Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Samsung NC10 memory upgrade

The NC10 comes with 1GB of RAM and since I'd seen a few people say that Windows 7 benefits from a bit more, I thought I'd try the upgrade to 2GB. Crucial provides a useful tool to make sure you get the right module, which costs about £20.

Opening up the access panel was slightly tricky I found. First there is the question of the screw which holds it in place. I was aware of stories of people shredding the screws on the base of the NC10, which are apparently not of the best quality. Apparently they are pozidrive (as opposed to Philips) and getting the correct screwdriver is important. I found a tip which came as part of an electric screwdriver set which seemed to fit OK. The screwdriver itself was much too large for this sort of job really, but it did have the benefit of being heavy and therefore I didn't need to exert much pressure and the screw came out without any problems.

Next, the door of the access panel is rather flimsy and feels as if it is going to break if you bend it too much. It is held in place with 2 flanges at the end opposite to the screw and 2 more half way along the long sides. Gentle pressure eventually worked.

Removing and replacing the DIMM is pretty straightforward. First earth yourself to prevent any static problems. I removed the battery as recommended in the Crucial guidelines, though I'm not sure if this is really necessary. Gently ease the 2 clips which hold the DIMM away and it pops up and can then be pulled out of its slot. Put the new one in (the same way around) at an angle and then press it down until the clips click back into place. Replace cover, screw and battery.

You can now check your 2GB are recognised by pressing F2 at startup to get to the BIOS, which should now show 2048 MB on the Main tab.

Just how much difference the upgrade makes to Windows 7 I'm still deciding. Some things do seem a bit snappier.

Windows 7 RC on the Samsung NC10

I've now been using this for a while and am really liking it. Look and feel is great and it seems to compliment the NC10 well. My only slight reservations are:

1. It's a bit sluggish at times, with long pauses before anything happens. You don't even get the swirly blue thing to show something is going on.

2. Some font sizes on the small screen are a bit small for someone with aging eyes like mine! This can be changed in Control Panel Display from 100% to 125% (and nothing else) but then things don't fit on the screen properly, so you are really stuck with the default 100%.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Ubuntu version 9.04

This is now available (System, Administration, Update Manager ) and the upgrade went smoothly for me, though took some time.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR)

This is a new version of Ubuntu designed especially for netbook small screens. You can download it and put it on a bootable USB stick to install (or try out without installing) or simply install it from Terminal by typing:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-netbook-remix

My experiments with UNR were a disaster. It just caused chaos with graphics doing most peculiar things and generally made using Ubuntu impossible. So I tried to uninstall it with:

sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-netbook-remix

but this, whilst it claimed to have done so, didn't, and I was left with an unusable system. I ended up reinstalling Ubuntu from scratch, so my conclusion at the moment is that UNR just doesn't work on the Samsung NC10. Please tell me if you know otherwise!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Windows 7 installation on the Samsung NC10 netbook

This is an account of my attempt to install Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC). We are starting from a dual boot system on the Samsung NC10, running Windows XP and Linux Ubuntu and need to create a bootable USB Windows 7 flash drive.

Stage 1
In Windows XP, download the appropriate Windows 7 RC ISO file and save it on the desktop.

Stage 2
Download and install HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool:
and run it with a USB flash drive plugged in.

Select the USB stick in the Device box, choose NTFS File System and give it a Volume Label name, eg Windows 7. Check the Quick Format box. This will prepare the USB stick to be a Win7 installation drive; it needs to be at least 4GB and obviously have nothing on it that you need.

Stage 3
Download and install MagicDisc - MagicISO Virtual CD/DVD ROM:

This enables you to mount the Windows 7 ISO as a virtual DVD. It installs an icon on the right of the task bar, from where you can assign the CD image to a virtual drive by right clicking and selecting your ISO file. This actually seemed to happen automatically somehow – got a bit confused here. You should end up with a virtual drive in Windows Explorer.

Stage 4
Download and install MBRWizard:
This enables you to make the flash drive bootable. Go to a command line and navigate (cd\) to the directory where you have saved MBRWiz.exe. Type: MBRWiz /list which displays a list of drives, enabling you to identify the number of your flash drive.

Then type MBRWiz /disk=# /active=1 where # is the number of your flash drive.

Next copy the Windows 7 bootable properties to the flash drive with Y:\boot\bootsect /nt60 X: where Y is the drive letter for your virtual Windows 7 DVD and X is the drive letter for your flash drive.

Finally copy all the Windows 7 files from the virtual DVD to the flash drive with a simple copy / paste.

Stage 5
You now need to create a partition for Windows 7, assuming you want to leave the Windows XP installation intact. Download and install Easus Partition Manager 3.0 Home Edition, or some other similar software. This makes it fairly easy to firstly resize your existing Windows partition to make space and then create a new partition from the free space.

Unfortunately this is where things went horribly wrong, since the new partition meant that the Grub bootloader was looking on the wrong partition for the files it needed and on restarting the NC10 I got a Grub Error 17 and an otherwise dead machine.

Fixing the Grub bootloader

You need to tell Grub that the root partition has changed.

1. Boot from the live Ubuntu USB drive (which you should have from your original Ubuntu installation).
2. Open Terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal)
3. sudo grub (to get a Grub command line)
4. find /boot/grub/stage1 (to find which partition contains Linux boot information. It should return something like (hd0,5)
5. root (hd0,X) (where X is the partition number returned above)
6. setup (hd0)
7. quit

Reboot and you should get the old familiar Grub menu. Sigh of relief!

Notes on disc partitions:

Linux calls first disc drive DEV/SDA (the second DEV/SDB etc)
Partitions are counted from 1, so DEV/SDA1 is the first partition on the first disc etc.

Grub uses the following system:
(hd0) is the first disc drive
(hd0,0) is the first partition on the first drive
(hd0,1) is the 2nd partition on the first drive, etc.

To check partitions:
Boot from the live Ubuntu USB drive
From Terminal:
sudo fdisk -l (small L)

To edit menu.lst (Grub's menu list file):
Boot from the live Ubuntu USB drive
From Terminal:
mkdir ubuntu
sudo mount -t ext3 /dev/sda6 ubuntu (assuming Ubuntu is on partition 6)
gksudo gedit ubuntu/boot/grub/menu.lst

Back to the Windows 7 installation:

Stage 6
With primary boot set in the BIOS to USB, restart with your Windows 7 USB stick plugged in and follow the instructions to install 7. When the first restart happens, unplug the USB stick and you should go back into 7 to continue the installation.

Stage 7
Windows naturally assumes that it is the only Operating System in existence, so kindly wipes out your Grub bootloader. When you restart, you will see just a choice between Windows 7 and an “earlier version of Windows”. To fix this, it's back to booting from the Ubuntu Live USB stick and going to the Terminal. Then:

sudo grub (to get a Grub prompt)
root (hd0,5) (assuming Ubuntu is on partition 6)
setup (hd0)

Now your Grub menu will be back and choosing the Windows option will bring up another menu where you can choose XP or 7.


Note: you may find the brightness control doesn't work in Windows 7. This can be fixed by installing the Samsung Easy Display Manager (XP version) from their site.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Windows too big to fit on the screen

This was another "left over" problem from my Ubuntu installation on the Samsung NC10. I first came across it when trying to set up Evolution Mail. The first screen said "Click Forward to continue", but the Forward button was no-where to be seen. In fact it was off bottom of of the screen and therefore invisible. I've since seen the same thing occasionally in other situations. This appears to be a "fact of life" with Ubuntu on a small screen netbook.

Anyway, the "fix" is to be able to drag the window above the top of the screen by holding down the Alt key and this can be done once you have entered the following in Terminal:

gconftool-2 --set /apps/compiz/plugins/move/allscreens/options/constrain_y --type bool 0

By the way, I can recommend the "Ubuntu on the Samsung NC10" forum here:


which does not have a huge amount of activity but certainly has some knowledgeable contrubutors who have been very helpful.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Samsung NC10 Touchpad sensitivity

One of the things left outstanding after my Ubuntu installation (see below) was the fact that the touchpad does not work too well, though you could probably get used to it. Moving right/left seems OK, but up/down is rather fast and difficult to control I found. Worse, there is no means of adjusting trackpad sensitivity, so you definitely feel it is second rate compared to Windows and that will never do!

It's back to the Terminal to improve things. Type

gksudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

This gets you editing a system file called xorg.conf, so it's probably a good idea to back up the original somewhere in case things go horribly wrong. Now add a section as follows:

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Synaptics Touchpad"
Driver "synaptics"
Option "SendCoreEvents" "true"
Option "Device" "/dev/psaux"
Option "Protocol" "auto-dev"
Option "HorizEdgeScroll" "0"
Option "SHMConfig" "on"
Option "MinSpeed" "0.1"
Option "MaxSpeed" "0.2"
Option "AccelFactor" "0.001"

and save the file. After a restart, you should find the touchpad significantly improved with even movement left/right and up/down.

All credit goes to a chap called “mac” on the “Ubuntu on the Samsung NC10” forum for this. He also guided me through installing and trying to launch a Touchpad applet, but we had to give this up in the end. If you are interested, the thread is here:


Ubuntu Terminal

As you mess about more with Linux, it becomes clear that a knowledge of Terminal commands is needed to achieve things. Although this might seem a bit like going back to the dark ages of MS DOS, you get the feeling you are doing some “proper computing” here and getting your hands dirty a bit. If you don't enjoy this, maybe Linux is not your thing, but it seems to be a fact that if you are prepared to learn how to use it, Terminal is the gateway to unleashing the power of Linux.

With this in mind, I thought I'd jot down a few of the Terminal commands I've come across which have proved useful:

sudo: run commands as super user (if you don't use this you are locked out of editing some files)

gksudo: the “proper” version of sudo to open an application that has graphical interface, with "root" privileges.

gedit: Edit

cd: Change directory
~ = home directory
/ = root

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade: Update all packages.

man followed by a term: definition of term (q to quit and get back to the prompt)

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Installation of Ubuntu (Linux) / Windows dual boot system on a Samsung NC10

February 2009

This is an account of my attempt to install Linux on a Samsung NC10 netbook. It is written from the point of view of a complete Linux novice and details the problems I encountered and, hopefully, the solutions I found. Along the way, I discovered some useful information, but it is sometimes written assuming techie knowledge which I did not possess. Anyone with this knowledge will probably find much of what follows obvious, but maybe some of it will be of use to others.


I decided to buy a Samsung NC10 netbook, partly as a backup machine and partly with the idea of getting some experience of Linux, which I knew nothing about. The NC10 comes with Windows XP installed, but despite this (I'm not too keen on Windows) I decided to buy it rather than an alternative netbook with Linux pre-installed, because it seemed to be a well reviewed and well liked machine with a slightly larger screen than some and a decent keyboard. Also having access to Windows could be useful occasionally (I normally use a Mac).

The Plan

The idea was to partition the hard drive and install Linux on the second partition, so that I could choose to boot into Windows or Linux. The NC10 has a 160GB hard drive, so plenty of room for both operating systems. I had never done this before on a PC, so I approached even this basic starting step as a novice.

Partitioning the hard drive

Reading up about this, I found some software to do the job, but further research revealed that it can be done as part of the Linux installation procedure, so that was good news.

Which version of Linux?

Versions of Linux are know as “distributions” or “distros” for short. There seem to be loads of them, but I hit on Ubuntu as one which (a) I had vaguely heard of and (b) seemed to have a good following and support online. In fact I discovered this article:


which was very encouraging and useful. It told me what I could expect from Ubuntu on the NC10 and how to go about setting it up.

Downloading Ubuntu

This was pretty straightforward. The latest version can be downloaded from


As at February 2009, it is version 8.10, known as “Intrepid Ibex”. I chose the 32 bit version. It comes down as a disc image (ISO) file.

Installing Ubuntu

Ubuntu needs to be installed from a bootable startup disc. The ISO is normally designed for burning to a CD and installing from that, but since the NC10 does not have a CD drive, an external USB CD drive would have been needed to do this. A cheaper option was to use a USB pen drive and make it bootable.

To do this, you need an application called Unetbootin, from


which also explains how to use it to create the bootable drive. I downloaded the Windows version and ran it, selecting Ubuntu as the Distribution, the ISO disc image I had downloaded previously and my USB drive at the bottom. Unetbootin did the rest. Reboot and you have your “live” (bootable) USB drive.

Next I needed to set the NC10 to boot from the USB drive (instead of the hard drive) by going in to the BIOS (F2 at startup) and setting the boot order. The USB drive can be moved up the list so it comes before the hard drive. Save changes and restart and you boot into the Ubuntu installer.

Now I could just follow the on screen instructions. As expected, I was offered the option to keep Windows on one partition and create a second one for Ubuntu. There is a slider to adjust the size of each one; I chose a 50/50 split.

Reboot at the end of the installation and you have a menu of options with Ubuntu at the top and Windows XP at the bottom. After a 10 second pause the machine automatically boots into Ubuntu, but you can, of course, still choose Windows. The first time you do this, the system checks the disc, since it is now half what it used to be!

Getting things working

As expected, not everything works when you first install Ubuntu and the article mentioned above (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/NC10) goes through the fixes. The first thing I noticed was how dim the screen was, with no means of changing the brightness. You have to put up with this for a while because the first task is:

Getting online

I have a wireless router, but Ubuntu does not support wireless networking when first installed, so I had to find an ethernet cable and connect directly to the router. This enabled me to install Ubuntu updates by choosing System > Administration > Update Manager and clicking on Check. There were over 200 of them so this took some time.

After a reboot you need to install a driver from the Terminal. This is very like the old DOS command line and seems to be much used in the Linux world. It enables you to type commands at a prompt and can be found under Applications > Accessories. You should get a prompt with your name and computer name, followed by :~$. Type

sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-intrepid

press return and after a lot of stuff scrolls up the screen you are returned to the prompt and your driver is installed. Reboot again and then go to the Network Manager (a little icon to the right side of the top bar) and you should see your wireless router listed. Input the security password and you are wirelessly online!

Screen brightness

The next priority seemed to be to try to get the screen brightness adjustment working, since one of the good features of the NC10 is its nice bright screen but in Lunux I was working with a dismally dim one.

The Ubuntu Community article explained that there were two solutions, the first involving patching the kernel and recompiling it. Since I had no idea what this meant, I thought I'd try the second one, which involved first another installation from Terminal:

sudo apt-get install xbacklight

and then downloading Ubuntu Tweak from here:


I chose the “Deb package for all” link which seemed to be the right one. Double click the downloaded file to install and you end up with Ubuntu Tweak under Applications > System Tools. Run this and go to Personal Shortcuts. Here you can set up Ctrl + up to increase screen brightness and Ctrl + down to decrease it. On the Command 1 line, under Command, enter “xbacklight -inc 10” then press Ctrl + up. On the Command 2 line enter “xbacklight -dec 10” and press Ctrl + down. You should now have both commands displayed. Click Quit to exit.

This did indeed enable me to increase screen brightness using Ctrl + up, but only a bit. Maximum brightness was still poor and nothing like it is in Windows. The Community article mentioned you may need to disable auto brightness in the BIOS (F2 at startup). It's under Boot > Brightness Mode Control and you can change it to User Control. Initially I found this made no difference, but then twigged that whilst in the BIOS you needed to use Fn + Up to set maximum brightness, then save and exit. Now, in Ubuntu, I could use Ctrl + Up to get a nice bright screen.


Audio does not work at all to begin with. Fixing it proved trickier than expected.

You need to install the Alsa audio driver, but first (because the driver needs recompiling for the NC10's sound) you need something called build-essential. To get it, go to the Terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install build-essential libncurses-dev gettext xmlto xmltoman linux-headers-`uname -r`

Note that ` is the back-tick character (top left below the Esc key) and NOT the single quotation mark. This had be foxed for some time!

Now download the 1.0.19 Alsa driver from


It comes down as an archive file which you need to double click to extract onto the desktop.

Next go to Terminal and type the following lines, pressing Enter after each one:

cd Desktop/alsa-driver-*
./configure --with-cards=hda-intel --with-oss=yes --with-sequencer=yes
sudo make install

At the end of the installation there was a message about the mixer channels for the driver being muted by default, which made me think perhaps all was not well, and indeed, after a restart, I still had no sound. The fix is simple but it took me ages to work it out (eventually found the answer on a forum). Right click on the volume control icon on the top bar, choose Open Volume Control and put the Front slider up to max. Easy when you know how!

Going into Alsa Mixer (alsamixer from Terminal) and messing with the volume there did not seem to help.

Testing the sound generally with a Skype call, all was well apart from somewhat flaky microphone sound. I don't really understand the difference between the Microphone and the Front Mic settings, except that leaving the Front Mic sliders up when you put the lid down to put the computer to sleep results in a horrible feedback squeal!

Finally, and inexplicably, having got the sound working, my wireless network connection broke! A restart failed to fix it but a complete shutdown and reboot did the trick.

Outstanding issues

Touchpad sensitivity

Windows not fitting on the screen properly sometimes.

Wireless networking seems to stop working sometimes, the only fix being to shut down and restart - simply restarting does not work.