The ETH Neptun offers discounted laptops every six months, and having to travel quite a bit this year, I ordered the Hewlett Packard 5102. This morning, I recveived it and could not resist unpacking it and starting it up.
The hardware is nice: It looks slick, is pretty lightweight and feel very robust. The keyboard is a very nice one, nearly standard sized and not flimsy at all (me avoids looking at my Acer eee701 here!). The touchpad operates quit nicely too. I am happy to have a hardware switch that seems to turn the Wifi off. There are 2 extra buttons with lights on, one starting Firefox and one starting Evolution. If those lights can be easily turned on/off, I can see some uses for them (like email notification, or online presence of my wife :-)).
- Booting whatever came by default, the Suse Logo appeared, for 5-10 minutes during which nothing happened. If I were clueless this would be giving me a bad Linux impression.
- The OpenSuse installer appeared, in which I needed to configure things like my keyboard layout. Hey, HP knows which laptop they sent me, so why do I have to select my keyboard layout! But that is a minor issue. Generally the intallation went smoothly, but there were some weird questions and checkboxes, that really put me off. "Change my hostname with DHCP": does that mean, receiving a host name byy DHCP, or setting my hostname at the DHCP server? I don’t know. Or "save hostname to /etc/hosts": would that save my entered hostname as 127.0.0.1 in /etc/hosts? I don’t know. As a clueless user I would easily have given up here already.
- I also did not like that I had to click myself through 2 EULA dialog windows that I did not bother to read. I thought in open source we are beyond imposing EULA dialog windows?
- The installer screen is somehow scaled to fit on that netbooks resolution, the whole screen looks very unsharp. If I did not know that Linux can give me nice resolutions and graphics, I would probably be stopping my "linux" experience here and put in a Windows Vista usb stick… At least, some minus points for user experience here.
- Sometimes an expert option button appears offering me stuff like the encryption method for my stored passwords. Encryption method for my passwords? What the heck? Why would I ever want to chose an encryption method (even at expert level)? Just select the most secure one and be done with it. And yes, I am spoiled by Ubuntu.
- Boot times are 35 seconds from hitting the grub menu entry to the user authentication dialog and from entering my password, 15 seconds to the build up gnome screen.
- I do like the dialog that pops up when I hit the "Computer" button , although I know that I will immediately uninstall 3 out of 6 applications that are presented in the application wuick selector thingie. (Evolution, banshee, and f-spot if you are curious)
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- The boot process looks a bit 1995’ish, with lots of scary white-on-black text scrolling over my screen so fast, I cannot read it anyway.
I have not actually used it yet, so I can’t say anything about that, but I expect some pretty standard Gnome install. I will keep OpenSuse on it for a while, but it looks like I might switch to Debian or a Debian-derivative at some time.