management getting involved, but I haven't looked closely at that yet).  The "B43" driver at least notices that the connection is gone, and the Network Manager icon in the panel will show no connection.  The "STA" driver doesn't even seem to notice, so Network Manager continues to claim it is connected.  The second problem, generally less severe, is that the B43 driver doesn't detect 5 GHz networks, so if you are using a Dual-Band wireless router, it will only work with the 2.4 GHz band, which might well be defeating the very reason you got the dual-band.  The "STA" drivers sees both frequencies.

-  With most Linux distributions, CPU Frequency Scaling doesn't work by default.  You have to either add acpi_osi="!Windows 2006" to the boot command line (Debian and derivatives), or download, install and/or configure some additional packages (Mandriva and derivatives).

- The good news is, the latest Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3 release seems to have CPU Frequency Scaling working, without any additional configuration or installation.

- If you are interested in installing Ubuntu 9.10 from scratch, it might be useful to know that GRUB 2 (aka grub-pc) installs and works just fine on the 2133

If you are interested in netbooks, the HP 2133 can be a very good choice.  As it has already been phased out by HP, in favor of the more "conventional" 2140 (Intel Atom CPU rather than VIA C7-M) and subsequent models, it is possible to find new units being cleared out by some distributors at a very good price.  Although this may look like a significant list of "problems", none of them is terribly serious, and most are easy to get around (or ignore and just live with).  As I said, I really like the two that I own.


jw 28/7/2009

Click Here!