Best Netbook OS

Linux was the first choice of netbook inventor Asus but it didn’t catch on with the public and for a while almost every netbook came with XP on it. Vista adorned a few netbooks but it was too heavy and made the netbooks tedious and unreliable.

We now have Windows 7 as a netbook alternatives but most of the best netbooks OS are still in the Linux market. Let us review a few.

MeeGo
Intel worked on an OS called Moblin and Nokia worked on one called Maemo. They joined forces and MeeGo was born.

Installing MeeGo is a snap. Like a lot of netbook OS it can be done via a USB drive. Download the MeeGo image then use Win32DiskImager.exe (if you’re on a Windows PC) to burn the image to the USB drive. What you end up with is effectively a Live CD experience except from a bootable USB. Most of the Linux distros are using this format and it’s a great way to load to a netbook (because they dont have CD/ DVDs!).

MeeGo is fast and funky, with an emphasis on the funky. Groovy characters populate your desktop and the colour schemes are amusingly High-5-ish. In use the OS is fast and flexible but with a few major hiccups.

The good bits first. Compared to running XP on my Eee-PC 901 it is a freaking speed demon. The experience of browsing the web is plenty good now I dont have to wait for tedious page loads and frequently unresponsive systems while the page loads. Complex sites like afl.com.au can be browsed while the page loads, rather than waiting for the whole page to complete. MeeGo came with Chrome installed and I didn’t have to download plug-ins to get flash working.

MeeGo passed the Virtual Rockwiz challenge. Some Linux distros I’ve tried have failed to load this flash-based game.

MeeGo had no problem recognising my phone via Bluetooth and downloading all my contacts.

On the downside, the support for common formats is poor. Windows media files are completely ignored. My voicemail is re-routed to my inbox as a wmv so that’s a major bummer for me. Perhaps more importantly, surfcams at Coastalwatch can’t be viewed. The mail program is pretty useless on a 9″ screen (but then again, they all are, but I’m happy with webail). I made a web app from Google for my mail but it didn’t work properly, meaning I have to go through a webpage sign in all the time.

MeeGo didnt know what to do with the RRR radio stream.

The biggest bummer with MeeGo seems to be when you try and install extra software. I’m well used to Linux distros and the installation of extra software. Ubuntu for instance makes it almost too easy. MeeGo seems to struggle with adding apps. The list doesn’t always populate and incredibly popular open source programs like VLC aren’t there.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

This was an OS I lived with for quite a while. The Ubuntu distro is already very popular and so a netbook version was always a good idea. I like the fact that it’s called Ubuntu Canonical Remix. It sounds very Matrix like.

Out of the box the Ubuntu has most things you’d expect from a Linux distribution. Open Office, Soundbox, a mail client and a instant message client. I ditched the latter two soon as I booted and installed Chrome. Flash does not come pre-installed but installation isn’t one of those going-round-in-circles experiences you sometimes get with Linux. Next up was VLC and I was ready to go with everything I needed to work and play.

Ubuntu is a very complete OS and didn’t boot nearly as fast as MeeGo. Also, even with Flash installed it failed the Virtual Rockwiz test. That said, almost anything can be added or subtracted from Ubuntu so I’m sure that with a little persistance everything is possible.

Ubuntu Remix would suit someone who wants a more complete OS, who thinks they may tinker outside the realms or mere email and web browsing. For instance, the choice of VNC and Terminal Services clients is excellent and I was soon doing remote support to clients PCs direct from my netbook, or accessing my desktop PC for tasks that couldn’t be done of a netbook. While on holidays I was able to plug in my Vodaphone wireless adapter and get internet on the go. It’s things like that, and the stability of Ubuntu, that make it an OS worth keeping on your netbook.

Jolicloud

Jolicloud is  my current Netbook OS fave. It’s a neat marriage between MeeGo’s App-style focus and the more conventional linux distribution represented by Ubuntu.

For starters the Apps director included a good list of mainstream and applications such as VLC and Skype. They installed at the click of a button launched without fanfare. You get Chromium browser (which is a copy of Chrome) but Chrome also installed without fuss. Futhermore I was able to make an Application Shortcut for my Gmail from Chrome and launch this directly from my desktop. Flash support was native and my RRR stream went off without a hitch.

In use it is fast and reliable, more-so than either Ubuntu or MeeGo. Ubuntu was more reliable than than MeeGo but Jolicloud takes the cake. It flies along on my Eee-PC 901 like I’m working on a dual-core desktop.

Jolicloud supports .deb files, so you can install a program in .deb format as easily as you could an .exe on Windows. Jolicloud also has Wine, so you can run Windows programs on it if you wish. (Though in practice this is rarely as successful as it sounds…though I do have two programs I use regularly on my netbook that are running through Wine quite nicely.)

So far, almost everything I could want on my netbook is working. I just need a good working flavour of VNC and Remote Desktop and I’ll be happy.

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