Dell Mini 9 (and how to fix the keyboard!)

Dell Mini 9
Dell Mini 9

I bought a Dell Mini 9 from Tesco Direct about two weeks ago now, unfortunately, the battery was dead when it arrived, but after a quick chat to Dell the laptop was collected from my house the next day and redelivered with a new battery and a new motherboard the next week.

Since then I have been VERY impressed with it. However, the version of Ubuntu that came pre-installed is a specially customised version of Hardy Heron 8.04, I really need at least 8.10 so that I can use LyX across all my machines properly. Installing 8.10 was easy and everything except the sound worked out of the box. To fix the sound a single line had to be added to a config file (easily searchable on google).

The problem came, however, when I tried to use LyX and my “” kay didn’t work. I tried all the other keys on the keyboard and discovered that [ and ] were also non-functional.

My inital assumption was that I needed to specify some special dell keyboard layout in xorg.conf and as two of my friends also have Mini 9s running the default pre-installed version of Ubuntu I thought this would be quite easy to find… Their xorg.conf files were very standard though, nothing¬† Dell specific at all.

Finally, after much searching, I found this:
Setting keyboard matrix:
1. Turn off your computer.
2. If your computer is connected to the ac adapter, disconnect the ac adapter from the computer.
3. Press and hold <Fn><K>.
4. Connect the ac adapter to the computer (assuming that the AC adapter is already plugged into an electrical outlet).
5. Release the key combination.

It worked! This came from someone who had replaced the keyboard and was having the same issue as me, I have not read of anyone who has instaloled 8.10 and had the same issue. I can only assume that my issue came about because either, my keyboard was also replaced when it went in for repair, or, I did upgrade the BIOS to A04 before installing 8.10,¬† so perhaps that had something to do with it…

I could definitely recommend the Mini 9, it is perfectly capable of full screen iPlayer playback, the battery life is around 4-6 hours and the keyboard, though small, is actually very pleasent to work with.