Dell currently loads up Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS with a few modifications for its Linux operating system. Ubuntu 8.04.2 LTS was released back in January, but Dell has not upgraded to that release or the newer Ubuntu 8.10, which is about to be outdone by Ubuntu 9.04. While staying with a Long-Term Support release can be understood, we really would have liked the Inspiron Mini 9 to be shipping with a newer version of Ubuntu.
Dell's customizations to Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS actually make it look not like Ubuntu at all. Dell has developed its own application launcher for the desktop, which occupies most of the screen. From our perspective this launcher is not as nice as Ubuntu Netbook Remix, but is still useful and easy to use for those new to Linux. With Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS they are using the LPIA architecture packages. While the Low-Power Intel Architecture packages for Ubuntu continue to improve, in Ubuntu 8.04 not all packages from main/universe are available in the i386-derived repository.
Dell also includes a variety of applications outside of what ships with Ubuntu. Dell's launcher is broken down into entertainment, learn, games, productivity, and web sections. Among the entertainment additions are including GNOME's Cheese web-camera program, a Last.fm application, and Dell Music & Gaming. In the learning/educational section is a variety of additions from Tux Math to Touch Typing Tutor to Kalzium. In games are all of the standard GNOME Games along with Planet Penguin Racer and others. OpenOffice.org 2.4 is the word processor shipping on the "Dellbuntu" operating system. Dell also includes Adobe Reader 8 by default.
Their selection of default programs is nice and not too overwhelming. Our only complaint about the software is Dell enabling the Yahoo Toolbar in Mozilla Firefox by default. One nice thing though about Dell's Linux changes is that they include the Fluendo codecs for providing legal multimedia support.
That concludes about what we have to say for now. We are in the process of extensively looking at Ubuntu's performance with this Dell Inspiron Mini 9 going from Ubuntu 8.04 through the latest Ubuntu 9.04 releases when looking at the boot performance and other metrics using the Phoronix Test Suite. We will have those results and more information on the Mini 9 out by the end of this week.
To recap our initial thoughts on the Inspiron Mini 9, it is a small, well-built netbook that appears to be durable and has easy upgrade capabilities. What though is not nice about the hardware is the smaller keyboard and using a 4-cell battery instead of 6-cells. With Dell shipping Ubuntu on the Mini 9, it is of course Linux compatible. This version of the Dell Mini 9 is being sold for well under $300 USD.
For pricing information on the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 or for other netbooks, visit TestFreaks.com.
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