Purchased a Samsung Series 9 13.3 on the 15th August (as there was a cashback offer for purchases after this date, and I’m a student). It arrived two days later, with scratches on the lid. Fortunately, Amazon sent me a replacement and I got that within about 5 days.
Unwrapping it shocks the senses. So thin, light and yet powerful. The first thing I did was boot up and enter the BIOS. When Samsung say a 9 hour battery life, they rely on a 100% charge (naturally), but the BIOS recommends a Extended Life setting, which caps charging at 80%.
Booted into Windows 7, not bad speeds for a Sandisk U100 (sigh, that’s so getting ripped out) and every piece of bloatware under the sun. Within 10 minutes I PXE booted and purged the Windows 7 installation and recovery partitions with Linux. I wanted Wheezy, but it’s not released yet, and Ubuntu Precise is supposed to be a power saving beast, so I whacked on a minimal version of Ubuntu (netboot install).
I installed the very basics of packages: gdm gnome-shell dropbear.
GDM’s autologin feature is broken. Which is a bit of a pain. As for lightdm, that has issues of its own, so I put up with GDM’s lack of autologin. Not wanting Unity, or GNOME3, I stuck with GNOME Classic, which does the job.
First thing I noticed was the CPU governor changed to “ondemand” frequently. This annoyed me a little (I prefer conservative). I found the /etc/init.d/ondemand script and was able to modify it — it runs in the background and after 60 seconds kicks the governor into ondemand by default. I also adjusted the scaling frequencies. Powertop initially was not looking great, but by writing my own pm-utils scripts this improved. With good tunables, I wrote some scripts to mount CIFS, turn off KB backlight, adjust screen backlight and turn off the Bluetooth radio by default. I’m now able to get 7 hours of wireless browsing with 30% brightness and my 80% charge.
I wanted a Linux laptop, as it sure beats virtualising, and I doubted if this would make the cut. My worries were the 4GB RAM. With a Windows mindset, it’s a bit weak for a developer, but on Linux, I can have make -j4 on the kernel, Firefox open and only be consuming 700MB RAM. It’s going to be very hard to get through all this memory, and I’m glad I bought the 13″ rather than the 15″ model.
The only gripe with running it in Linux is a kernel bug where ACPI state changes are not detected properly. For example, if I put my laptop on charge, it takes a reboot before Linux will detect the battery is on charge. Likewise with removal of power. It’s a minor issue though, that doesn’t present in Windows mind, but I’m hopeful a future BIOS update will resolve this problem.
With the samsung-laptop kernel module, most FN hotkeys work, and those that don’t can be fixed quite easily. With newer packages, and by the time we hit Quantal, this laptop will likely be a perfect machine for Linux.
Gripes: Not perfect in Linux — but this will improve, and for Windows, i.e. most users, there’s no problems. The Sandisk U100 is not the best of SSDs, and a Crucial M4 SSD would have gone down a lot better. Having said that, I don’t need blazing fast speeds, and my boot is not bad, about 10 seconds (including GRUB2 3 second timeout).
All in all, a beautiful laptop, that’s only going to get better in time