Mini running Windows 7

So I bought my Dell Mini 9 because it was the only netbook that fully supported OS X, or rather OS X fully supported it. I installed 10.5.6 a few months ago and have been using it about every day with no issues. Recently I updated to 10.5.7 and the phail resulted — upon boot, the graphics driver seemed corrupt. Not sure exactly what was going on or if a fix is out there, I decided to start over.

So I installed Windows 7 RC 1 with a portable DVD drive (easier than the OS X process), it took about 45 minutes and either had all of the drivers, or Windows Update was able to locate the missing or outdated drivers. Two quick observations after a few hours of use.

The new hibernate is freaking awesome. Historically, windows hibernate (saving memory contents to disk and physically powering off the machine) took a long time to cycle down and cycle up, so you may as well shut down in most cases. I haven’t actually hibernated since I first saw it in Windows 2000 (XP?). With my Vostro 1500, Windows 7 will hibernate in about 10 seconds and wake up in about 15 seconds. On the netbook, it’s about 25 seconds down and 40 seconds up. A little slower than waking from suspend, but the fact that it’s not constantly sucking on the battery is worth the peace of mind.

The screen real estate is improved over OS X, or even another windows. I would say that OS X is not ideal for displays with very limited vertical resolution, as is the case with the Mini 9. It has the bar on the top which can’t be moved elsewhere, so that decreases your vertical real estate even more. And the dock on any side but the bottom just doesn’t feel right. There’s a hack on mydellmini.com that allows you to decrease the “size” of each of the applications that run, but it is very shotty. Windows 7 with the taskbar on the left allows for the max amount of vertical real estate, and it looks natural.

And since Microsoft has better relationships with hardware vendors, the hardware drivers are more recent and function better. I can really tell that everything is running more smoothly. Since I’m on the slowest possible SDHC drive for the Mini, OS X seemed to lag at points from just typical use. I’m not seeing the same with Windows 7.

Liking it so far, I suspect that I will use it as my primary OS from now on.

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How To Downgrade Dell Mini 9 BIOS to A00 From A04 or A05

I recently purchased an 8 cell 77 watt-hour battery from China via ebay for use with my Dell Inspiron Mini 9. This is up from the stock 4 cell 32 whr battery that it came with. I like the new battery so far, it about doubles the weight and size of my Mini, makes the mini look like it is on a stand, or plugged into a docking station — which actually improves ventilation. As a result, the screen doesn’t open up quite as much as it used to, but it hasn’t bugged me yet.

The ebay post said “only works with Dell Mini Bios Verson A00”. Wow they weren’t kidding. I have A04 (was planning on the A05 upgrade at some point), and upon insertion of the battery, it looked to charge and was fully functional, but the LEDs were going crazy! Flashing red and white, they really wanted you to know that this battery is not supported. The flashing was annoying enough; if there was no other issue with this battery I would have still wanted to downgrade to get it working right.

So I was able to locate on the mydellmini forums a utility that someone (somms?) put together called flashBIOS. This app has the capability of creating bootable media (I used a usb thumb drive) with a dos BIOS flashing utility. It even comes with all of the Dell Mini 9 (and even the Dell A90) firmware versions out to date. This is a sweet app, had to archive it.

Download flashBIOSv1.51.exe

It really is self explanatory. Start up the app, follow instructions and flash. I was down to A00 in less than 10 minutes after downloading this.

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Dell Mini 9 first impressions

Received the Dell Mini 9 yesterday, and the 2 of the 3 upgrades a day earlier. I replaced the SSD hard drive; 32G from the stock 8G that comes with. Then I replaced the 512M stock ram with a 2G module I bought. I followed a guide to install OS X on this device, took about 4 hours for everything, including getting the ISO onto a portable USB2 hard drive, loading the syslinux and DellMiniBoot onto my 64M thumb drive, booting up Darwin and doing the install dance, then loading DellEFI onto the OS X install.

Works great now, like a charm. Only issues I really have with it are:

  • The single quote (‘) key is in a really weird place, to the right of the space bar.
  • The right shift key is to the right of the arrows, which is really weird.
  • The keyboard is pretty cramped in general, I’m not exactly sure what % of typical this keyboard is, but it feels about 90%.

That’s it for now! Everything with OS X worked out of the box, pretty amazing.

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Mini Upgrades

So, I bought the Mini 9, still about 3 weeks before it comes, but I knew I’d want to upgrade it. So I recently purchased:
Super Talent 32GB SSD and 2GB ram module to replace the 512MB ram module.
8 cell 77WHr battery, to replace the built-in 32WHr 4 cell battery.

I expect both of these to come before the mini, but that’s alright…

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Dell Inspiron Mini 9n Netbook Purchased

I just sold my Wii, so I had money to burn. I was looking at ultraportable notebooks a few months ago (and by ultraportable notebooks, I really meant netbooks; the cheap linux based gutless systems, not the 8x-the-price fully fledged systems like the Macbook Air), and I ended up scrapping the idea, but recently I’ve been thinking of nice it might be to be able to take a netbook places, even just in the house. Sure I use a notebook already, but it’s even a hassle to disassemble it and move it around the house. I’d never take it from my living room to the bedroom, for instance, because it’s too much work to haul everything.

So, I just purchased what I would consider to be a very slick deal, a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook. The price was right,
$249 base
– $50 instant for EPP
– 7% for EPP
+ 9.99 for shipping
– 9.99 shipping discount for EPP
Final price: $185.07

Configured thusly:
Black chassis
Intel Atom Processor N270 (1.6GHz/533Mhz FSB/512K cache)
512MB DDR2 at 533MHz
8GB Solid State Drive
Glossy 8.9 inch LED display (1024×600)
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950
Wireless 802.11g Mini Card
32WHr Battery (4 cell)
Ubuntu Linux version 8.04.1
1Yr Ltd Warranty and Mail-In Service

It’s not expected to arrive for about a month, but I’m pretty stoked. I plan to upgrade it and hax it out pretty heavily, and maybe even get hackintosh up and running on it (this is the only fully hackintoshable netbook).

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