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Ubuntu-ready netbook moves to dual-core Atom

Nov 16, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

System76 is shipping a new version of its Ubuntu Linux-ready Starling Netbook equipped with a dual-core Intel Atom N550 processor, starting at $384. Meanwhile the company has begun shipping to the U.K, and is contemplating developing a tablet PC.

The new Starling Netbook is almost identical to  an upgraded model that System 76 released in July. That model moved up from the earlier Atom N270-based version to an Atom N455 processor, while also growing thinner and lighter. It also added more memory (2GB), a larger standard hard disk drive (250GB), and faster Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n).

Starling Netbook, with dual-core Atom N550

All these features remain standard in the latest version, including the Ubuntu 10.04 install. However, the 1.6GHz N425 has been replaced with the similar, and more recent, dual-core, 1.5GHz N550.

As with the earlier model, the Starling NetBook features a 10.1-inch WSVGA backlit LED display capable of resolutions up to 1024 x 600, says System76. Other features are said to include 2GB of DDR3 memory, 802.11b/g/n, an Ethernet port, a VGA port, and three USB 2.0 ports.

A 250GB HDD is standard, with storage options ranging up to 640GB, and solid-state alternatives are also available, says the company. A 0.3-megapixel webcam, a three-cell lithium-ion battery,  plus headphone and microphone jacks round out the feature set.

Skipping Ubuntu 10.10 and its Unity UI

For software, the Starling offers the same Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Edition ("Lucid Lynx") instead of the newer Ubuntu 10.10, whose netbook edition features a brand new Unity user interface.

In a Nov. 11 blog entry, System76's Carl Richell suggests that the company is skipping Ubuntu 10.10 due to the company's belief that the Unity UI is not ready for primetime.

"With another six months, I'm confident Unity in 11.04 will mark a new age in desktop UI's," writes Richell.

U.K. shipments and a possible tablet

In the same blog entry, Richell announced that the company will begin shipping to its first international destination — the U.K. — by the end of the month. The company hopes to expand to other countries in the future.

Richell also said the company is evaluating a 10.1 touchscreen reference design for a tablet PC equipped with an Intel Atom, 2GB of memory, and a 2.5-inch 250GB hard disk drive. It's unclear whether this is System76's own design or another.

In any case, he says performance is strong, but the tablet is still too heavy. Richell goes on to say they are evaluating the possibility of moving to a lighter, more power-efficient ARM-based tablet, but that major challenges remain.

For example, "ARM devices require custom kernels for each device," he writes. "System76 isn't in the business of developing and maintaining kernels."

Richell sees hope, however, in the Linaro project, which, with the help of Canonical and the Ubuntu project is "working to solve the issue by generating a common ARM kernel."

Other new System76 directions include plans to add fingerprint detection to the next version of the Starling, Richell adds.


The new dual-core Starling Netbook is available for $385 with 2GB of DDR3 memory and a 250GB HDD, says System76. More information may be found here.

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