Getting The Most From Your Samsung NC10

With every new computer, phone or gadget purchase I inevitably endeavour to find as many accessories as I can muster and cover them on Gadgetoid. Admittedly I went somewhat over the top with iPhone cases, building up a backlog that I still haven’t ploughed through. I have now, however, picked up an NC10 and can bring fellow NC10 owners the skinny on two absolutely essential but cost effective extras.

Upgrade your RAM

First and foremost, of course, is RAM. You may have noticed from previous articles that I am a very vocal advocate of Crucial.com as a supplier for RAM upgrades. Crucial.com have earned my respect and loyalty with their simple, one-stop and no-worries approach to RAM upgrades. The only way they could get better, from my experience, is if they personally brought the RAM to your front door and installed it for you.

As technically savvy as I may be, I hate wasting time finding the right RAM at the cheapest price for a particular computer and will almost invariably look up the make and model of any new purchase, or potential purchase on Crucial.com to get a good idea of what upgrades are available and how much they cost.

The Samsung NC10 leaves very little choice in the RAM upgrade department. It comes pre-installed with a reasonably healthy 1GB (a single 1GB stick in the expansion bay) and will take either less RAM, or a single 2GB stick. The obvious choice is 2GB, and at a paltry £20.68 for the 2GB module at Crucial, with free 3-5 day shipping is it really worth trying to save a couple of quid going elsewhere?

Installing the RAM into the Samsung NC10 is a fairly trivial process. Unlike some Netbooks it has a dedicated expansion bay, secured with a single screw, which is a little tricky to get off but a whole lot easier than having to remove the entire keyboard. Unscrew the single screw, and then carefully, dare I say “pry”, the oddly and firmly secured cover from the back of the Netbook. There’s a trick to getting it out easily, I’m sure, I just resorted to wiggling and persistence.

Once the cover is removed it’s a simple matter of popping out the supplied 1GB stick, ebaying it, and inserting the shiny new Crucial 2GB stick, which needs pressing firmly into the slot and then downwards to secure in place.

So, why upgrade to 2GB anyway? Well, power is a big concern with netbooks and getting the most out of the Samsung NC10s already fairly good battery life is always a worthy goal. With an extra gigabyte of RAM at its disposal, Windows can rely less on virtual memory, which means less disk activity and, ultimately, less power consumption in addition to increased performance. If you’re planning to run WoW on the Samsung NC10 from time to time, then this is a huge bonus. I’ve managed to get a number of hours of WoW play-time on the NC10 battery which would be nice on the go if I could reliably tether it to my iPhone.

Replace the naff, ill-fitting slip-case it’s supplied with

Whilst it’s nice for a Netbook to come with a supplied slip case, the one supplied with the NC10 lacks any padding, is a little bit too snug for easy insertion/removal of the Netbook and generally looks a bit cheap. This is, of course, because it is a bit cheap.

I went straight to Proporta for a replacement, as I’ve been decidedly impressed with their cases, their supply of free tea-bags and their constant special offers/promotions.

A quick look at the NC10 page at Proporta.com yields a number of options, most of which are sadly unsuitable. The laptop sleeve is too big, and the Gadget Bag and DVD/Netbook bags listed below are too small for the NC10 (I’ve tested them both). There is, however, a saving grace in the Leather Style Maya Netbook Case.

Joining the ranks of Proporta’s leather-free, but leather styled cases, the Maya Netbook Case uses the same alternative to leather as the iPhone 3G case I looked at recently. This alternative is extremely convincing and quite resistant to finger-nail scratch attempts (leather will normally “heal” quite well from scratches) making it good enough for me. A huge benefit of this alternative to leather is the price tag, £19.95 isn’t all that bad for a soft, well padded and stylish Netbook case.

The Maya is specifically designed for 10″ Netbooks and fits the Samsung NC10 nearly perfectly, that is to say that it has enough slack to make removing and inserting the Netbook a breeze. There’s just enough padding to keep the NC10 safe from pointy objects, but the Maya is sleek enough to still let you tuck it, Netbook inside, into a shoulder bag.

Proporta Perfora Leather Style Netbook Case

Proporta have produced yet another sexy imitation leather case suitable for the Samsung NC10. This time it’s rocking a perforated style and comes in black, or a choice of bold red or green. I’m currently taking a look at the red one, it’s a very striking alternative to the Maya case and fits the NC10 like a glove. At time of writing if you grab the Proporta Perfora Leather Style Netbook case via our affiliate link you’ll get it for a not unreasonable £19.53

Cool Bananas Hard Cover Netbook Case

My search for the perfect Samsung NC10 case continues, there’s no one answer to this problem or indeed the protection of any 10″ netbook. I have, however, finally looked at something that’s not a slip case dependent on another bag for carrying it around in. If you want to carry just your Samsung NC10 or other netbook in a snug, form fitting and protective case then the Cool Bananas Hard Cover Netbook Case is a brilliant choice. It fits the Samsung NC10 like a glove, going as far as to have a groove into which the Samsung NC10’s bulky battery (and stand, if you believe the marketing) will fit.

As if that’s not enough, it also comes with a shoulder strap and has a little room spare inside to cram a 3g dongle and other small gubbins.

It’s certainly not as pretty as the MAYA or Perfora Samsung NC10 netbook cases from Proporta, but it makes up for its appearance by being durable and far more portable on its lonesome.

Proporta 10″ Neoprene Netbook Case

Proporta have announced a new 10″ Neoprene Netbook Case which is very aptly pictured containing the Samsung NC10 in their product photography.

I’ve got one in at the moment, it fits like a glove, but as far as style goes it’s as bland as they come. However, If you’re looking for something cheap, protective and suitable for slipping in another bag then you can’t go wrong with it.

Check out the bottom of our Proporta DVD/Netbook Case review for more Samsung NC10 compatible netbook cases.

Okay. So we’ve thrown £40 away making the most of the NC10. How about something for free?

Recommended Free Software For Windows XP

First off, remove the trial virus software that comes pre-installed with the NC10. If you’re confident that infections are unlikely you can leave your system without protection, otherwise AVG Free is the recommended alternative.

Two Finger Scroll is a must-have in light of the NC10s criminally tiny track pad. You should disable the horizontal and vertical scrolling regions in the trackpad settings within windows control panel first, and then enjoy being able to scroll by simply dragging downward with two fingers. As a Mac user this feature is hugely welcome, I can’t count the number of times I tried to scroll down with two fingers unsuccessfully before finding and installing this little gem.

Version 1.0.6 of TwoFingerScroll seems to work comfortably with a two-finger tap for right click, very much mirroring the MacBook I use primarily, without confusing scrolls for right clicks and vice versa. It takes a little settings tweaking to arrive at what you find comfortable, but once done you’ll never be without TwoFingerScroll. It zooms in World of Warcraft, too.

I threw caution (and resources to the wind) with an install of FlyAKiteOSX, a package which installs various tweaks to make windows look closer to OSX. In addition to this I installed RocketDock for application launching. I can’t categorically say these things are better than a normal setup, but with just 600 vertical pixels of screen resolution to play with I wanted a launcher which would auto-hide and wanted to auto-hide the task-bar too. The latter proved to be extremely problematic, so I resorted to making it look pretty instead.

Install Ubuntu

Whilst this may sound somewhat scary and controversial to the average Netbook user, installing Ubuntu on the NC10 is actually a surprisingly painless experience. Getting it to work with the function keys, tweaking the trackpad, and getting Wireless up and running requires a little bit of fiddling though. If you’re not comfortable with linux, or not tech savvy at all then you might want to give Ubuntu a miss until someone releases a single “make Ubuntu Work On My NC10” package.

The NC10s generously sized 160GB HDD (which you’re never going to fill, come on!) comes pre-partitioned into two roughly equal portions (not including the hidden restore partition). One contains Windows XP, and the other is empty. Installing Ubuntu on the empty partition is a simple matter of booting from a pre-prepared USB flash drive, which is a synch to make on any desktop or CD-drive equipped laptop that you’ve booted into the Ubuntu LiveCD. I prepared a 1GB USB flash drive in Ubuntu on my MacBook Pro, popped it into a spare USB port on the NC10 and tweaked the boot order in the BIOS to boot from it.

Booting the full LiveCD (or is it LiveUSB?) to test if Ubuntu would run at all took some time, but the actual install was surprisingly quick. A quick setup of GRUB following the install left me with a system that would boot into Ubuntu by default and had XP as an option. This is irritating if you prefer XP as a default, or use Hibernate often (you have to select XP from the boot menu to restore your session from hibernation) but can be changed with a little fiddling.

I am extremely impressed with Ubuntu’s performance on the NC10, all the lovely desktop effects provided by Compiz work reasonably fluidly, including the cube-transition between workspaces and the lovely window switching effects. Getting Wifi set up using the guide on Ubuntu’s community Wiki was somewhat more of a pain, Wifi using a native driver worked but was prone to connection drop-outs and 1mbps speeds. I eventually opted to use the windows drivers and NDISWrapper to get Wifi up and running in Ubuntu, and now have pretty stable and satisfactory results.

Update: I’ve since updated to Ubuntu 9.04 and am enjoying a sexy new visual style in addition to slightly increased performance on the NC10. Sleep and hibernate still seem to work, although I get the occasional problem with networking dying after hibernation, requiring a reboot. It’s altogether a much nicer experience than my current, decidedly unstable installation of OSX on the NC10 which I’ve barely touched since updating despite being predominately a Mac user.

Overall

There’s plenty more to write, but I feel I’ve churned out enough to give the new NC10 owner something to do, and perhaps convince anyone sitting on the fence that the NC10 is an excellent choice of Netbook and maybe even the best from the current generation.

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