Ubuntu Netbook Remix and Debian Lenny on the Samsung NC10

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I like Debian for its stability and predictability. And I like Ubuntu Netbook Remix for its suitability for small screen devices like the NC10. Running Ubuntu is in some sense like gambling – you never know if the next update will be a winner or a loser. So I decided to take the best of both worlds and combine Debian's predictability with the beauty of UNR. At the end I got a system which behaves exactly like I want it to: almost all special keys are supported, the automatic power management works like expected and the system is its biggest part plain Debian Lenny.

Beware that the UNR is still a work in progress and one have to expect glitches somtimes. One of the most annoying ones is a well known bug (https://bugs.launchpad.net/netbook-remix-launcher/+bug/237761) with a well known workaround.

How to use this guide

The instructions in this guide are meant to be copy/paste ready. Most commands can be executed literally but some of them require small modifications. Be sure to understand what the commands do and don't execute them if you do not.


Bootable USB stick creation

Follow the procedure The flexible way described on the official Debian site. It goes like that:

  • Download the files vmlinuz and initrd.gz. These files contain the graphical installer.
  • Download a bootable CD-ROM ISO image. I used the first CD from the set but I guess one can opt for a DVD image also.
  • Install following packages on the computer on which the USB stick will be created: dosfstools, syslinux,  mtools.
  • Attach the USB stick and format it with DOS. This will destroy the data on the stick:
    # mkdosfs /dev/sdX1
  • Install the syslinux bootloader on the stick:
    # syslinux /dev/sdX1
  • Mount the stick somewhere:
    # mount /dev/sdX1 /mnt/usb
  • Copy the files downloaded in the first two steps to the stick:
    # cp vmlinuz initrd.gz debian-install-cd-1.iso /mnt/usb
  • Create syslinux configuration file called syslinux.conf located in the root directory of the USB stick with the following content:default vmlinuz
    append initrd=initrd.gz video=vesa:ywrap,mtrr vga=788
  • Unmount the USB stick:
    # umount /mnt/usb
  • Update it's MBR:
    # install-mbr /dev/sdX


The installation on the NC10 goes smooth. I was surprised to see both the wired and the wireless cards in the network configuration step. But wasn't able to continue the installation using wireless. On the one hand the installer seams to support only WEP encryption and my network uses WPA2/AES. After the installation I learned that this kernel does not support the wireless card at all and after installing the newest kernel from kernel.org the wireless worked.

Post installation

Pre-build packages

I prepared binary packages for the folks who cannot or don't want to build from source. Be aware that you'll install unstable software which is not approved by Debian. You have been warned! The packages can be obtained in the following fashion:

  • Create (as root) the file /etc/apt/sources-list.d/unr.list with this content:deb http://winki-the-ripper.de/share/debs/unr lenny contrib
    deb-src http://winki-the-ripper.de/share/debs/unr lenny contrib
  • Import my public key in order for aptitude to not complain about signatures which cannot be verified:# gpg --keyserver wwwkeys.eu.pgp.net --recv-keys 77FC3D4B
    # gpg --armor --export 77FC3D4B | apt-key add --
  • Update the software sources:# aptitude update
  • And install the packages:# aptitude install go-home-applet maximus netbook-launcher window-picker-applet
  • Make sure your gnome session starts maximus and netbook-launcher. Log out and log in into gnome again.
  • If you don't want the power management related packages described below delete the file /etc/apt/sources.list.d/unr.list right now. If you fail to do it they will be installed with your next upgrade.

The repository contains also a newer version of gnome-power-manager (taken from the experimental branch of Debian), hotkey-setup (containing customized key codes for the NC10) and the linux kernel from kernel.org. You'll need them if you want to get the power management features working -- screen dimming, automatic brightness reduction on battery power and working brightness keys. You can install them in this way:

# aptitude install gnome-power-manager hotkey-setup linux-image2.6.28.7-custom

That's it. Reboot, select the newly installed kernel and enjoy!

Compiling from source

If you don't like the idea to download and install software from random sites you can build the UNR packages from source. Here a short list of pitfalls to watch out for.


Get the latest kernel from kernel.org. It have to be at least one of the 2.6.28 series. Don't use one of the kernels in unstable -- the brightness key patch is still not merged in the unstable kernel.

Gnome Power Manager

Version 2.22 of gnome-power-manager – the version supplied with Lenny – does support only the one part of the power saving functionality on the NC10. For instance the screen uses the maximum brightness irregardless if the computer is on battery or on AC. I tried the 2.24 version from experimental and it works like a charm. With it the automatic screen dimming is also available. One problem that I found is that gnome-power-manager 2.24 expects to be able to use consolekit but it does not depend on it. Make sure to install consolekit extra.

Hotkey setup

Some of the blue (functional) keyboard keys work out of the box but some are dead. In order to enable the brightness keys I installed hotkey-setup and customized it's configuration a bit. I replaced the content of /usr/share/hotkey-setup/samsung.hk with these lines:

setkeycodes    e002    $KEY_SWITCHVIDEOMODE
setkeycodes    e003    $KEY_BATTERY
setkeycodes    e004    $KEY_F20 # Fn+F5
setkeycodes    e006    $KEY_WLAN
setkeycodes    e008    $KEY_BRIGHTNESSUP
setkeycodes    e009    $KEY_BRIGHTNESSDOWN
setkeycodes    e031    $KEY_F21 # Fn+F7
setkeycodes    e033    $KEY_F22 # Fn+F8

After a reboot most of the blue keys work out of the box or can be bound to actions using gconf-editor and scripts.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

The situation with the packages for the Netbook Remx is currently a bit messy. On the Launchpad site one can download tarballs for the last stable release and for the new beta release. The packages for the beta don't work very well and the stable packages are outdated – the packages in the Ubuntu repository contain changes which are not present in the tarballs. Another troubling point is that the source tarballs can be compiled without problems. But compiling the packages from the repository requires the downgrade of autotools. Even worse – one have to downgrade autotools to different versions for the different packages.

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6 thoughts on “Ubuntu Netbook Remix and Debian Lenny on the Samsung NC10

  1. Ubuntu is in some sense like gambling – you never know if the next update will be a winner or a loser.

    Starting with lenny release, I’m not sure I can get a system in production, able to follow their predictions. Cause their hardware support out of the box sucks more and more.

    I would just go with Ubuntu Hardy and just add the UNR PPA repository to that system.

  2. I agree about the easy USB creation process. One can use it instead of the “flexible way”.

    The last time I checked the kernel in Sid the workaround concerning the release of the NC10 brightness keys was still not merged. However it is incorporated into the mainline kernel. In order to see if they arrived there just grep drivers/input/keyboard/atkbd.c for NC10.

  3. After installing Debian Lenny with your graphical launcher on my asus 1005ha-h, all was fine. Thank you.

    Next, I have installed the “desktop-switcher” package from synaptic. It is the Desktop Switcher Mode (Debian Remix Mode / Debian Classical Mode).

    May I ask you please if you have any problem ?
    Mine are:

    + Inside Debian Classical Mode:
    – nm-applet icon is fine at starting, but if you use the Desktop Switcher Mode, twice (in order to come back to Classical Mode again), then nm-applet icon is missing. => problem !!!

    + Inside Debian Remix Mode:
    – nm-applet icon missing. => problem !!!

    Note: If I do not launch the UNR launcher at Gnome startup session:
    Open a terminal and run netbook-launcher. The Debian Remix Mode is done and the nm-applet is there. But it’s not the correct way. Thank you if you could help me to solve this problem.

    By the way, do you have the 1024×768 compressed resolution procedure ?

  4. Ludovic,

    eventually I gave up using UNR with Debian because of the cumbersome compilation procedure. The UNR packages, which can be downloaded from the project web site are also older than the ones shipped with Ubuntu. The project is a moving target and I considered it is not worth the effort.

    You can try to compile from source but beware that you have to downgrade some development packages to different package versions. It’s weird, I know…

  5. n and lowest settings. It got maybe 10 FPS in GW. It might even be able to play KOTOR or some other great classics from a few years ago. 🙂

    As far as Windows 7, everything runs outstanding. Programs load just about the same speed. When I close the lid, it goes to sleep flawlessly and wakes up instantly when I go turn it back on. Aero is smooth, even Flip 3D. I’m pretty sure I can still get the 9 hours of battery life if I turned the brightness down to the lowest possible and turn off Wifi and bluetooth. I get closer to 6.5-7 hours with the brightness up and wifi on.

    I’ve been able to play all of the youtube videos without a problem, even HQ vids. You can’t play HD videos though. Netflix videos play smooth when ran in Mozilla but not in I.E. 8. Some hulu videos play smoooth some don’t. I believe Mozilla is also the best browser for Hulu as well. I also managed to get Amazon videos to play perfectly smooth. If a video isn’t playing smooth, I noticed it helped if you made the video window

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