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.

Features

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).

First impressions

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

Bad

Miscellaneous

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:

  1. Start YaST from the Control Center, enter password.
  2. Choose Installation Source under Software
  3. Add a repository:
    • Protocol: ftp
    • Server Name: ftp.uni-kassel.de
    • Directory on Server: /pub/linux/opensuse/distribution/10.2/repo/oss
    Press the Next button.
  4. Repeat the previous step with the non-OSS (Open Source) tree:
    • Protocol: ftp
    • Server Name: ftp.uni-kassel.de
    • Directory on Server: /pub/linux/opensuse/distribution/10.2/repo/non-oss
  5. Repeat again with the Packman repository:
    • Protocol: ftp
    • Server Name: ftp.gwdg.de
    • Directory on Server: /pub/linux/misc/packman/suse/10.2/
  6. This takes a while. Accept and Finish.
  7. Back on the YaST main page, choose Software Management.
  8. Enter the name of the package you need, such as "thunderbird"; press return. Sometimes it helps to check "RPM Provides" too.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Please read 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.

Installing Skype

Skype is a VoIP Internet telephony tool. It's available from the Skype 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

cd /usr/local
tar xjf skype_static-2.0.0.72.tar.bz2
mv skype_static-2.0.0.72 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 it.

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:

  1. Press "Computer" on the bottom left of the screen or the Home key
  2. Choose Control Center on the top right
  3. Choose YaST at the bottom of the control center. Enter the root password.
  4. 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 the data.
  5. Press Create button and choose /dev/sda. DO NOT CHOOSE /dev/hda!
  6. Partition Type dialog comes up, choose Primary Partition (default).
  7. Dialog "Create a Primary Partition on /dev/sda" comes up. Make sure it says /dev/sda, not dev/hda!
  8. Choose Format. I changed the default from Reiser to ext3 because the future of the Reiser project is uncertain while ext3 will always work.
  9. Choose Mount Point "/local". Press Ok.
  10. The Expert Partitioner main window should now show /dev/sda1 with the full disk capacity: Type is "Linux native (Ext3)" and Mount is "/local *".
  11. 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,

  1. start a terminal (Terminal in the Computer dialog),
  2. enter su,
  3. enter your root password,
  4. enter "chown 1000.100 /local",
  5. 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 Status.

Tell me if you found this information interesting or useful, or if you have comments.