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Alternative Netbook Operating Systems

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laptop-inspiron-9-design4Rather than sticking with Microsoft Windows XP or the updated Windows 7, there are a variety of reasons for checking out alternative operating systems for your netbook.  The benefits of using a few of the following operating systems include being a part of a community of users, regular updates, and running an OS that is specifically tailored for a netbook’s performance, battery life and smaller screen size.  Installing and running these operating systems can be a fun challenge, a great way to strengthen your computer skills and help you obtain greater productivity from your netbook.

  • Ubuntu Netbook Remix
    Based on Ubuntu, the popular Linux distribution, this OS features a customized graphical user interface (GUI) for the smaller netbook screen.  One of the major benefits of Ubuntu is its large resource of applications available through the package manager.  It used to be true that linux was complicated, ugly and not user friendly, but this is no longer the case.  Installing Ubuntu is easy with the live cd as prospective users can try it out before installing.
  • Moblin v2
    Moblin has been in the background for some time but the most recent release seems to be gaining some attention.  This customized Linux-based OS is optimized to work on mobile devices including MIDS and netbooks.  The Moblin folks have created a FAQ to answer many of your questions such as, “Can Moblin run on the iPhone?”
  • Google Chrome OS
    Although it is yet to be released, there is great buzz regarding Google’s forthcoming Chrome OS.  Although little is known about Chrome OS, it is expected to be streamlined for netbooks.  Expect it to be fast and heavily reliant on Google’s cloud-based services such as Google Docs, Picasa Web Albums, and Gmail.  The official Google Blog states that Chrome OS will be quick starting, only taking a few seconds to boot.
  • Mac OS X
    Running Mac OS X on an Intel Atom based netbook has become a popular OS choice for those with a bit more computer aptitude and interest.  Creating a “hackintosh” may be a violation of Apple’s End User License Agreement (EULA) and can certainly be illegal if you do not own a valid copy of the OS you’re installing.  While creating a hackintosh netbook is very cool, I’d say it is perhaps the least practical choice largely because of the lack of support.  Any updates or changes to OS X for hackintosh netbooks comes from a small community of individuals.  Unlike Ubuntu or XP, new updates for OS X on unsupported platforms often requires tracking down files from various sources, typing commands in the terminal, and hoping that what you’ve downloaded is reliable.  The constant struggle to maintain an updated system and the lack of full support make OS X on netbooks impractical.  Regardless, many still strive ahead and create their own OS X netbooks.  This chart will be necessary should you set out on that quest.

There are other, less popular operating systems out there but most lack the support and drivers to be truly painless to install and use.  The best place to gain information about installing, tweaking, or hacking these operating systems often comes from the community forums of fellow netbook users.  I would argue that one of the reasons behind the success of the netbook as a platform is due to the extensive online community support.  Sites like Eeeuser.com for the Asus series of netbooks, MyDellMini.com for the Dell Minis, and MSIWind.net for the MSI Wind netnooks have daily forum postings from folks sharing their experiences.  A simple Google search reveals that there are many of these online communities filled with information from helpful users.

What are your thoughts on alternative operating systems for the netbook platform?  What do you recommend?

As an educator and school counselor, Matthew is an advocate for using technology in the classroom and passionate about exposing students to technologies that will empower them in their future careers. Follow Matthew on Twitter.

7 Comments

  1. turn.self.off

    09/22/2009 at 8:17 am

    i’m currently using eeebuntu, basically a community variant of ubuntu remix, aimed specifically at the eeepc series…

  2. RealNeil

    09/22/2009 at 9:50 am

    I’m currently trying out Linux Mint Gloria-7 with the Xfce desktop. It’s full featured and fast. It updates without problems and has a nice feature set of programs to choose from including some 3D games.
    Another good one that I’ve tried is UBUNTU.

    I like them both.

  3. mividaendigital

    09/22/2009 at 7:50 pm

    CrunchBang 9.04. I think Openbox is the best WM for netbooks.

  4. Egya

    09/23/2009 at 2:10 am

    I’m using Kuki Linux, a distribution optimised for Acer Aspire One and the Atom processor. The distribution is based on Ubuntu and make use of the XFCE desktop. It’s really good out of the box. An even faster alternative I’ve tried is Archlinux. But to install it properly be prepared for a bit of tweeking.

  5. Yoram

    09/23/2009 at 2:59 am

    The Linux Operating systems discussed in this article did not gain popularity so far, since they are incomplete, not user friendly, incompatible with Windows and lack adequate technical support. They have limitations such as printer support, missing fonts, audio and video add-ons and there is no simple installation process for them. All the Linux solutions include Firefox as a browser in spite of the fact that there are Internet sites that don’t support Firefox adequately. There is no Linux version that includes pre-installed Internet Explorer and users, who tried to install it themselves, faced numerous difficulties. Similarly, there is no Linux distribution that includes installers for MS Office and Adobe Photoshop. Furthermore, current Linux distributions require users to learn a new user interface. This is only a partial list of problems that caused almost all those who tried Linux to conclude that it does not provide an adequate solution and thus, returned to Windows. Bridging the Linux gap between “geek-fixable” system and consumer ready solution was found only in TITAN LEV from Affordy http://www.titanlev.com.
    TITAN LEV, provides an answer to all the Linux problems that were discovered. TITAN LEV is based on the Ubuntu operating system (the most popular Linux operating system for personal computers). Affordy modified Ubuntu so that the customer sees a user interface that looks like Windows XP. For example, the Start button is at the same place, the menu structure is similar, navigation has the familiar “My Computer” and “My Documents” folders and keyboard shortcuts were customized accordingly. Out of the 30,000 open-source programs that are available for Ubuntu, Affordy selected programs that provide the best solution for customers’ requirements. In addition, new programs were developed when necessary, to better fit the solution for the needs of our target users. TITAN LEV provides users with an interface that is very similar to Windows, a suite of programs that are almost identical to the ones the customer is used to, and the ability to share files between Windows computers and a TITAN LEV computer and printing from TITAN LEV to a Windows printer and vice versa. TITAN LEV also enables full synchronization between a Windows machine, or TITAN LEV desktop and a TITAN LEV laptop – a solution that is highly desired in the mobile market.
    A quick setup utility enables users to configure their computer to their desired environment. TITAN LEV users receive a wide-range of open-source applications. 18 programs for Internet use; Office package that is comparable to MS Office Ultimate; graphics programs that replace Photoshop, Illustrator and AutoCAD; multimedia programs including a high quality Media Center and programs for music, radio stations, movies, sound and video recording, audio files editing and video editing. For the Home market, a package of 50 games was selected so that users of every age group can enjoy suitable games, as well as a package of 20 educational programs and a package of popular Google applications.

  6. Michael

    09/23/2009 at 5:17 am

    I have to second CrunchBang Linux. It is fast, intuitive, and just plain works. CrunchEEE is developed just for the EEE pc. Check it out.

  7. realNeil

    09/23/2009 at 12:39 pm

    Yoram you’re full of it:

    I will not be BUYING your product ($25.00 indeed) because mine is free, it works completely well, is FULL featured, and who gives a crap if it runs Windows Applications?
    Linux Mint is free and will stay free. Ubuntu is free as well.
    Neither one of these have had any issues with installation or driver support either.

    So keep your version of Linux Yoram, mine is just fine with me.

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