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Playing with Walmart's Linspired laptop

By Jerry Sharp on April 18, 2005 (8:00:00 AM)

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My wife and daughter recently ordered for me Walmart's $500 Bal^nce laptop computer, which comes equipped with a Linspire operating system. I had some fun putting both the hardware and software through their paces.

Upon receiving the laptop, I immediately fired it up and tried it out. The Linspire system worked pretty well, but of course there were some missing programs. I connected to Linspire's Click N Run software service and tried to register my free 45-day CNR account. CNR may be useful and easy to use, but registering to use it caused me confusion and a feeling of stupidity. After several attempts and failure, I gave up. I probably could have gotten it done, but it was sure a lot of stress for something that I would probably not like. Besides, you don't have to register to use apt-get.

Rather than mess up the installed operating system, I installed a spare hard drive (easily done on Bal^nce), grabbed a SimplyMepis CD, and installed it to the laptop. 55 minutes later, it was working with all functions. I was able to add programs with apt-get immediately.

I loaded Wine, and installed EchoLink, a ham radio program for Windows, in just under 6 minutes. Everything just worked. I did have problems at first using my NetGear MA111 USB wireless device. Eventually it started, and now works flawlessly. I have no clue as to why it didn't work initially.

The laptop uses a 1G VIA CPU and comes with 128MB of RAM. Increasing the amount of memory might add to the performance, but it runs pretty well now.

The Bal^nce laptop seems to be of adequate quality, although the touchpad mouse is totally non-intuitive. (Is touchpad the only reasonable option for laptops?) Incidentally, I tried booting Knoppix 3.7 LiveCD on the laptop and it did not find the touchpad.

Do I recommend the Bal^nce? You bet. Do I recommend Linspire? I would suggest that a newbie might better answer that question, but I find SimplyMepis much more responsive to my needs. And it was easy to install on the Bal^nce laptop.

Jerry Sharp is an old retired telephone technician with too many Linux opinions.

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on Playing with Walmart's Linspired laptop

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Jerry, Try out SuSE 9.3, does everything work now?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 18, 2005 11:20 PM
Jerry,

SuSE just came out with 9.3. I was wondering if you tried it on the same laptop what would happen?

If everything would work ok and all?

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Linspire and anything else w/ KDE loves DRAM

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 18, 2005 11:46 PM
Jerry,

Thank you for writing this review. I actually have tried both Linspire 4.5 and 5.0 on 128MB DRAM. Gawd, was it slow, and this was on 1.3GHz and 2GHz CPUs! Your VIA C3 CPU is indeed fast enough for it (I quite like the chip), however, my discovery is that anything running pretty much any version of either GNOME or KDE really needs DRAM. I tried out FreeBSD with KDE 3.1 on an AMD K6-450 CPU a while back. You'd think it'd be slow, but I had 512MB DRAM, so it ran at a decent clip, even with OpenOffice.org and Mozilla SeaMonkey. I've seen the same thing happen on GNU/Linux platforms; 128MB DRAM = slow, 256MB DRAM = considerably better, but 512MB DRAM = fast.

As for the Linspire versions that I ran in 128MB DRAM? I bumped up the DRAM to 512MB, and things were much, much better. Perhaps SimplyMepis is more efficient; I've not yet used it. However, for anyone running on 128MB DRAM, I would recommend a lighter desktop, something like XFce or IceWM.

I would *definitely* not recommend SuSE Linux 9.x for such low DRAM. I run SuSE 9.1 and 9.2, and I love them both, but again, I've got high DRAM (512MB on both the SuSE 9.1 desktop box and on the SuSE 9.2 laptop). Bump up your DRAM, and yes, SuSE Linux 9.x makes a very fine OS for laptops. And wireless config is much improved, much like Linspire's is.

Thanks again,

Terrell Prude', Jr.

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Mandra... er, Mandriva Linux is good.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 18, 2005 11:55 PM
I like it because it runs fast even on the primary box with 128 MB RAM, 1GHz processor. I have never had a problem with speed on Mandrake- oh, sorry, Mandriva.

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Mandrake is not good - its FANTASTIC

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 19, 2005 02:52 AM
I run Mandrake 9.2 on my old laptop (450MHZ/192RAM) and it runs really fast (using WindowsMaker, KDE or GNOME). The only caveat is that I had to get a linmodem RPM to run the f****g winmodem (which is not hard to do either).

(I hate the name Mandriva though...)

Knoppix also runs without any problems.

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Too bad

Posted by: mt_nixnut on April 19, 2005 02:21 AM
I wish you would have toughed it out and fully loaded the rig with Linspire. I have been curious as to how well this sort of thing would behave for an un-schooled off the shelf type user. And I have been curious how that would work for an experienced user as well(me for example;). By doing a rip and replace with mepis (which I use) I did not learn much about a preinstalled linspire laptop.

Nice to know the hardware works though. I was not even sure of that at that price.

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You coulda had a V8!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 19, 2005 05:18 AM
New
IBM ThinkPad R40 2684 - Cel 2.2 GHz - 14.1" TFT
128MB RAM; 20 GB hard drive; DVD-ROM drive
$583 US

You coulda had a V8! Hahahahahaha.

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Re:You coulda had a V8!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2005 08:20 AM
IBM Laptops SUCK. Our company has been using them for the past three years, and finally our IT is moving on to something else because of the massive rate of failures.

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Re:You coulda had a V8!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2005 01:22 AM
Thinkpads are great (I have two and my parents have three) but the R series is their biggest, heaviest, cheapest version.

Don't bother with anything less than a T-series for rugged portability.

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Apt-Get

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 19, 2005 06:47 AM
You do realize that Linspire does come with a copy of Apt-Get right?? So, its hardly necessary to install something else.

http://www.linspireguide.com/aptget

But it is annoying to here than the CNR system has some confusions. Even more annoying that CNR and apt-get don't like each other, since installing the wrong thing can break the CNR's dependencies. They really need to fix that... They are however one of the few seriously trying to make stuff easy for non-techies to work with. I might even consider it for a new system of my own, if I decide to go the easy pre-built/pre-installed route, just to save some of the complications I would otherwise have to deal with.

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Knoppix

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 19, 2005 10:41 PM
you said you tryed Knoppix 3.7 Live CD have you tryed version 3.8 yet? I had problems with 3.7 on some of my laptops as well but 3.8 worked perfectly

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Wal*Mart laptop

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2005 05:25 AM
Can't figure out how to sign-up for CNR? You got any little kids around your place--they can do it. I'm sure they'll help you change your nappies, too, if that is also too emotionally difficult for you. *Sharp* as a box of rocks, aren't you?

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Re:Wal*Mart laptop

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2005 08:25 AM
Arrogance and hubris make you sound like a Redmond engineer.

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Re:Wal*Mart laptop

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2005 10:17 PM
No. He sounds like a Linux user! I'd guess either Debian or Gentoo.

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Re:Wal*Mart laptop

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2005 05:28 AM
Nah, I am a Linux user, Debian, Gentoo, DamnSmall. I would never reply so venomously. I say all are welcome in to the fold. It is probably a Windows Luser.

KH

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Re:Wal*Mart laptop

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2005 08:35 AM
Wow, with lip service like that, you must work at Walmart. Why bother posting flames?

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Re:Wal*Mart laptop

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2005 11:28 AM
Lin$pire trolls strike again. No one can ever say anything negative about their precious OS without them acting like children. If you think Lin$pire is anything less than perfect you get their flames. An excellent representation of what to expect from their community. The best thing the author of this article did was chuck Lin$pire and go with another distro. Lin$pire is not too bad, but the Lin$pire community is the Hitler Youth all over again, persecute any one who disagrees with the Lin$pire way. Great mentality guys keep 'em coming.

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gave up

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2005 11:41 PM
I tried the Balance notebook a while back. The first one I ordered had a bad pixel in the screen. I sent it back and asked for another. The second one had two bad pixels. I gave up after the second one. Moral of the story? Look carefully for bad pixels: these seem to be screens that didn't pass quality control at the manufacturer and were maybe sold cheap to Balance.

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Was it about Linspire

Posted by: JZA on April 25, 2005 08:08 AM
Yeah I am a bit confused was this about Linspire or Mepis. I would also like more info about the CNR stuff. How does it compared to YAsT URPMI and Apt-get.

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