Open Thinkering


Tag: Ubuntu Linux

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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The Never-ending (Gadget) Story… the Advent 4211

Although I act and talk at times seemingly to the contrary, I know deep down there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ on this world we inhabit. My Macbook’s pretty great though, so I have high expectations when it comes to finding something suitable in the recently defined ‘Netbook‘ category. :-p

First of all, like many, I was enchanted by the Asus Eee 701/4G. It’s extremely small form factor and amazing portability blew me away. After a few weeks, however, the 7-inch screen started to feel a little small; I was having to constantly scroll sideways on most websites. So I sold it, in anticipation of Intel Atom-powered devices on the horizon. Originally, I was holding out for the Asus Eee 901, but that looks like it won’t be here for a while and will cost too much. Then I saw the MSI Wind. Perfect! I thought. But again, slightly too expensive (£330) and not out yet.

Enter the Advent 4211. Available NOW in the UK from PC World. It’s basically a re-branded MSI Wind with the 3-cell rather than the 6-cell battery. The deal clincher for me was the price: £279.99 – only £30 more than my Eee (once I’d added extra storage, RAM, etc.)

It’s not white and sexy, but it’s not unattractive in black and silver. It comes with a 1.6Ghz Atom processor, 1GB RAM, Bluetooth, 802.11g wi-fi and a rather nice 10-inch screen. Much as the Macbook’s glossy screen looks amazing, it’s not much use when sitting outside. The Advent 4211’s screen doesn’t suffer from that problem, thankfully – seeing as I shall be using it in the garden quite a lot in the summer!

My next issue was Windows XP. Whilst it’s (marginally) better than Vista, I don’t like it at all. Using an external DVD-writer, I tried installing Ubuntu Linux on it – but no dice. I couldn’t even get to the installation screen! Then, after reading some articles on the Internet, I tried installing Mac OSX on it. Eventually, I succeeded! However, it kept going on an endless configuration loop and I then read that the wi-fi card in the Advent 4211 isn’t supported. 🙁

As OpenSUSE shall be an option on the MSI Wind, I thought I’d try that next. However, I had issues downloading the .iso file from the website via my school’s connection. Somewhat in desperation, therefore, (and still on mobile broadband, remember) I bought PC Plus magazine as they had the latest version of Fedora Core (v9) on the cover DVD-ROM.

Although there were a few error messages whilst installing, and a rather scary-looking kernel error upon first boot, everything’s running fine now. It’s really a rather wonderful operating system – mobile broadband was trivial to set up, and it actually recognises a Netbook 10-inch screen as one of the options within the display settings! Once I’d done a system update the kernel error message went away and the suspend and hibernate functionality started working properly. I still haven’t got wi-fi working yet, but I should imagine that’s just a matter of time.

All in all, as I said to @iusher when he called me for some advice yesterday, I’d recommend the Advent 4211. It’s only slightly bigger in form factor than the Asus Eee (see pic), yet has a decent size screen and packs a punch processor-wise! 😀

Comparison of Asus Eee 701, Advent 4211 & Macbook dimensions

Please feel free to ask me any questions about the Advent 4211/MSI Wind. I always make sure that I research things thoroughly before purchase and am more than happy to help others do the same. 🙂

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