Netbook: Ubuntu Netbook Remix

So I’ve been using my new netbook for a while now.  I play with it at home.  I brought it in to work for a week to use as a secondary console and web browser.  It’s fun and cute.   It’s also slow and the screen is tiny.

Mostly it’s an experiment to see how much value I can get out of a computer that’s smaller than most tech books and whose cost is minimal.  I should start by saying that my expectations are pretty low.   I want this thing to :

  1. Browse the web, including Flash and Java applets.
  2. Read the mail.
  3. Play movies and music
  4. Do a little word processing, spreadsheets, and drawing.
  5. Run Skype.

That’s a pretty modest list.  I think it represents the needs of an average consumer.  I don’t need it to play high-end games or edit movies or host a database.  Just normal day-to-day communication and simple entertainment.

Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix

The first task was to load up the latest release of Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix operating system.  This Linux distribution was customized for the Atom processor in my little Dell Mini.

The netbook came with Windows XP installed.  My intention was to overwrite this completely, but the Ubuntu install offered to set up a dual boot setup, so I could pick either operating system during startup.  What the heck.

Here’s my experience:

  1. Firefox was built in, with Flash v10 and Java 1.6, which takes care of this requirement completely.  For fun, I installed Google’s Chrome browser.   It’s actually shocking how much faster Chrome is on JavaScript intensive sites.  On my other computers I don’t notice much difference, but on the netbook Chrome is much snappier.
  2. Evolution is built in for mail.  It connected up to GMail and other IMAP accounts with no problem.  If you prefer Thunderbird, it’s available in the Synaptic Package Manager.
  3. Movies and music played without a hitch.  This was a pleasant surprise, since in past years I’ve had trouble getting movies to play on Linux.  I guess all the codecs must be lined up now in Ubuntu, because it all just worked.
  4. Open Office comes with the distribution.  That’s all ya need.
  5. It took a while to get Skype installed.   Since this isn’t free software, it wasn’t available on the default repositories within the Synaptic Package Manager.  Once I got this configured, Skype worked fine, including video.

In general, I’d have to say the Netbook Remix is completely usable, and I’d recommend it to non-technical users as a virus free alternative to the big operating systems.

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