This page was last updated 16 August 2009.
Lenovo S10e Ideapad Linux
Some of my experiences and tips here may also apply to the MSI Wind
U100 and other netbooks that use SuSE Linux 10.2.
| OS || SuSE Linux 10.2 Enterprise Desktop (SLED)
| || Gnome window manager
| || Firefox, Evolution, OpenOffice, Gimp, F-spot, etc
| CPU || Atom N270 1.6 GHz, hyperthreaded
| RAM || 512 MB RAM (some versions sell with 1 GB)
| || One free SO-DIMM RAM slot in the 512 MB version
| Disk || 4 GB SSD flash boot disk (1 GB free)
| || 160 GB SATA hard disk (some versions have 80 GB)
| USB || 2, one on each side
| Card reader || SD, SDHC, MMS, MSpro, tested with 16 GB SD card
| Networking || Ethernet: 100 Mbit/s
| || WLAN: 802.11g with WPA (54 Mb/s)
| || Bluetooth
| Display || 10" 1024x768 glare screen, LED backlight
| || VGA output
| Audio || Line/headphone out, line/microphone in
| || builtin microphone and stereo speakers
| Camera || 1.3 MP camera above the display
| Extension slot || Express Card 34 slot (not tested)
| Battery || 6-cell battery, some versions have 3 cells
| || runtime about 5 hours with 6 cells
| Size || 1.25 kg, approx 195 x 253 x 25..35 mm (6 cells)
| Price || 253 Euro with tax at Cyberport.de, no
Microsoft tax (versions with Windows XP exist).
A 250 Euro netbook has restrictions that a 1500 Euro subnotebook
doesn't have, and I'll keep that in mind and not complain about the
low-res display or the slow CPU. I bought this netbook for a long
backpacking tour where I needed connectivity, mail and a browser, and some
diary writing, but not serious work. It had to be small and lightweight,
and I didn't want to be afraid of it getting stolen; a MacBook Air would
be a serious loss.
I also wanted Linux because I wanted a simple, stable, configurable,
and extensible environment, and one that is secure and safe from malware.
Trust me, networks and PCs in Asia are crawling with viruses like you
have never seen before, and I didn't want to join the Lemmings. And the
OS and extensions are free.
The Lenovo does very well within these constraints. It has a solid
feel, good keyboard, decent battery life, supports all the features I need,
and it's small and easy to use. It does not break records in any category
but I really like it. Lenovo seems to have retained the spirit of solid
design from IBM. For 250 Euro the value for money is quite impressive.
The Linux installation is functional but incompletely configured. The
lapses are mostly minor except for the missing hard disk. In fact many
things that often cause problems (and not just with Linux) like suspend
and wireless networking work fine; there are no missing or misconfigured
drivers. Linux is stored in the 4 GB SSD flash disk; the 160 GB hard disk
is completely available for user data.
- good keyboard, avoids tiny function buttons, only Tab could be
a little wider. I love the page up and page down buttons that do not
require holding down the Fn key. Imho, the keyboard is better even
than Apple's new desktop keyboards.
- The case has a solid and well-made feel. The display opens far enough
even for an economy-class seat, and there is no danger that the netbook
- Suspend to RAM (Fn-F1) works.
- Runs the YaST installer on first boot that asks for the initial user
and root password.
- WLAN with WPA2 works like a charm, reception is very good. The wireless
LED in front shows WLAN activity by flashing, nice. But sometimes I
lose my connection, see below.
- The system is secure, all network ports are closed. To open an SSH port,
go to Control Center -> YaST2 under System -> Firewall under Security
and Users -> Allowed Services -> Allowed Services = SSH, Add, Finish.
- the screen is quite good unless you look at it from above. 6-point
text is easily readable (change in the control center). It's glossy,
unfortunately, but even notebooks that cost six times as much have
that problem. It's not very bright, but perfectly usable even in direct
sunlight (with washed-out colors) - if you can avoid reflections.
- The keyboard Home key between Ctrl and Alt, and the Menu key work.
The orange and green special buttons above the keyboard call up a
menu with the most impoprtant programs and turn WLAN and bluetooth,
respectively, but must be pressed and held for half a second. The
Fn key codes for brightness, volume, sleep mode, WLAN, and so on all
- Like on most netbooks, the touchpad is tiny. But after adjusting the
sensitivity in the control center, it works quite well. Tap-to-click
and the scroll area on the right work well too, and the pad buttons
are very good. No multitouch but that would be asking too much.
- Ships with a 180-page booklet that describes the hardware, but there
is no software manual. In a few places the booklet assumes Windows.
It also ships with a SuSE Linux installation CD, although since
there is no DVD drive you'd need to copy it to a USB stick first.
- It's very easy to replace the hard disk or to add more memory; I put
an extra 1 GB into the empty slot (Transcend, DDR2 SO-DIMM, 667 MHz,
CL5 - 533 MHz should be sufficient). I don't think that 2GB SO-DIMMs
would work. Make sure you are properly grounded to avoid static
- Standard Linux features such as networking work right out of the
box. SuSE Linux 10 is a very solid distribution with a good graphical
interface (with a few mysterious fails introduced by Lenovo, listed
below). Normally Linux does not require you to use a Terminal.
- It comes up with the hard disk unpartitioned and unmounted, and
unusable. I thought I hade a diskless notebook until I openend
the bottom cover. This is probably the main flaw of this netbook,
but it's easily fixable. See below for partitioning instructions.
- The SuSE 10.2 Linux is so old that it's hard to get updates. The
current version available from SuSE is 11.1. They still offer 10.3
updates that may or may not work. Mozilla's Firefox 3.5 does not
install on such an old OS; you have to use the antiquated 2.0
version that ships with it. See below for instructions to connect
to 10.2 software repositories.
- Lenovo had to make a lot of compromises to get Linux to fit into
3 GB. There is no Thunderbird mailer and many common tools like
telnet and tcpdump are missing. They can be installed from the
included DVD though, or by following the steps below.
- SD cards stick out and, and the first time I inserted one it was not
announced or mounted automatically. I used "mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt" in
a Terminal to mount, and "umount /mnt" to unmount. The second time I
got the normal Linux popup asking me what to do with the card, and a
file browser. Strange. 16 GB SD cards work fine.
- The builtin microphone picks up strong hissing even though the netbook
is otherwise quiet. The speaker is loud but (unsurprisingly) tinny.
- Periodically, it loses the WLAN connection to my Fritzbox router and
takes a minute to reconnect. This never happens with my Macbook, and
it also happen with another Fritzbox. Other people on the net complain
about this too. And today the battery meter stopped working; rebooting
and detaching the battery (not sure if that was necessary) fixed that.
- The screen resolution is quite low, and some dialogs are truncated
so you can't see the Ok/Cancel buttons. Unfortunately Gnome, unlike
KDE, doesn't allow moving up a window that touches the top edge.
- The fan is normally quiet, but when the CPU is busy it becomes audible
in a quiet environment. It starts and stops rapidly, sometimes it's
running for less than a second before stopping again. The front left
part of the casing becomes slightly warm. In sunlight, the black case
heats up quickly.
- The keyboard is narrower than usual but still easy to use. The number
row is shifted a little to the left, and the tilde key has moved to
the top F-key row.
- If the netbook comes with software that uses the built-in camera I
haven't found it. The camera works with Skype though; see below.
- Ditto regarding Bluetooth - it's configured and commandline tools
like hcitool show that it's working, but I haven't figured out yet
how to connect to anything.
- Fn-F3 enables the external VGA display, cycling between the netbook
display, the VGA display, and both. The signal is a little muddy but
usable at 1024x768. When both are enabled, the VGA display gets the
same unusual resolution as the netbook display, which looks strange.
Installing more software
The default installation is lacking some tools. For example, I have
been unable to use my IMAP mail server with the included Evolution mailer,
so I wanted Thunderbird. I could have used the DVD but found it easier to
get what I need from the Internet.
Unfortunately SuSE Linux 10.2 is so old that SuSE no longer supports
it. So I went to www.opensuse.org,
clicked the Mirrors link, hoping that some mirrors would still have the
older repositories. I got lucky with my first attempt, at uni-kassel.de;
browsing their FTP server after stepping up to the parent directory
showed a 10.2 repository.
This OpenSuSE page lists additional repositories with useful software.
In particular, the packman repository should not be missed.
Here are the steps:
- Start YaST from the Control Center, enter password.
- Choose Installation Source under Software
- Add a repository:
• Protocol: ftp
• Server Name: ftp.uni-kassel.de
• Directory on Server:
Press the Next button.
- Repeat the previous step with the non-OSS (Open Source) tree:
• Protocol: ftp
• Server Name: ftp.uni-kassel.de
• Directory on Server:
- Repeat again with the Packman repository:
• Protocol: ftp
• Server Name: ftp.gwdg.de
• Directory on Server:
- This takes a while. Accept and Finish.
- Back on the YaST main page, choose Software Management.
- Enter the name of the package you need, such as "thunderbird";
press return. Sometimes it helps to check "RPM Provides" too.
- In the results in the right panel, check what you need. You can
search for more packages. Remember that all software goes into the
tiny 4 GB SSD. When you are done, press Accept.
- After exiting YaST, More Applications in the Computer main dialog
(bottom left in the panel bar, or the Home key next to Ctrl) should
show the new package, if it has a GUI.
en.opensuse.org/Restricted_Formats if you need mp3 and other codecs.
In any case you'll find only software that existed in 10.2 days; I have
been unable to find Python 3.1, for example. Installing a complete gcc
development environment on such a small machine (and SSD) seems ambitious.
Skype is a VoIP Internet telephony tool. It's available from the
download page. You need the "Static" version, not the OpenSuSE
version. This means that you have to unpack it manually with root
shell commands (run Terminal, enter su to become root) like
tar xjf skype_static-184.108.40.206.tar.bz2
mv skype_static-220.127.116.11 skype
You can then use the Nautilus file browser to start
/usr/local/skype/skype, or drag the icon from Nautilus to the panel or
to the desktop. There is an icon in /usr/local/skype/icons, you'll have
to manually use the Properties of the new panel or desktop icon to select
Skype works with the builtin speakers and microphone out of the box.
Video calls using the netbook's camera also work, but by the time I got
around to installing Skype I had already installed two v4l (video for
Linux) packages so I cannot be sure that Skype video works out of the
box too. My guess would be that it does though.
Partitioning the hard disk
The 160 GB hard disk was just sitting there and hiding. Lenovo forgot
to tell the OS about it, and for some reason the OS didn't notice (it's
supposed to announce new hardware). To make it usable, follow these steps:
- Press "Computer" on the bottom left of the screen or the Home key
- Choose Control Center on the top right
- Choose YaST at the bottom of the control center. Enter the root
- Choose Partitioner under System, Click Yes to continue. You should
see /dev/sda in the list. If you also see /dev/sda1 in this dialog,
the disk is already partitioned; do not continue or you will lose
- Press Create button and choose /dev/sda. DO NOT CHOOSE /dev/hda!
- Partition Type dialog comes up, choose Primary Partition (default).
- Dialog "Create a Primary Partition on /dev/sda" comes up. Make sure
it says /dev/sda, not dev/hda!
- Choose Format. I changed the default from Reiser to ext3 because the
future of the Reiser project is uncertain while ext3 will always work.
- Choose Mount Point "/local". Press Ok.
- The Expert Partitioner main window should now show /dev/sda1 with the
full disk capacity: Type is "Linux native (Ext3)" and Mount is "/local *".
- Press Apply. This is your last chance to check that the green window
says "Create partition /dev/sda1" and not hda1. Press Finish to format.
You now have 147 GB of space in /local. This is less than the nominal
160 GB because all disk vendors lie about capacity by using a decimal
base, and due to file system overhead. In the file browser (Computer ->
Home), click the Computer icon (or press the Home key between Strg and
Alt) and click "File System" under "Places". Only root can create files
there though; if you want to use it as a normal user,
- start a terminal (Terminal in the Computer dialog),
- enter su,
- enter your root password,
- enter "chown 1000.100 /local",
- enter "exit" (pressing the return key after each command).
You can also do this by logging in as root, right-clicking the "local"
folder, and choosing Properties. Do not delete the lost+found folder,
it's needed for some types of disk repair if something goes seriously
wrong. The Computer menu now shows the disk at the bottom right, under