TeX on the Samsung NC10 netbook

I recently purchased a Samsung NC10 netbook. Inspired by Stefan Kottwitz blog posts about the Asus Eee PC S101, I want to share with you some of my experiences installing and running TeX on such a small computer:

  • Processor: Intel® Atomâ„¢ processor N270 (1.6GHz, 533MHz, 512KB, 2.5W)
  • Display: LCD: 10.2” WSVGA (1024 x 600)
  • Storage: 160GB HDD
  • Memory: 1GB

Installation

The Samsung NC10 ships with Windows XP Home edition. I’m mostly a Windows user, but for many development tasks it is more convenient to use Linux. I therefore went for a dual boot setup with XP and Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) 9.04. I’m not an experienced Linux user, but with the help of the SammyNetbook.com Linux forum and the special Ubuntu repository provided by the Linux on my Samsung forum, I managed to get Ubuntu up and running.

The next step was to install a TeX distribution. On XP I chose MikTeX. Installation was straightforward using the net installer. Since I bought the netbook for use on travels, I chose to do a complete install of MikTeX. That way I don’t have to worry about missing packages when there is noWiFi available. On my Linux system I installed Texlive 2008. Texlive 2008 is not available in any of the official Ubuntu repositories, so I had to install it manually by following the instructions in the Quick install for Unix guide. I didn’t had the necessary dependencies to run theTexlive GUI installer, but using the command line version of the installer was not difficult. Again I chose to do a complete install. It says in the documentation that you don’t need to installTexlive as root, but to avoid fiddling with file permissions I recommend running the installer using

> sudo ./install-tl

For editing I installed TeXworks. I have written about TeXworks before. It is still under development, but the current development version works very well. I recommend installing a recent development version. The builds on the Google code project page are outdated, but AlainDelmote provides up-to-date Windows builds. On Ubuntu it was straightforward to build TeXworks from source following the build instructions. On my system I got some warnings aboutunconfigured components when I installed the necessary dependencies, but TeXworks seems to work fine.

Usage

The NC10’s screen is 10.2 inches and has the standard netbook resolution of 1024x600 pixels. When working with TeX I prefer having thetex source and output side by side. TeXworks’s default behavior is to split the screen in half. With only 1024 pixels available horizontally this isn’t an optimal layout, but if you are working on a Beamer presentation it works reasonably well. You can see a screenshot below ofTeXworks on XP.

The Ubuntu version looks like this:

For articles and reports the default layout does not work that well. Screen real-estate will always be a problem on such a small screen. I can’t expect to get the same comfort as on my main dual monitor computer, so I just have to live with it.

Ubuntu netbook remix has a special window manager that automatically maximizes windows. For applications like TeXworks this is a bit annoying. You can easily unmaximize windows, but if you prefer to work with smaller windows you should probably switch to classic desktop mode.

The Atom processor is not the fastest processor around, so expect longer compilation and build times. I tried to compile a large document and the compilation time was notably longer than on my main computer, but it was not that bad. Overall the NC10 feels quite snappy.

Summary

Installing and running TeX on the NC10 went surprisingly well. If you are considering buying a netbook I highly recommend buying a Samsung netbook. It is well suited for working with TeX documents and for doing light development work on the go.

Comments

  • #1 Rodolfo, August 24, 2009 at 5:13 p.m.

    what MikTeX version did you install?

  • #2 Kjell Magne Fauske, August 24, 2009 at 7 p.m.

    I installed MikTeX 2.7. I see that version 2.8 is out now. Will probably also work well.

  • #3 Bob Tennent, October 19, 2009 at 6:14 p.m.

    "Screen real-estate will always be a problem on such a small screen."

    Is it possible to configure a Virtual desktop? This is an X feature that would seem ideal for netbooks. You would then be able to move to more screen real estate by pushing the mouse to the edge of the current screen.

  • #4 Kjell Magne Fauske, October 20, 2009 at 9:11 a.m.

    Virtual desktops are possible if you install some additional software. You can also set the screen resolution larger that the LCD display's and scroll around using the mouse.

  • #5 Chris, January 29, 2010 at 7 p.m.

    I run LaTex on my Toshiba Netbook NB205 as well as my Dell Laptop, a Vostro 1500 (which has T8100 Dual Core processor, 2 Gig of Memory, and a 7200 RPM HD).

    This is what I've found.

    1. Speed: The netbook is a little slower, but not by too much. I compile large files -- roughly 150 pages of output -- and the netbook is quite fast at this. When I bought the netbook I was told it's not fast enough for big jobs. That is just not true - at least not for running LaTex or Maple. Yes, it is a little slower -- but not by very much. The key thing is to make sure you keep your latex project files on the HD. The key to speed is a fast read-write. So if you compile files stored on a memory stick, the speed will decrease a lot.

    2. Screen size. This also isn't too much of a problem. I use WinEDT and after I compile I press CTRL-SHIFT V and I switch to the PS viewer. I don't think it makes sense to keep output and code side by side on such a small screen.

    Overall, I am amazed at how wonderful and fast my little netbook (Toshiba NB205) is for compiling Latex.

  • #6 Kjell Magne Fauske, January 30, 2010 at 8:05 a.m.

    Thank you for your comments Chris. My experience is also that netbooks can be used for serious work.

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