Open Thinkering


Which is the best netbook operating system?

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

The above graph is known as the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and is an approximation as to how new types of products and technologies are adopted. I’m usually in the left-hand 2.5% for most technology-related things (well, I’ve got to be honest!) This post is about Netbooks, small form-factor devices used primarily to access the internet and run lightweight applications. Since 2007 I’ve had three netbooks: an Asus Eee 701 (with stock Xandros Linux), an Advent 4211 (MSI Wind clone upon which I installed Mac OSX with some success), and an Asus Eee 1000 (running Ubuntu Netbook Remix). The latter was a fantastic netbook and I was disappointed when I had to return it to my previous school upon leaving.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for a (very) cheap netbook with which I can mess about. If you’re thinking of purchasing one of these then I’d recommend first having a look at the excellent comparison of netbooks on Wikipedia. The problem with having a £1500 Macbook Pro is that it makes you rather reluctant to take it to places like the beach (now only 1.5 miles away from where I live!) In addition, my line manager at my new job as well as my father have been asking for advice regarding netbooks. As a result, I thought that now would be a good time to look at the best operating system to run on a netbook.

Why Linux?

You may be wondering why I don’t automatically recommend Windows 7 for netbooks. That’s because I’m a great advocate of Open Source Software. In the past, it was difficult to hand-on-heart recommend Linux (an Open Source Operating System) for the average person. I’ve used Linux since Red Hat Linux in 1997 and it hasn’t been until the dawn of Ubuntu Linux around 5 years ago that I’ve been able to recommend it to, for example, my parents (who have run it on their laptop for the past 3 years).

Linux is more flexible and configurable than Windows. Oh, and it’s free. 🙂

What to look for in a netbook operating system

To my mind, a netbook operating system should be:

  1. Quick to boot-up (from cold, hibernation and suspend alike)
  2. Work with no glitches (i.e. support hardware out-of-the-box)
  3. Intuitive
  4. Aesthetically pleasing
  5. Easily configurable

The contenders…

Below you’ll find quick video demonstrations of the following operating systems that can be installed on netbooks:

Why have I chosen the three above? There’s no sound, scientific reason apart from that a) 3 is a good number of options to give to people, b) I’ve used Ubuntu Netbook Remix before and have an interest in test-driving the other two, and c) Jolicloud, the other OS I wanted to test, won’t play nicely with virtual machines.

Oh, that’s the other thing. This is completely unscientific as these videos demonstrate how these operating systems perform within a virtual machine within my Macbook Pro. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. The videos are simply there to give you a taster… :-p

Easy Peasy (Ubuntu Netbook Remix)




Linux Mint



So… which is best? I’d love to be able to say gOS (or Jolicloud if I could get it to work). I love the idea of the netbook being a device simply to connect you to cloud-based working. However, practicality is the order of the day. You have to be able to work effectively offline. Whilst all OS’s will allow you to do this, Ubuntu Netbook Remix allows you to do this in a straightforward and streamlined way.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix – via Easy Peasy if you have an Asus Eee – is the winner! 😀

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5 thoughts on “Which is the best netbook operating system?

  1. I had never been a fan of netbooks even though I travel a lot. I prefer Mac OS, so I was still carrying around an old iBook G4 on my trips to India and the Middle East. At 4 pounds, it wasn’t the lightest machine, but it did the job well. I just picked up a Dell Mini 10v, which has OS 10.5.7 running on it with 2GB of RAM, and I’m simply amazed. This machine does everything you could want, and it has the added advantage of running the Mac OS. I highly recommend it.

  2. I still run an original Asus EeePC701 4G – original except for the OS. I’ve tried many on it. Xandros, Windows XP, gOS, Easy Peasy, Puppeee and Eeebuntu. I don’t think there is much difference between Easy Peasy and Eeebuntu. I’ve had problems with all of them with either the web cam or microphone and speakers. None except Xandros and Windows XP has worked completely out of the box. I’m currently downloading Dream Linux and Linux Mint to give them a run. Be keen to hear what you decide on and your experience with it.

  3. This post has taken me back to my early trials and errors using Linux as an alternative OS a few years back. I started with Gentoo!
    Running a flavour of Linux on a netbook seems like the most obvious way forward if you have used Linux before. If you haven’t your post should help those users who would otherwise go with the pre-installed Microsoft offering. Being able to ‘play around’ with Linux through a virtual system or as a LiveCD is a fantastic way to learn about each possible Linux OS and will allow users to trial each before installing on their netbooks.

  4. I’ve just got an Acer Aspire One (3G) from work, so not yet had that much of a play with it (though with the help of a colleague got it onto our WPA2 Enterprise network at work); I’ve also got a CNMbook – the very wee, cut down things that Maplin do [thinking of it as a PDA on speed, rather than a cut down laptop I’ve decided is the best option!] & also have the real original netbook – an OLPC (neither of the latter two can be persuaded to get on the Uni network)

    I’ve not, however, yet got round to experimenting with alternative OSs – though I do have a spare ex-Windows tablet at work that I could practice installing some of these others on.

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