I’ve used many different distributions of GNU/Linux over the last (gosh!) 23 years, from Red Hat Linux as a 16 year-old through Mandrake, Fedora, Ubuntu, elementaryOS, and now Pop!_OS.
No matter which distribution you use, there are an infinite number of ways to customise Linux. One of the easiest ways to do this is to change desktop environment. The gallery at the Wikipedia page on desktop environments shows the sheer diversity of approaches in offer.
Not only do desktop environments change the look and feel of operating systems, they also affect the amount of resources being used, and therefore how responsive your system feels in practice.
I like the default desktop environment in Pop!_OS but I’m always experimenting with my setup to improve it. So when I stumbled across this page on the System76 website (the people behind Pop!_OS) I decided to give other desktop environments a try.
It’s important to inform those who have never tried this that all that’s happening here is a change in the final layer between you and the operating system. As such, your files remain untouched, and all of your browser settings (for example) remain the same. In fact, you could change desktop environments every time you logged on, should you wish.
I tried KDE Plasma again and Cinnamon, the latter being the default desktop environment from Linux Mint. I followed the instructions from System76 and everything was very straightforward. Next time I logged in the options were there at the bottom-right.
I’m sticking with Cinnamon for now, as it feels snappy and is aesthetically pleasing. The great thing is that, should I change my mind, I can just switch to another one without having to reinstall the whole operating system!
A few days ago I wrote a post entitled Which is the best netbook operating system? The result of my experiments were rather skewed having neither access to a netbook at the time (I used virtualization on my Macbook Pro) nor to the promising Jolicloud operating system.
Built upon Ubuntu Netbook Remix, an operating system which I already have a lot of respect and time for, Jolicloud is another ‘layer’, as it were. It treats web applications and desktop applications as if they were the same, so to install OpenOffice.org and ‘Google Reader’ is achieved via the same one-click interface (shown below)
I bought myself an Acer Aspire One netbook, for the bargainous price of £99 + delivery on eBay. There was nothing wrong with it at all. I’ve simply added 1GB RAM (c.£11) to make it a bit more speedy.
As you can see below, you ‘sign in’ to Jolicloud and can follow other users. This means you can see what apps. and other things they’re using.
Signing in also lets you check if there’s any updates to Jolicloud (I’ve just upgraded to Alpha 2c)
If you have more than one computer running Jolicloud, you can see the on the screen below. I assume this will lead to the ability to ‘sync’ them in future?
WINE, a Windows emulator for Linux, is also a one-click affair. This means that you’ve got access to the excellent Spotify, quickly and easily! 🙂
Below you can see some of the applications I installed via Jolicloud and how they showed up under the ‘Internet’ tab.
I was delighted to see that the Jolicloud team have included a development build of Google Chrome. It’s a great browser and, in fact, I’m using it to write this blog post! 😀
Finally, another ‘application’ – this time newsmap. Jolicloud simply opens it full-screen in a window.
Finally, just a note to say that everything – and I mean everything, works out-of-the-box. The latest release even has a drop-down menu at the top-right to select what speed you want the processor to run, or if you want it to run ‘on demand’. Legendary.
Suffice to say it’s staying installed on my netbook for the foreseeable future! :-p
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.
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:
Quick to boot-up (from cold, hibernation and suspend alike)
Work with no glitches (i.e. support hardware out-of-the-box)
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)
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.