I needed a simple, cheap laptop that I could take to university so that I could work on stuff there and not have to hope and pray that there’ll be enough working computers for me when I get to university.
The requirements for my laptop weren’t great. All it had to do was have WiFi (802.11 b/g) and be powerful enough to run a simple development web server (LAMP). The other requirement and the most important one was that it had to be cheap. After looking on the Laptop section of PriceSpy I came upon the Acer 4315 going for $699NZD (plus a $99 cash back offer from Acer) which was the same price as the Asus EEE (after the cash back). The laptop came preloaded with Ubuntu 7.10, which was great for me, since I probably would have installed it anyway. So it was a tough decision, whether to go for extreme portability and just a really cool little gadget or to go for a rather standard (if a little old laptop).
I made up my mind when Dick Smith had a computer sale and discounted their laptops by 10% lowering the before cashback price of the Acer to $630NZD. So one Saturday I went down to the store and brought it home.
You get what you paid for
For $630 you don’t get a laptop bag or any other extras. Just the laptop and the power cord. Although the salesman offered a upgrade package including more ram, a bag and something else (usb mouse??) for $99 which i declined. Other than the laptop and the power cord there was also the warranty booklet from Acer, a pamphlet on how to put in the battery and turn on the laptop and two instructional bits of paper.
Two bits of paper
The first piece of paper starts off by thanking you on purchasing the computer loaded with Ubuntu, followed by a blurb about linux and Ubuntu in general that sounds like it came from the Ubuntu marketing department.
Near the bottm of the page a section titled “Some system limitations” informs the users that the E key, Wireless key, modem and microphone are all disabled “due to limitations of Linux”. (The E key I’m guessing launches some kind of Acer software package that came with the laptop and the wireless key enables/disables the wireless card). It would have been more accurate of Acer to say that the E key is disabled because their developers put out software only designed to run on Windows. The wireless key does work, but in an interesting way. When connected and you push the wireless button it will disable the wireless card, but in such a way that the network manager app doesn’t know that the device has been shut down, so the interface is still active and it tries to connect, but ends up failing. Pressing the wireless button again and telling the network manager to connect to the network again seems to work for me. The microphone doesn’t work at all. The modem I haven’t tried, but I don’t really need an analog modem with my laptop anyway.
The other side of the first bit of paper tells you how to set up an account once the computer is turned on. It basically consists of selecting your language, time zone, keyboard layout and your name, username and password. It also tells you how to create a regular user account once you log in.
The second bit of paper tells you how to connect to a wireless network on one side and on the other it gives a detailed list of how to install the automatix dvd and playback codecs.
- The laptop came with Ubuntu Gutsy 7.10 32-bit installed
- The main partition is ext2, not the usual ext3. Leading to a faster system, albeit a less secure one for your data. (ext2 does not have journaling)
- The swap partition is not encased in a linux extended partition but is directly mapped onto the hard drive and has a size of ~4GB
- The computer name is set to ASUS
- The Atheros wireless driver is enabled from first boot
- microphone doesn’t work
- suspend doesn’t work
- specialised buttons on side don’t work (wireless button works but not fully)
- screen flickers when plugging/unnplugging the power cord
- to disable the touchpad while writing you have to press the ‘function’ button and one of the F keys.
- the latch at the front makes it sometimes tricky to open the laptop, requiring you to use your nail. But I do like having a latch.