Scratch around in the Control Panel (on the Start menu). In there you'll find Sounds and Audio Devices (the system volume settings are in there). Mine sometimes turns itself to 1/4. I've got no idea why. Hope this helps.
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You can get USB-powered speakers and headphone amplifiers. The headphone amplifier in particular will give you a vastly superior (both volume and audio quality) output than the internal headphone-out.
Take the earphone output, run it into amplified speakers or into an amplifier feeding speakers. But first make sure that both the application volume, and the system volume, and the hardware volume knob if there is one (unlikely on a netbook) are all turned up.