My Samsung NC10 Netbook has been in constant operation since 2013, for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s doing a great job as our internal office server, purring along quietly running CentOS 6.
When I put it in operation 5 years ago, I made sure no mechanical parts we being used anymore to avoid wear and tear: I’ve added an SSD, and once a day valuable data is backed up on a permanently mounted SD card.
The only mechanical thing still in use is the internal fan. I knew the day would come on which the poor thing would either give up and need replacing, or at least require some maintenance to make it go a few extra miles. Well, that day has come at the beginning on this month, when I noticed a bit of rattling noise that started happening behind my big monitor. That’s where I keep the little guy.
Turns out that the fan can be easily whipped back into shape with a drop of bicycle oil. It’s really easy to disassemble too – let me show you how I did it.
Here’s a great video by Floppydonkey on how to open up your Samsung NC10 (and NC150). This comes in handy if you’d like to replace the hard disk.
The tools we need are a small philips head screwdriver, a small flat screwdriver or spudger, and a tough finger nail.
In a nutshell, and VERY CAREFULLY:
turn your little buddy over onto a soft surface (lid closed, top down so that the back is facing you, headphone sockets face left)
take off the battery
loosen all screws, including those marked KEYBD (leave the ones for the memory flap)
where the battery once was, take the flat screwdriver and pop the two black plastic clips, just next to the two metal parts (inwards). Those are the two main clips that hold the tiny plastic body together.
take a tough fingernail and pop the back of the laptop where the battery sat (between those metal clips)
once done, lift the right side of the back first, leaving the headphone sockets
this is a bit fragile, but the whole back will lift off to the left
take out the cover from the headphone sockets
The hard drive is held with one screw, simply take it out and slide the hard disk to the right, off the connector. It’s enclosed in a shelf of sorts, which is held onto the drive with two screws opposed the connector.
his suggests that a configuration file needs to be created somewhere. However I found that there’s an easier solution which – at least on the NC10 – works with just one click. I assume this will work for other latops too:
With the WiFi card on my NC10 enabled, I struggled to connect to my actual WiFi network from the command line (WPA2). After an entire day of research, trial and error I had to admit to myself that setting this up on a minimal CentOS 6 installation is simply beyond me.
Likewise, monitoring the levels of my new battery had me greatly puzzled.
But those two points aside, I also wanted to install a Desktop type environment on my NC10 so it would be more useful – now that it has a new battery and all.
As it turns out installing GNOME – almost as a side effect – will take care of both those problems in a flash: easily connecting the NC10 to my WiFi network, monitoring my battery, and so much more.
Let me show you how I did it.
My machine has a minimal CentOS 6.5 installation on it and I’ve installed the Atheros driver as explained in my previous article. I’m on a wired network connection to install the additional GNOME packages.
I didn’t know this but yum is even more magical than I always thought: not only can it install single packages and resolve their dependencies; yum can also install entire sets of packages called groups.
To see what’s available type
This will show you a huge list of available and installed groups. We’re interested in the following:
X Window System
To install all those without being asked for every group, type
Now that my NC10 is more of a laptop rather than a remote web server, I like the idea of booting into the desktop environment by default. To do this tweak a single number in /etc/inittab:
// to edit the file
// change this line
Above this line you’ll see an explanation of what each ID will do at boot time. Realistically you’ll only ever need to worry about 3 and 5. Save the file and restart your system – and upon next boot you’re prompted to create a new user, or login with existing credentials.
Change it back anytime you like.
NC10 – meet GNOME
I had looked at GNOME many years ago on an old and long retired slow Sony Vaio laptop – and was surprised how relatively slick it runs on the NC10’s underpowered hardware.
To my surprise things like the integrated Samsung Function keys for screen backlight and volume were working out of the box without the need for additional drivers or patches! Just like the touchpad – it just works. Same with monitoring my battery level.
Bravo, CentOS! Here’s what the NC10 looks like running GNOME:
Connecting to your WiFi Network
GNOME isn’t all that different from other desktop OSes and reminds me of Windows and Mac OS X. You connect to your local network simply by clicking the “antenna” type symbol at the top of the screen, pick your network from the list and enter the password.
If you’ve ticked the relevant box, you’ll be connected automatically on subsequent logins.
Why CentOS on the NC10? Why not use Windows?
My NC10 came with Windows XP back in 2009 when I first bought it – because Vista was such a joke and nobody wanted it.
Later models of the NC10 came with Windows 7, but 2GB of RAM are highly recommended – and mine only has 1 GB. “Recommended” doesn’t mean that the experience is going to be great though. Windows 8 isn’t even an option on the NC10.
But more importantly, XP is has ended extended support in April 2014 – and Windows 7 is going to exit mainstream support in January 2015. At the time of writing that’s in 6 months.
CentOS 6 will be around until 2020 and copes extremely well with the NC10’s hardware.
I’m confused: X11, GNOME, KDE… what’s all this?
You and me both, brother! As I understand it, GNOME and KDE are both desktop systems that show you a graphical user interface (GUI) – much like Windows and Mac OS X. They both look slightly different and are developed by different teams.
X11 is the actual engine that allows apps to interact with content in windows. This wasn’t always the case, especially in the early age of computers which were text and column based. X11 is a breakthrough and allows for processing to happen on a remote machine, while graphics are rendered on the local system.
As with many things in Linux, you have a choice of which GUI you’d like to run: GNOME or KDE. You can even install both on your system and boot into the one you fancy:
Or, from GNOME, head over to System – Administration – Add/Remove Software and search for KDE, then install it from there.
Once the install is complete, log out (top right) and log back in, selecting your desired interface from the drop down at the bottom. Here’s what it looks like on the NC10:
Both systems get the job done and it really comes down to personal preferences and needs.
GNOME is a more “barebones”, while KDE contains accessories like a calculator, games, different web browser and a whole lot of other stuff by default.
I found that on the NC10 I much prefer GNOME over KDE – perhaps because GNOME reminds me of Mac and KDE of Windows. As I said, it’s really about personal taste.
When I installed CentOS on my NC10 last year I did so knowing that its battery was bust. Since it wasn’t going to live without a power supply, I didn’t setup WiFi at the time – the NC10 being tied to one cable, I simply added another (the network cable) and that was that. Worked fine and without problems.
Today a new battery for my NC10 arrived, breathing new (wireless) life into the little guy – and needless to say now I wanted to setup WiFi. Sadly I don’t know enough about network adaptors under CentOS, so I thought how hard can it be?
Actually it’s easy – it’s just not very well documented on the whole wide web due to the multitude of Distribution vs Hardware configurations.
Thanks to two great articles (by Joris and Paul – find links at the end) I managed to connect my NC10 to my WiFi network: an Apple AirPort Timecapsule. It works a treat. Thanks guys!
I deviated a little from both articles, so here’s the “remix” which should work specifically for the Samsung NC10. I’m running CentOS 6.5 in 32bit, minimal installation without any bells or whistles, on a 1GB Intel Atom machine.
Today was a rather exciting day for me: I’ve successfully turned my aging Samsung NC10 Netbook into an internal server in our office.
I bought the little guy in 2009 and he’s been my trusty companion on many jobs before I got an iPad. He still works fine, even though Windows XP was getting weird of late – and admittedly I hadn’t even turned him on in over 8 months.
Now my trusty pal is running CentOS 6.4 while sitting quietly in a corner next to the ubee modem, serving as an internal Linux server. This is great for testing and automated backups – and in the same spirit as playing with a Raspberry Pi (in a much neater battery powered package).
Refreshing the NC10 wasn’t a picnic though, and some of the steps are rather involved. Here are my notes, in case I either have to do it again or you want to follow along.