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Eeebuntu: The perfect netbook OS

Jack Wallen has the answer for the so called Windows domination in the netbook market. It's all about the OS, and from Ubuntu the perfect netbook operating system has been spawned. Listen up Asus, this has your name written all over it!

Recently, I purchased a Linux-based EeePC. I bought it for easy "packing" so I could have the means to write in serious "go mode." It worked well but there was something that bothered me a bit - the pre-installed OS. Now, don't get me wrong, I think the flavor of Linux put on netbooks is serviceable...at best. But to be honest, I am surprised at the choice Asus made using Xandros. Why? Well, it is somewhat limiting and has next to zero on the "fun factor."

I realize that "limiting" was an issue Asus took seriously. They didn't want the full-blown power of Linux invading their new-user-friendly netbooks. But that shouldn't have meant the Linux distribution need suffer for it. But it did. And this is my call out to Asus to re-examine the version of Linux they have chosen for their netbooks before all of those claims by Microsoft-funded studies come true.

I will say, in defense of Asus' choice, I probably wouldn't have realized there were far better options available for the Eee PC. Well, there are. And one of them is based on Ubuntu, so from the very beginning you know it's going to be a solid choice for new users. This netbook redux is called, aptly, Eeebuntu and it offers the best of all possible worlds.

First and foremost the installation of Eeebuntu was amazingly easy.

  1. Download an image for Eeebuntu. You can download a standard desktop or the netbook remix.
  2. Download Unetbootin and use it to install Eeebuntu on a flash drive.
  3. Insert the flash drive into your netbook usb port.
  4. Reboot netbook.
  5. Click the Esc key during the Bios post to get to the boot selection screen.
  6. Boot from the USB drive.
  7. Let Eeebuntu boot (It will be just like you're running a live cd).
  8. Click the install button when the desktop is up and running.
  9. Reboot machine when done.

It really is that easy.

Now when your new Eeebuntu netbook boots up you will have a far superior user experience than you did with Xandros. Not only can you configure your netbook, you can install and remove applications as well. And if you install the standard version, all of a sudden your netbook has become a standard desktop. No more "netbook interface" with nothing but tabs and child-sized icons. I did happen to download and install the Netbook Remix because I wanted to see what it had to offer. I was so impressed with the layout and simplicity that I left it on the machine.

This is as simple as it gets.

Lately I have been reading so much drivel about how Microsoft will (if not already "has") overtaken the netbook market, because their operating system is familiar and so much easier to use. Well, those people writing those words have never truly seen what "easy" is. Easy is exactly what the Eeebuntu experience is. The Eeebuntu development team has created what I think is the perfect netbook interface (as you can see in the image to the left.) The Eeebuntu Netbook Remix interface is so easy I would challenge anyone to install this OS on a netbook and just try to find someone who couldn't instantly use it.  Anyone that would say, "Where's the Start button?" or "But there's no Panel!" I would wonder if common sense had decidedly passed them up at birth.

If you need a standard desktop, here it is.

Of course you have to satisfy everyone right? For those who can not live without a panel you can install the Standard version of Eeebuntu (see image to the right).

Either way Eeebuntu has the perfect netbook OS for any user. They are simple to install, simple to use, offer everything a mobile computer user needs (and then some), and have all the benefits of mobile Linux.

I have grown weary of hearing the pundits tell me that Microsoft will win yet another war over Linux. No, they won't. As the prices of netbooks continue to fall, and the Linux netbook desktop continues to grow vastly superior, and Microsoft continues to press on with yet another release of Windows, the netbook space will slowly and surely ebb back to Linux. But this ebbing will need a little help from the hardware makers to choose their OS wisely.

There are a lot of netbook operating systems out there. Linux has a number of possibilities, many of them far better than the ones you see coming off the shelves. So for all of you hardware execs who make decisions about your product, listen up:

Eeebuntu is the clear frontrunner for a netbook OS. So stop selling your product with lesser operating systems! You won't have to worry about rolling in a wireless stack because it's already there. You won't have to worry that the interface isn't user-friendly because it is. You'll get better performance, a more reliable desktop, and much happier users.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

29 comments
radp34
radp34

I switch to Ubuntu Netbook Remix the moment I first booted Xandros. So everything went nice until I decide to switch to standard desktop view. Next boot time I had no panels, only desktop, no menu, nothing. I have reinstalled 3 times now and all the updates hasn't fix this issue, known by the way in Ubuntu forums. My Eee is only 4Gb SSD but all this happen having 1 Gb free. Oh, and one time I switched to standard desktop and went back to netbook, next boot I had no panels. So I'm thinking about try winxp.

aroc
aroc

It is based on Ubuntu with the Remix interface. Everything works great on my EEE 900A. It did help to upgrade the 4GB SSD to a 16GB SSD from NewEgg for about $43, although it has slow write speeds. That does not seem to bother Linux much (most noticeable during software updated), but it really drags down my Win2K partition (the XP drivers mostly work for Win2K, and that's what I had available for a few Windows-only apps I use, mainly DeLorme Street Atlas, but not often). I found that running Win2K with Virtual Box from a SanDisk Extreme III 8 GB SDHC was much faster than running it native from the slow-writing SSD - so I would guess XP would also do well that way. FWIW RO

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

Asus should immediately start using Eeebuntu in place of the Xandros distribution. The Xandros distribution on the Eee is so crippled and dumbed-down as to be an embarrassment to the Linux community. But there are other options. Currently, I multiboot to DOS, XP, SuSE, Eeebuntu, and Mandriva. Xandros has been sent to byte heaven. Although I've never been a fan of the Home Edition of Windows XP, here it redeems itself. XP Home is beautifully matched to the Eee and far and away the best OS for the 1000HE model. It is fast, all the special function keys work, peripherals connect as expected, and almost any computer-literate user can go to work immediately after finding the power button. Of the Linux distros, I find SuSE 11.1 with KDE 3.5 preferable to any other for business tasks. Something else may work better for game players and multimedia fans. I have left space for Windows 7 RC to see whether it really is netbook-friendly. Linux distributions are astonishingly better than what we worked with just a few years ago, so I keep looking for that one that will knock Windows out of first place, but I haven't found it yet.

DonSMau
DonSMau

I've been using eeebuntu on my 900HA for a while now and I'm loving it.

d29adams
d29adams

I recently purchased an ASUS 900Eee running the ASUS version of Linux and began searching for a replacement almost immediately. I tried Easy Peasy but felt that it was too limited to be useful. Then, I discovered Eeebuntu and I've not looked back - although I confess that I like it because it feels like a full-featured Ubuntu. It's power and versatility compare favorably to Windows XP while using fewer resources (a plus on a little netbook) but I'm not sure it solves the problem of how to get people to use an OS that is not MS. It certainly has my vote for best netbook OS.

patricearnal
patricearnal

I do have an Xandros Eeepc. Is there a "live" distro of Eeebuntu to make a comparison between both OS?

jdschmutz
jdschmutz

I tried the Ubuntu remix on my Acer Aspire ONE and didn't like it because it forced every window, even dialog boxes to full screen. If I could have changed that I might have liked it.

playyourcards
playyourcards

I have a triple boot of eeebuntu, eeebuntu remix, and cruncheee. eeebuntu would be a better desktop os because pages dont render as fast on my netbook. eeebuntu is fast, light, and dead simple. Cruncheee is amazing because of how little resources it eats up. The only problem i have with cruncheee is getting the wireless working on my 1000ha.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Like don't get me wrong, if I already owned a netbook with some BS nix distro, I'd probably change to this new buntu distro you talk about. But for everyone else, it just isn't Windows. And that is pretty much ground enough for people to not want it. This thread will eventually be full of people complaining and bragging how their OS is better than someone elses. So in that light, I really don't see this as really changing anything. Besides, if you really want a Light OS on a netbook, install Windows 98 or Windows 2000, both those will blow your average Nix distro out of the water with speed and memory usage. And your still stuck with an OS that is crippled by driver issues and populour application incompatibilities. Now if they start making Netbooks with this OS installed, then we got something :). But on that note, I will probably be forever stumped as to why netbooks are considered underpowered, and why they apperently require custom built OS's for them.

jlwallen
jlwallen

the method i outlined uses the Live version of Eeebuntu. it's not until you click "Install" that it actually installs. it's a great way to compare.

*nixFan
*nixFan

I'm running Linux4One on my Aspire. It's also a Ubuntu remix - packaged for the Aspire. Even tho I don't care too much for Ubuntu in general (more of a KDE person) I've found everything worked well out of the box, or should I say flash. Haven't had any problems with it yet and does everything I could think of thus far.

jlwallen
jlwallen

that might fit your bill just right.

opium_den
opium_den

Personally I wouldn't let my dog wipe his arse with Win 98 or 2000, let alone have it on my netbook!! Open Solaris is good on my HP netbook.

ed
ed

It's a little puzzling that you are suggesting Win98 and then mention driver issues in Linux. Are Win98 drivers being written for things like wireless setups? I'm not sure my Asus 1000HE really counts as a netbook, since its RAM and hard drive are greater than both my laptop and home desktop. I started to install one of the EeeBuntu flavors on it, but ended up not quite sure what it was going to do to my existing partitions (probably my problem, not EeeBuntu's), so on a lark, I installed MEPIS 8.0 to dual boot with the XP Home. I was astonished to discover it found and installed essentially everything--wireless, wired, USB, sound, video, power saving, etc. Total disclosure: I haven't tried Bluetooth and the webcam as I've been busy using it and haven't taken time to play. I took it on a trip, with my laptop along, just in case, but didn't find anything I wanted that the 1000HE wouldn't do. Not nearly as entertaining when all there is to do is use it and you don't have to spend time setting things up, configuring, downloading drivers, installing software, pulling your hair out because something doesn't work... This ain't the good ol' days.

jlwallen
jlwallen

the same netbook running WinXP and Eeebuntu is not the same netbook. The Eeebutunu blew the XP install out of the water in both speed and memory usage. The XP install used nearly the entire internal memory after the installation and the Eeebuntu had room left over to install more packages or save files. and i promise you - if you handed a user two netbooks using the same hardware but one with Windows XP and one with Eeebuntu NBR they would enjoy the Eeebuntu netbook more and get more done with it.

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

More for old games etc than actually wanting it as an OS. This was a year or two ago now. It was so unstable and dare I say horrible that I can't believe I ever liked it. I wouldn't dream of using it for any purpose.

djohnson
djohnson

I am grateful for your insight and practical suggestion to use MEPIS 8.0. My 1000HE works reasonably well out the box under Windows XP (SP3), not a speed demon, but reasonable. I plan to upgrade to the max 2GB. The most important reasons that I purchased this one portability, the ten-inch screen, the fairly useable and well-optioned keyboard and the deal-sealer...I have experienced that battery-only useage up around 6 or 7 hours. I was taught to buy the OS and the hardware that support the application needs that you want to run. I will experiment first to find out what load of MS Word will work for me; and I will alternately research which alt app might be a good choice. I am also considering the dual boot you successfully established. the you ed@

jlwallen
jlwallen

you shouldn't have any problem with Eeebuntu using all of your hardware. they have a special kernel that is very aware of the Eee PC hardware. so it should be perfect. i have only tried Mepis on a regular laptop (just installed it yesterday in fact) and i have to say i was not terribly impressed. it runs as well as any other Linux distro but really had little to offer that lifted it above all other distros.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I don't see an XP mention in it, considering its already proven that Vista is even faster than XP on the same hardware... It seems like a useless comparason, we already know XP is slow.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Comparing 98 to Nix in that sense is very flawed, I only meant it as a comparason of driver issues. 98 was terriable, try 95, runs same games and apps as 98 (mostly) and is far more stable. Ignoring the memory leaks. You still have to restart once a day, but it won't randomly crash every 5 minutes like 98 does.

eclypse
eclypse

When I'm comparing performance, boot times aren't important to me. Try the Elive Compiz live cd - http://www.elivecd.org/Download/e17-compiz - that thing is pretty darn quick for a current Linux distro - works like it should and that's the reason I started using Linux in the first place - I didn't need to buy the latest and greatest to do my basic everyday tasks. It even has phat eye candy. =) I don't care if you want to run Win98 - knock yourself out. I still have yet to see Vista faster than XP. Also, running Windows 7 I am getting about the same performance as XP64 - no better, no worse as far as I can tell - especially playing WoW (is there anything else that matters?!?)... =D

jkiernan
jkiernan

I too doubt this. My experience is that XP blows Vista away, although not as badly on "modern" hardware (less than 2 years old).

Slayer_
Slayer_

I think i once found a license generator for all windows versions including Vista, wasn't even a virus. But actually, just find a license online, or make on up yourself. Does the all 0's thing work in 98? Even if it was feasible, its probably not a good idea :). Though you still have to admit that performance wise, it would perform much better than any Nix distro or Windows XP or Vista would, yes the 16mb of RAM and 300mb install might have something to do with it :). Actually come to think of it, if I had a netbook I'd probably Install Win 2000 on it :), just for the likely great performance it would get, and XP drivers usually work in 2000

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Sorry, I reread your post a few times ending with me thinking "and the point would bee..?" I think I have it now though. Yes, win98 runs very nicely. I reinstalled my win98 VM a few nights ago just to have a fresh copy to look at. Nessus finds some warnings in the default setup but Metasploit has nothing on hand for it; win98 EOL came before the Metasploit project though I believe or the win98 exploits have been dropped from the subversion archive. The legacy threats apply though of course but technically, win98 will install and run. What makes win98 and win2k unfeasible is the lack of available licenses and support. If you don't already have a win98 license, you won't be getting one from Microsoft. If you do have a license, you won't be getting updates beyond what was available at end of life. Unfeasible to obtain and unfeasible to use on an international network in places like coffee shops where the security is questionable. Give the OS that are currently available for netbooks, winXP would be the most applicable comparison though Vista is now becoming available and win7 when released will be available also. As to what can't exist on Windows that I have on *nix; openSSH. Putty/winSCP just don't cut it. When working on *nix servers, a native interface makes a difference. I'm the same way the other side too. I prefer a Windows boot when working remotely on Windows systems. I also can't run Cain natively outside of Windows. It really is the correct OS for the job.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It was a recent investigation, on MODERN hardware, Vista booted in 15 seconds while XP took more than 30 seconds, Vista pretty much raped XP in every way, and Windows 7 pretty much raped Vista in every way. XP was the slowest. Also, I was in future shop and bestbuy two days ago looking for a video card, and I checked out the netbooks, out of the 30 netbooks there, EVERY ONE of them was running Vista, I even tried using their demos to browse around online, it worked very snappy. It was definitly acceptable, far faster than my notebook machine with XP on it. Even though my notebook spec wise destroys that netbook. I know one person that bought a Nix netbook in Italy, but that's it, everyone elses here has Vista.

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

I would very much like to call this into question. That has certainly not been my experience unless you start disabling a bunch of things on Vista. Not to mention that Vista wouldn't even come close to fitting on most stock netbooks. XP after installing all updates would more than fill a standard 4GB netbook drive. This will change as these silly prices for SSD drives come down, there is no need for flash memory to cost anything close to what is being charged. Having said all that I would like to see Vista run as well as XP on a 1Ghz, 1GB (ram), 32Gb HD netbook. I just can't see it. Please point me to the benchmarks. Then I will believe it.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Ok, so 98, I'm running 98 right now, let's see. Well almost all dev environments work, even dot net can be made to work. Office 2003 works, comparable to open office. Apache web server works, same as Nix Start button works... Ok that may actually beat Nix distros with Gnome that are more menu driven... MS Paint works... I don't know the Nix equivelent of basic imaging programs. You can install photoshop and actually be better than gimp. Remote Desktop works perfectly, aswell as VNC and other remote solutions, so your set there. Ok so you can't virtualize, but you wouldn't want to on a Netbook anyways. 98 can domain just fine... You can get for sure IE6 on 98, I haven't checked on IE7, the last version of IE6 was fairly secure, you can also use Opera if you want to as it supports Windows 98. I actually can't think of anything that exists on Nix that can't exist on 98.... Those wireless drivers could be a b**** but that goes for Nix as well in many cases... Video drivers maybe.... I know nVidia still provides Windows 95 drivers for even some of its cards. Ok I checked, nVidia good up till GeForce 6 series for Windows 95, so basically end of AGP Era.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

both would run very quickly but on a device primarily meant for use on a network, those are two wide open exploitable OS. By the time you get the usual list of protective software on it, you've eaten the resource advantage it started with. It also compares a bare OS (win98) to a stocked OS (Eeebuntu); care to consider win98 with the additional software to match the Eeebuntu function set? The mention of winXP would be the most applicable comparison given the current selection of netbook OS. Admittedly, I'd go dualboot if I had a netbook in my collection. Having only one platform to choose from would be limiting.

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