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 ( 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.