February 5th, 2009 Mick Comments off

An investigation into the Dell Mini9 and I guess all things related to using NetBooks or Ultra Mobile Devices (UMDs).

Dells first venture into this market was announced back in September 2008  around a year after the Asus Eec PC was released. The Dell Mini 9 was it’s first entry into the Netbook category – essentially an undersized notebook powered by Intels Atom processor.

Dell mini 9 - Netbook

Dell mini 9 - Netbook

There are many reports available on the web describing the features of this device – Here’s a report by CNet

Available in a number of configurations, all are powered by the Intel Atom Processor N270 (1.60GHz, 533MHz, 512K cache) with an 8.9″ WSVGA (WLED) Truelife Display controlled from an Integrated Intel Graphic Media Accelerator 500.

There is a single memory slot which can handle up to 1024Mb SDRAM (although it doesn’t appear to be too much of an issue to increase this to 2Gb).

Various capacity solid-state hard drives are available and you have a choice of Ubuntu or Windows XP (Home Edition) as the OS.

So the adventure begins …

Categories: News Tags:

Initial Foray

February 5th, 2009 Mick 2 comments

The machine I’m using comes with Ubuntu 8.04 installed.

It’s been a while since I last used a Unix O/S in earnest so this will be interesting – I wonder what ever happened to Minix ….

So switch the machine on and we’re up and running.

Choice of 2 desktops modes – The Dell Desktop or the Classic (default Ubuntu) Desktop.

Dell Desktop

Dell Desktop

Classic (ubuntu) Desktop

Classic (ubuntu) Desktop

Ubuntu - File Browsing and Terminal

Ubuntu - File Browsing and Terminal

First thing I needed was Read more…

What about XP?

February 6th, 2009 Mick Comments off

Ubuntu is all well and good, but what if you really, really want to run XP on the Mini9?

Here is the first of a number of suggestions.

Solution 1 – using a virtual machine

It is possible to run XP as a virtual machine on the Ubuntu hosted mini9. Here’s one way to do it.

Windows XP

Windows XP

A version of VirtualBox, by Sun Microsystems Inc., is provided for using with Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) and you can obtain a copy from here:

Want to know more about VirtualBox

VirtualBox is a general-purpose full virtualizer for x86 hardware. Targeted at server, desktop and embedded use, it is now the only professional-quality virtualization solution that is also Open Source Software.

Read more…

Categories: Software Tags: , , ,

Developing Applications for Netbooks

February 6th, 2009 Mick Comments off

Came across an interesting article whose full title is actually:

Developing Applications for Netbooks and Ultra-Mobile Devices under Microsoft Windows

You can see the original article at

It  talks about the development tools available from Intel to help get the best performance out of the Intel Atom processor for target platforms running Windows XP. Although there are no specifc  development tools targeted at the Atom processor, some of the existing tools have specific features for the Atom.

For example, the Intel C++ Compiler has the /QxSSE3_ATOM optimisation switch.

Here are the specific references from the article:

Intel® C++ Compiler

Intel® VTune Performance Analyzer v9.1

Intel® Integrated Performance Primitives

Intel® Threading Building Blocks

Intel® Parallel Studio

Also noted the following Intel® C++ Software Development Tool Suite 1.0 for Linux* OS Supporting Mobile Internet Devices at

Categories: Software Tags: ,

Not a Netbook

February 10th, 2009 Mick Comments off

The mini9 is NOT a netbook.

Why not?

The term “netbook” was actually trademarked by Psion at least 8 years ago.

Psion have recently sent Cease and Desist letters claiming ownership of the term.

Possibly erring on the side of caution, Google have recently banned the term “netbook” or “netbooks” from being used on Google Adwords, citing trademark violation, although no court case has determined the legality one way or the other.

See details of the registered trademark at …

( I guess they renewed it :) … A registered trade mark must be renewed every 10 years to keep it in force )

Categories: Observation Tags: , ,

Development Tools – II

February 12th, 2009 Mick Comments off

Did a little exploration to see what development tools are available – although I’m not sure that I actually want to use the machine itself  to develop applications.

Of course, the current flavour of the month is Mono, and so worth a look.

What is Mono ?

The Mono project is an Open development initiative (sponsored by Novell) to create a Unix version of the Microsoft .NET development platform. The objective is to allow developers to write and deploy cross-platform .NET applications.

A version is available for Ubuntu and can be installed directly on to the mini9.

 MonoDevelop is a GNOME IDE designed for c# and other .NET languages.

Install it directly from the Add/Remove Programs menu option.

Also installed Monodoc, which is a GTK+ based viewer and provides detailed API documentation for all Mono components and the Mono CLI implementation.

A missing component was needed, the mono-gmcs compiler (package) , which can be installed using the Synaptic Package Manager.

Here’s how it looks in action:

Mono IDE on the mini9

Mono IDE on the mini9

It’s usable as a system to “dabble” with on the mini9 – but not sure how it would stand up to a full-scale development project. Though probably better, if this is the development tool of choice, to use it on a bigger desktop machine and just run the resultant application on the mini9. Still, for quickly trying out code snippets in your spare time, it could be useful.

Categories: Software Tags:

Progress Report I

February 12th, 2009 Mick Comments off

I’ve been using the mini9 now for just over a week and am even getting used to the keyboard so what are my overall impressions and where do I see the next steps?

Overall Impression

The mini9, in common with other similar UMDs, is small and compact but remains usable for the majority of everyday tasks, and performs adequately unless, for example, you’re a heavy gamer and require a more powerful processor or better graphics capability.

I’ve mainly been using the Ubuntu installation, although I have also explored using Windows via a Virtual Machine.  It is possible to install Windows as the native OS, but I have chosen to evaulate the machine with Ubuntu.

In some respects, the problem is in knowing whether Ubuntu is ready for the mainstream, and opinion is divided on this one – as long as you’re not doing anything “unusual” then the setup is fit-for-purpose in that you can edit, documents, email, video chat, listen to music, watch videos etc etc – probably fulfilling 95% of the task you want to do. Yes the UI is different, but also quickly starts to feel natural.

The only thing that appears to throw a spanner in the works is when you step out of the known world into the unknown by installing some new piece of software.

Did that error message really indicate it wanted to re-build the OS !!

This could be sufficient to cause consternation among the less astute user – and can lead to all sorts of difficulties (e.g. tech support issues) when something goes wrong. Another related issue is in regard to the number of different “flavours” of Ubuntu – which one am I using again?

But while things remain “normal” the combination of Ubuntu and the mini9 is a good match and could indeed raise an enthusiastic following – but I’m not sure whether it can break the Windows stranglehold. Perhaps Windows 7 could force more users down this path.

Next Steps

I’ll outline some of my thoughts for possible applications in follow up articles. My basic thinking is that the device is good for handling “thick client” applications with a possible connection to the internet. Why do I say possible? Because the connection can be lost for a variety of reasons, from things like signal power/strength – I’ve just gone through a tunnel, or servers being down.  (It’s interesting to note here that the recent release of Googles off-line Gmail mode has a “flaky connection” option) .

So at best we should probably only rely on “flaky” connections to the internet and applications should work both with and without a connection (using the devices own local resources as required).

The combination of a thick client application with server side support provides an overwhelming platform for development – the next question is what …

Categories: Observation Tags:

Windows 7 SE

February 12th, 2009 Mick Comments off

There are a number of reports about a special version of Microsoft Windows 7 designed specifically with the UMD in mind,

Source PCWorld: The Windows 7 Starter Edition (SE) is mainly aimed at emerging market and netbook users. With SE, customers will be able to run only three applications at the same time but will benefit from user interface (UI) improvements such as the new taskbar and JumpLists. Also, users will be able to join a Home Group (to share media files over a local network).

Really, only 3 applications at a time, does Microsoft see a demand for such a restrictive version of the OS. Perhaps this will only drive people towards Ubuntu, and similar OS, for these devices.

Categories: News Tags: ,

Web Desktop (webtop)

February 12th, 2009 Mick Comments off

First of all I thought about implementing a Web Desktop client application.

A web desktop or webtop is a desktop environment embedded in a web browser or similar client application. A webtop integrates web applications, web services, client-server applications, application servers, and applications on the local client into a desktop environment using the desktop metaphor. Web desktops provide an environment similar to that of Windows, Mac, or a graphical user interface on Unix and Linux systems. It is a virtual desktop running in a web browser. In a webtop the applications, data, files, configuration, settings, and access privileges reside remotely over the network. Much of the computing takes place remotely. The browser is primarily used for display and input purposes.

One thing that could be quite neat is creating a specific SolidWorks Webtop specifically for the mini9 (or other UMDs).

Whether it should run in the available web-browser or as a stand-alone client application remains to be determined, however running from within a web-browser eliminates the need for different versions for different devices.

2 samples of browser based Wee Desktops are Eyeos and the DHTML desktop.


is the self-styled Cloud Computing Operating System. The idea of eyeOS is to create a free, open source product easy to install on a web server so you will have your own cloud system under your control. You can also participate in a great community of users and developers, able to create your own apps.

More details about eyeOS are available from the related web-site at

You can try out a “live” version now from your mini9 at

Simply set up a new user, login and you’re away.

DHTML Desktop

Based on Dynamic HTML (DHTML) and Javascript, the DHTML Desktop is another example of a Web Desktop.

DHTML Desktop

DHTML Desktop

Tryit out NOW “live” on your mini9, from the Research Lab at


The approach used by DHTML desktop is a little more restrictive (proprietary) than with EyeOS (OpenSource) but both lend themselves as good demonstrations of the technological concept.

Both these samples have been available for a long time and in some respects, the WebTop concepts generally, have fallen out of fashion.

The approach, however, is  a “zero” install application. All data and applications are stored remotely and you NEED a web connection in order for it to work. The idea can be extended for SW and possibly incorporate some of the technology available with Google Gears for on-line/offline working and data synchronisation.

Another item which may have some value is with the possible collaborative nature of the WebTop where multiple users could be accessing shared data through the remote file-system.

Relay – A Directory File Manager

February 12th, 2009 Mick Comments off

I found this application that could be useful as a component of an on-line web-based file management system.

Relay is file management tool for web sites.

The idea is that you have a consistent interface for managing your files “in the cloud”. It has features such as multi-user access restrictions, allowing the administrator to control user access to uploaded files.

Think about it more as a concept that can be useful as part of a bigger “cloud” solution rather than as a finished stand-alone application.

Written with AJAX.

A “live” version of this utility is available from the Research Lab at

Try it out directly from your mini9. You can log-in as user Guest with password Guest

Categories: Samples, Software Tags: ,


February 12th, 2009 Mick 1 comment

OpenLaszlo is a rich internet platform that lets you write once and compile applications to both flash and DHTML for access from a web-browser.

The overall architecture is as follows:

OpenLaszlo - Architecture

OpenLaszlo - Architecture

OpenLaszlo applications are written in LZX, which is an XML and JavaScript description language that enables a declarative, text-based development process.

LZX supports rapid prototyping, collaborative software development and long term code maintenance. 

Developing an OpenLaszlo application is as simple as Edit, Save, Refresh. Use any text editor to edit a source file, and type its URL into your browser. The server automatically compiles the application into a Flash object file, and the browser displays it. 

Find out and experiment with this concept locally from the Research Lab website at

or from the original web-site at

or find out more starting from the homepage on the OpenLaszlo web-site at:

Categories: Ideas, Samples Tags:


February 16th, 2009 Mick Comments off

Is this the future of computing?

PC-over-IP technology is designed specifically to deliver a user’s desktop from a centralized host PC across standard IP networks.  In other words, working on a desktop PC that’s not actually on your desk.

 One company promoting this type of technology is Teradici

Teradici PCoIP

Teradici PCoIP

A PC-over-IP system includes a centralized TERA Host and a desktop TERA Portal connected by a wired or wireless enterprise IP network. Desktop PCs and workstations that incorporate a TERA Host are centralized in a secure location while TERA Portals connect displays and peripherals at the user’s desktop.

See it in action from a Design Engineering focus in a video at

Categories: Observation Tags:

Software as a Service – Web Sketch et al

February 24th, 2009 Mick Comments off

Sorry to repeat myself, but in the beginning there was Web Sketch…

This concept explored the possibility of using the client machine as a front-end to a server based modelling system and the application ran from within a web-browser.

The Original Web-Sketch Application

The Original Web-Sketch Application

In terms of SolidWorks, a user can create sketches in a web browser on his local machine which are submitted for processing on the server machine to produce a 3D model  which is returned to the client for viewing. e.g. user sketches a rectangle, specifies an extrude distance and submits the data to the server which generates the required 3D model of a box and returns the 3D model.

Then there was AutoRender – the ability to generate fully ray-traced images of models by uploading the model to a server where the rendered image(s) were generated and a selection returned to the user.

Auto - Render

Auto - Render

I’ve re-instigated this application and you can access it live at

Followed by CosmosXPRESS NOW! – where you would submit a model to a server which would run an Analysis job on the model and return the result to the user.

CosmosXPRESS NOW! Analysis Results

CosmosXPRESS NOW! Analysis Results

Perhaps, it is now the time to re-visit this basic concept – a “lightweight” local application which can access more powerful processing capabilities as required – to see how well it works for the mini9.

jSKETCH – Part 1

February 24th, 2009 Mick 1 comment

One of the nice things about the mini9 (ubuntu version) is the fact that Java comes ready installed, and for this reason I have decided to develop the application using Java. 

jSKETCH is a “proof of concept” that explores how well, or otherwise, it is possible to have a lightweight client application that can be used for creating 3D models. 

The first thing that comes to mind is how much functionality to embed in the client application?

For the purposes of this application, I will explore pretty basic functionality to establish what works well – at this stage the process and fluidity of response being more important than the extent of the functionality. It will be fairly straightforward to add more functionality as required.

Development Pre-Requisites

I installed the full Java SE  Development Kit (JDK) Version 6.0 Update 12 from

on a desktop machine (Dell T7400) running Windows XP.

NetBeans is an open-source free development environment (IDE) that I use for development of the Java-based client side application. I installed version 6.5 from

(or alternatively use the single download combining both these features from )

The final pre-requisite component for development purposes is to use Java 3D to provide instant access to the 3D functionality required by the viewer component of the client application. (The Java 3D API enables the rapid development of 3D graphics applications and internet based 3D applets althogh there may be alternative approaches)

Initial Application

The initial application will allow a user to create a 2D sketch which can be submitted to a server where it is processed into a 3D model. The 3D representation is extracted as a series of facets which are returned to the client application via the internet.

Here is stage 1, running as an application on the desktop – the application has been tested on a couple of different mini9, laptops, and desktop machines.

Initial Application - 3D Model Viewer

Initial Application - 3D Model Viewer

In this initial version, the user can create simple (non-overlapping) shapes from (closed) polylines, rectangles and circles. Select the extrude or revolve options and submit the job for processing on the Research Lab server. User can use the 2D sketch view or the 3D model view.

Part 2 – will describe the process in a little more detail, explain what’s happening on the server side and provide a link for you to try it out for yourself.

Categories: Ideas Tags:

Why create another Web Modeler?

February 25th, 2009 Mick Comments off

Now there’s a question.

Dassault already have an offering in this market with 3DVIA Shape and Google provide Sketchup.

3DVIA Shape

3DVIA Shape is a free, online, modelling application that allows a user to create 3D models. Not dissimilar in some respects to Sketchup.


3DVIA Shape

3DVIA Shape

Models are published (i.e. saved) to a users account on the web and can be shared within the community.

One limiting factor to the system, is that it will only work when you have a connection to their web-site. Another restriction is that the system is limited to running on Microsoft Windows based boxes.

Google Sketchup

As mentioned, Google Sketchup provides a similar web-based modelling capability and has its own, associated  development community.


Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup

In some respects, Sketchup could be considered to provide a “better” solution and is less restrictive in terms of hardware requirements and the need to have an Internet connection.


A competing product in this market will have to be very compelling  with some unique aspects. 

It should at the very least, have the following characteristics:

  • Small footprint/download
  • Automatic updates
  • Ability to work both on-line and off-line
  • Cross platform and OS
  • Have local and remote modelling features
  • Ability to share models
  • Collaborative modelling
  • Geometry Creation
  • Synchronisation
  • Model Assembly
  • Access to off-Line Services (Rendering, Analysis, 3D Printing)
  • Cloud Data storage
Categories: Observation Tags: ,

jSKETCH – Part 2

February 25th, 2009 Mick Comments off

jSKETCH is a “proof of concept” that explores how well, or otherwise, it is possible to have a lightweight client application that can be used for creating 3D models. 

Part 1 discussed the necessary development components for creating the client-side application. This section will describe the necessary server-side support that provides the modelling generation capabilities.

The basic principle being followed is that the client generates a 2D sketch. This is converted into a series of modelling instructions which are sent to the server. The server, currently running an Apache server,  processes the instructions and generates a 3D model. The model is translated into a series of facets which are returned to the client for display.

Here is the simple expression used to extrude a rectangle into a box:,100)(120,20)]&action=extrude&r=5&extrude=150

The client invokes a Perl cgi script on the server to process the modelling instructions using SolidWorks. The model is generated and a graphical representation is produced and returned to the client for display.

This type of communication is sufficient for prototyping purposes and can be represented in an even more compact form using binary encoding if necessary. Using SolidWorks as the modelling engine is also sufficient for prototyping purposes, but there is currently no mechanism in place to avoid access conflicts.

The overall system works well and is available for you to try. It will work on Windows platforms (both XP and Vista), the Ubuntu based Mini9 and Mac OSX. 

Launch it from the web address

jSKETCH - Modelling component of project "rockfall"

jSKETCH - Modelling component of project "rockfall"

and select the “launch” button.

This will install any missing components that are required to run the client application on your machine, and on Windows machines it may require that you install the Java runtime components – this process is automated.

Starting the app from this web-page (using web-start) will ensure it’s always up-to-date – if I change it, the system will automatically download and run the current version.

Pretty basic functionality is provided at the moment (i.e. a little fragile), although it will allow you to create multi-body parts, extrusions or revolves, and I may add some more functionality later. When creating a revolve you need to create a construction line in the sketch to define the axis of revolution.

jSKETCH - Running on Mac OSX

jSKETCH - Running on Mac OSX

Viewing control active when in the 3D View pane are LMB to Rotate, MMB to zoom and RMB to pan.

(NOTE: on Mac OSX, use the link and select to open with webstart)

Categories: Ideas Tags: , , ,


February 26th, 2009 Mick Comments off

Do you really want to do 3D modelling in an application running completely on the mini9 ?

Then perhaps you should look at Blender.

Blender is the free Open Source 3D content creation suite which is available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License.

For the mini9 running Ubuntu it is already available from the Add/Remove Applications menu option so its simply a case of selecting the program, and installing it.

Here it is running in full screen mode:

Blender - My First Cube

Blender - My First Cube

Rendering seemed to work OK too.

What is the future for applications on mini9 and other similar devices – will they all have to be free?

So far, you have a full suite of Office style applications, can write and develop your own applications in a variety of different languages and can do 3D modelling and rendering all of these for free.

Categories: Software Tags: , , ,

Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix

May 26th, 2009 Mick Comments off

First download a copy of Ubuntu 9.04 Remix (UNR) (img) from here

Then load the img file onto a USB flash drive. I used a 2Gb drive and the disk imager available from

Now you should have a bootable USB drive. (note: I would recommend reformatting the USB drive prior to performing the flash disk imaging)

On booting the mini9 hit “2″ to enter the BIOS, select the boot tab and ensure the USB drive is at the top of the list save and exit.

Machine will boot from the USB and you have the option of running the 9.04 remix without a full installation.

I tried this option first – seems ok, now for the full installation: answer 7 simple questions and you’re installing – in my case, overwriting the existing installation.

Here’s the first screenshot …


Then run the update manager to ensure it’s all up-to-date and there you have it.

The Ubuntu Netbook Remix features a new user interface (built for accessing your favourite on- and off- line applications rapidly and optimised for the restricted screen size), and is built from the ground up to take advantage of the speed and power capabilities of the chip set.

Hackintosh your mini9

June 1st, 2009 Mick Comments off

Getting ready for the next exercise – to try running Mac OSX Leopard on the mini9.

2009-06-01_1007How do you do this?

I’m going to follow the article on Gizmodo which neatly describes the whole process.

some additional useful information is available on a forum at

Currently waiting for a retail version of Leopard and a USB DVD drive.

I’ll keep you updated.

Categories: Ideas Tags: ,

My mini Mac

July 1st, 2009 Mick Comments off

Did you really want a Mac rather than a Dell mini9 ?

Why not install Mac OS X on the mini9 instead ?


One reason for NOT doing it is because it breaks a condition contained in the OS X EULA

…You agree not to install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-labeled computer, or to enable others to do so…

It is technically possible, however, and for Research purposes only, I installed it on the mini9 to see how it would perform and what the limitations are.


Details are available separately on the necessary process

but note the license restrictions.

Categories: OS Tags: , , , ,

Another OS – Chromium OS

February 23rd, 2010 Mick 1 comment

Chromium OS is an open-source project that aims to provide a fast, simple, and more secure computing experience for people who spend most of their time on the web.

So will it run on the Mini9 ?

My intention is  to boot into the OS from a USB stick.

Get the required CD image file (ISO or IMG) to install on the USB stick

Details are provided from an Article on the Dell Community site

the img file is available at

and the version I used is


This file is about 203MB and expands to an img file of some 2.05GB

The README file is available here

Copy the img onto a USB memory stick

Need something to copy the image onto a USB drive I used the Image Writer for Windows, which can be obtained from

and used it to copy the img to an 8GB drive.

Boot into Chromium OS

My Mini9 is already set to boot from a USB drive, so it’s simply a case of switching it ON after inserting the USB drive.

First, log-in using a Google account:

The standard screen is a tabbed “browser” style window

The tab at the top left provides a view of the available applications.

The OS is based on the Debian Linux distribution. <ctrl><alt><t> allows you to open a terminal window to interact at a lower level.

Other available shortcuts include:

and there you have it … Googles Chromium OS running on the Mini 9, booted from a USB Drive.

Although there are a couple of issues regarding the use of the wireless in the Mini 9 ( i.e. it doesn’t work properly) it otherwise appears to serve it’s purpose – but I’ll probably stick with Windows 7

Categories: OS Tags: , , ,