My Continuing Adventures with a Netbook

28 01 2010

So here we are fast approaching the end of January 2010 and I have itchy Netbook Operating System Syndrome, again. Having played with what i thought were the front runners in the linux distribution stakes for my Netbook OS it seems I may have missed one. One that is about to take an evolutionary step as well.

Eeebuntu currently, as the name implies, is a build of Ubuntu (9.04) for EeePC Netbooks. Now there are plenty of Ubuntu based distributions out there, in fact there are actually precious few not based on Ubuntu; Ubuntu Netbook Remix, JoliCliud, Moblin, ChromeOS, etc all have their roots in Ubuntu. And Ubuntu has its roots in Debian.

Now I’ve never really been a Debian user when it comes to servers or desktops, but truth be known, I’ve never heard a bad comment about it, quite the reverse in fact. Eeebuntu 3 is the current release and as its based on Ubuntu 9.04 the obvious question is where is Eeebuntu 4 which will obviously be based on Ubuntu 9.10, well no, it won’t. Its going back to the top of the food chain, so to speak, and will be based on Debian. So no longer will it be tied to Ubuntu’s coat tails and this could be a good thing. There are plenty of 9.101 ate my desktop stories out there and Ive had a few issues with it myself, nothing serious, but enough to taint my opinion of it.

As a precursor to the (soon hopefully) release of Eeebuntu 4 (name change required I think) I thought I would take version 3 for a spin. I’ve just gotten a little tired of UNR and its lack of finish, its good, don’t get me wrong, but its just like every linux desktop in that it feels unfinished, unpolished and, quite honestly, second class to Windows or OSx. UNR is a remix for Netbooks, but essentially its a screen real estate limited front end to Gnome and not much else.

Eeebuntu has a Netbook friendly Kernel plus EeePC friendly tools for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Screen, Sound and CPU mode. Other than that its a ‘full’ desktop, in so much as the GUI is full on Gnome and not a cut down. If this is a good or bad thing I’ve yet to determine. There are a few flavours to choose from, Base (my choice to start), UNR (a netbook remix, which is what Im getting away from) and a Standard version. As I prefer to pick and choose my applications and not have to remove some else’s clutter I’ve opted to install the base version.

Downloading and burning to an SD card was simple. Running as a live disk to have a quick tour showed everything to be present and correct, all working out of the box. Full installation was the usual uneventful affair and once installed and booted an update offered to update to the underlying Ubuntu 9.10, I declined and just updated the 9.04 install. So here it is, ready to be loaded up with OpenOffice, Putty, Opera 10, Skype, TweetDeck, iPlayer and a few other daily needed applications.

Downloading and burning to an SD card was simple. Running as a live disk to have a quick tour showed everything to be present and correct, all working out of the box. Full installation was the usual uneventful affair and once installed and booted an update offered to update the underlying Ubuntu to 9.10, I declined and just updated the 9.04 install.

So here it is, ready to be loaded up with OpenOffice, Putty, Opera 10, Skype, TweetDeck, iPlayer and a few other daily needed applications.

EeeBuntu

The little display on my EeePC 901 seems to cope fine with a full desktop, where I had previously thought it might not, hence my previous choice of UNR.

There is a certain pleasure in getting a desktop setup just the way you want it, I was happy with the UNR interface but over time found it limiting and ultimately short on delivery of its promise. Let’s see how Eeebuntu performs and hopefully soon how v4 raises the bar for Netbook linux distributions.

Initial impressions are good, everything I use installed without incident, I tend to keep anything other than essential offline data online these days, and this is especially true with the various portable devices I use. Dropbox and my own NAS system serve my purposes perfectly well and the odd SD card full of mp3’s gets me by.

Screen real estate on a Netbook desktop is scarce so the bottom panel bar has to go, the window list moving up into the top panel bar. Date and time was shrunk to just time. I’ve seen quite a few Netbooks running various Docks (like the OSx Dock) and though I find the one I run on my full size desktop linux PC to be a very useful way of getting to key applications there simply isn’t room on a small screen to handover space, that leaves the Gnome menu system, lets say its adequate and leave it at that for now.

EeeBuntu





JoliCloud moves into Pre-Beta

29 12 2009

Previously I wrote about Jolicloud while I was testing different Linux distributions on my EeePC netbook. I chose distributions that were, in theory, better suited to life with a netbook. After some basic trial use of Google ChromeOS, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, Moblin and Jolicloud I settled on Ubuntu and for the last month I’ve been using it quite successfully on my little EeePC 901.

The thing I liked about Jolicloud was its ‘Jolicloud application installer’ this provides a whole slew of applications ready to install and not just the off the shelf Linux stuff, this also has applications that would normally require you to compile from source or run through Wine (the pseudo windows emulation library for Linux)

Since that initial look Jolicloud, which is based in Ubuntu so shares the same solid foundation, has gone from alpha to pre-beta. Pre-beta drops the need to be invited to try Jolicloud and opens it up to the wider world, in their words, “We consider the product and its installation stable and simple enough for a broader release.”, I would agree.

Now the thing that potentially interests me again in Jolicloud is the ‘New UI’, reading the Jolicloud blog further reveals this to be a lot of theme and icon redesign with the goal of providing a more consistent feel to the, lets be honest, mixed bag of typical Linux distro’s.

The launcher has been given a HTML5 makeover and looks greatly improved, cleaner, clearer and ultimately more usable. Compare

with the current/old

It seems to me that if Jolicloud roll out the UI update and pull off a good attempt at a cohesive UI for Linux then they will have a success on their hands. Google’s play is to simplify (dumb down?) the UI to a HTML5 browser, but its tomorrow’s toy, Jolicloud looks set to offer this today.

Season the mix with 98% netbook compatibility and a Windows installer that will install Jolicloud alongside Windows on your netbook (assuming you have the disk space) and there might never be a better time to give Jolicloud a spin and see what the latest world of Linux has to offer the daily netbook user.

So I am going to be re-installing Jolicloud soon, once that new UI is available, and quite possibly moving on from Ubuntu Netbook Remix. That is as soon as I get hold of a new SD card to load it onto.

Posted via email from Steve’s Blog





Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 and EeePC901

22 11 2009

This is an easy install. I’m installing to my Asus EeePC 901. Download the ISO file from the Ubuntu web site then burn it to a USB, I used an SD card. Your netbook needs to be able to boot from whatever device you choose, if you have a usb CD drive you could use that. In fact I found the getting my EeePC to boot from a USB key impossible, but it would happily boot from the SD card slot.

The default install is perfectly good, but a little package tweaking was needed. I removed the games (it stops the kids wanting to steal the netbook), installed Skype, Opera, Dropbox (I am not happy with Ubuntu ONE and I need something that has a Windows client too) and Tweetdeck.

The screenshots above give a general idea of the look and feel, the terminal window has had its background turned transparent and colours set to green on black. The desktop wallpaper was changed to an image from Desktopnexus.com

I can honestly say this is a solid linux distribution and I can see this being the netbook operating system I stick with after trying out a few of the alternatives.

 





Adventures with a Netbook

22 11 2009

Since I first acquired an Asus EeePC its had Windows XP installed. This has worked fine if a little slow and cumbersome. The atom based netbooks are not fast and this one (a 901 with 1G RAM) is no different, but they are perfect for light use and taking everywhere. Anyway, I decided it was time to move on from XP and started to look at options.

Option 1. Stick with Microsoft. This meant Vista or Windows 7. Well I’ve had pretty much no trouble at all with Vista on my desktop, it all works pretty well. This isn’t the usual story though and I cant see it running well on a netbook. So Vista was out on the basis of it being slower than XP unless fed a decent CPU and RAM. I’ve been running Windows 7 since early beta on my laptop and I have to say its very good, this was definitely going to be an option, but I’m not ready to fund Steve Balmer’s retirement (unless he guarantees to retire) yet, so this would have to wait.

Option 2. Hackintosh. I’ve always liked Mac’s. I haven’t actually used one as my own PC for years though and the thought of introducing a 3rd OS into my daily mix isn’t appealing. Conclusion, review again as a choice between OSX and Windows 7.

Option 3. linux. I’ve had Ubuntu 9.10 on a desktop linux PC since it released a little while ago and also as a dual boot on my laptop, so far I’ve not had any trouble and its been a decent operating system for daily use.

So I decided to bin Windows XP on my EeePC and try out some linux based solutions.

My netbook needs are simple

  • Terminal access (via SSH) so I can get at all the systems I look after
  • Web Browsing, preferably using Opera but FireFox will do
  • Skype (plus something for yahoo and messenger)
  • Office suite, light weight ideally but must be word/excel compatible
  • A twitter client (using the web isn’t great)
  • BBC iPlayer would be nice
  • eMail
  • Remote desktop /VNC
  • Media player, though not so important
  • Easy to use

So, will UNR910 cope? What about Google’s newly released ChromeOS? How about Intel’s Moblin project? and what is Jolicloud?





My Desktop

12 11 2009

I have various PC’s, some Windows based, some linux based. I use Windows daily for the bulk of my work despite that fact that most of the systems I manage are linux based. My personal view on operating systems has always been they are just a tool to do a job, choose the right one and the job gets done, choose the wrong one and its slow and painful for everyone.

I do love the fundamentalist’s views over which operating system is best; Windows, OSx, linux, etc. Personally I really liked OS/400 on the AS/400 (iSeries), but then maybe that’s because it was designed and built to do the job required, not fulfill the need to fluff about with a thousand pointless other things.

So, on my desktop (thats the actual wooden desktop of my desk) I have 2 decent size screens. The main one is the display for my workhorse PC and its Windows, currently Vista (with which I have to say I have had very little trouble since installing it when it launched).

The second, slightly off to the side is, as it happens Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala. I have fiddled with this, it runs a Mac like dock (AWN) and is used generally for web browsing, Tweetdeck (or Seesmic), Skype, iPlayer, SSH, development, etc – a general all things to all men but not Windows PC.

Sometimes I choose the Windows PC, sometimes the  linux PC, sometimes my choice is made for me by what I need to do. We all use Microsoft Word or Excel, that dictates using the Windows PC. Yes, I know, I could use the linux one, but why?

The best choice is not having to choose one but rather use both.

So this brings me to mobility and the generally accepted total lack of in relation to a desktop PC. Enter desktop left, a laptop. In my case a nice 17″ Dell Vostro running Windows 7 (but with a dual boot to Ubuntu 9.10).

A little while ago, as part reward for assisting migrating my brother from Windows to Mac I acquired an Asus EeePC 901. This came with Windows XP and once set up has proven to be quite useful when lugging a full size laptop about seems too much. The trouble is XP is not a light weight operating system, its pretty heavy and slow and not very well built for low power netbooks. Its no surprise that it has taken over netbook sales though, I mean linux is scary, its strange and mostly, it doesn’t do things people want very well. I think it gets a bad rep. but no doubt about it, a normal PC user confronted with some linux distro or Windows XP is going for XP every time.

So what else is on my desktop? Well typically some other assorted junk, usually my cell phones; a little Nokia thing and a Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 (which on various days I either love or hate). Normal land line telephone, often my camera (Eos40D) and always a mess of papers, notes and documents related to whatever real work I’m doing at the time.