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on the dell mini 9

posted to writings on apr 23rd, 2009 with tags dell, laptops, mini, nerd, openbsd, and thinkpad and commented on six times

i bought the oqo 2 years ago hoping to have a truly portable computer that i could carry around and still access my familiar working environment, but for the majority of the time when i was at my desk, it could dock to a full-sized screen and keyboard. that plan didn't really work out too well since the hardware wasn't very compatible with openbsd and it was too small to really use without the dock anyway.

years later, netbooks became popular (and cheap) so i tried the hp 2133 and msi wind, using the wind as my only machine for quite some time. eventually the 1024x600 resolution felt kind of cramped so i went back to a full-sized laptop with the thinkpad x200. it has a 1280x800 resolution that was a nice improvement over the thinkpad x40's 1024x768, but it feels like more of a desktop machine than a laptop. it's quite big, its fan is on all the time, and the battery life isn't that great without the heavy 6-cell battery.

i ordered a dell mini 9 the other week to replace the msi wind that i was still using as a spare laptop to do windows things like watch shows on and communicate with the lap timer in my exige. the mini 9 is smaller than the wind and its ssd hard drive and lack of fan make it completely silent. the keyboard was awful to type on, but after installing a better one, i'm back to full typing speed. i upgraded the ssd to a 32gb one to have enough space to dual-boot windows and openbsd.

i picked up a monitor at best buy this evening since it was cheap and now i've got a similar environment that i was trying to build with the oqo 2. when the monitor is connected, the resolution of the x display is 1600x900. the screen on the mini 9 shows the top left 1024x600 pixels (which i just shut off) and i can see the full screen on the external monitor.

however, and this is the important part for me, when i disconnect the monitor to take the laptop away, the x display shrinks down to 1024x600, ratpoison sees it, and resizes all of the frames to fit on the screen. likewise, when the monitor is plugged back in, it expands back to 1600x900. no having to restart x or move windows from one display to the other.

the mini 9's bluetooth works in openbsd, which i'm using with a bluetooth mouse. i was using a bluetooth keyboard as well but now that i have a usable keyboard layout on the mini 9, i'm just using the mouse. similarly when i unplug the external monitor to take the laptop away, the bluetooth will go out of range and shut down.

currently i have to manually run xrandr to do the 1600x900<->1024x600 switch but i'm thinking there's a way to do it automatically when the xorg intel driver notices the connection change. if not i can probably just hook into the hw.sensors.acpiac0 sysctl and check for the external monitor whenever the ac adapter is unplugged or plugged back in. the bluetooth device could probably be shut down when the ac adapter is unplugged to save battery power as well.

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Alex Holst (not authenticated) on april 27th, 2009 at 11:51:02:

Damn you. I'm becoming tired of the fan in my X40 and looking for a fanless replacement. I'm trying not to get a Mini 9 yet, seeing as Dell didn't pick the right power-saving chipset from Intel but such silent goodness is hard to pass on. Decisions, decisions.

As for the keyboard, are you really back to typing at full speed? Does agree?

joshua (authentic) on april 27th, 2009 at 12:04:24:

that page said i typed 89 words per minute (505 characters per minute, 89 correct words, 0 wrong). i don't know what i normally type but i have no problems typing normal words at regular speed on this mini 9. reaching some of the keys like ~ or doing fn+up for page up slow me down, but in the past two days i've gotten used to doing control+b and control+f in everything for page up and down.

it's kind of like driving my two cars; if i drive one for a week and my muscle memory gets used to the feel of the clutch pedal and the shifter, then i get in the other car, it feels awkward and i have to get used to it again or i slip the clutch or shift weird. but after an hour, that car feels normal and the other takes getting used to.

i typed on my x200 last night and the keys felt giant and i had to move my hands so much to reach all the keys.

Elijah Buck (authentic) on july 14th, 2009 at 06:06:49:

Do you have suspend or hibernate working? I assume the built-in wireless isn't working. What are you using instead?

joshua (authentic) on july 14th, 2009 at 06:32:39:

suspend isn't working because openbsd doesn't support suspending through acpi yet.

for wireless, i used an intel mini pci card i had.

Richard (not authenticated) on july 25th, 2009 at 21:21:00:

I have borrowed a friends dell Mini and like the size / convenience but its so slooooooooooow if we increase the RAM to 2gbs will this fix the speed issue or is it a new SSD ?

joshua (authentic) on july 27th, 2009 at 16:24:16:

i would have to guess the slowness is with the ssd. the one that comes with the mini 9 is very slow compared to some other manufacturers. try upgrading it to a runcore ssd and it should be noticeably faster.