Operating System Review: Ubuntu Netbook Edition

What is that and where’d the taskbar go? That’s Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Netbook Edition, a free operating system designed for small-screen netbooks.  Why’d anyone ever want it? Let’s find out!

That’s the “home screen”.  Basically, it’s the single place that all of your applications and sites go-and the section shown above is your “favorites” section.  You can add any program developed for Ubuntu (and a lot not developed for Ubuntu) or any site to that screen.

That bar on the left side is the “categories” of programs-we have accessories, games, graphics programs, Internet programs, Office programs, Sound & Video programs, Wine (a special program for Linux), and settings.

However, let’s say you aren’t happy with the default software installed in Ubuntu, you want more. How do you handle that? just click on Ubuntu Software center-by default, it’s in the Favorites section. From that window you can search for new software to install.

You can add “repositories”–lists of installable programs and where to get them, but a lot of the time you don’t need to. For GIMP, I needed to add a repository, but it was as simple as searching for GIMP, clicking “install somethingerother”, waiting for the list to download, and installing GIMP.

Uninstalling can also be done from the software center:

You’ll see here that Flash Player is what is installed.  While it isn’t installed by default in Ubuntu, it’s a prime example of how software that isn’t in the Software Center can be installed.  You visit the download page and simply select one of the versions for Ubuntu-I recommend the .APT. Then let it install, clicking OK at the prompts (it does things like add its own repository).

Browsing the web

Like a good operating system should, Ubuntu comes with Firefox installed by default.  The web browser, while it may be one of the older ones in the market, is still way up there in terms of usefulness and is probably already very familiar to you.  If you want to, Google Chrome and Opera are also available to Ubuntu, as seen in the first screenshot of Ubuntu above.

Another great thing about the “Netbook” version is that you can add websites directly to the home screen. Let’s say I’m on Cogizio.

See that red heart in the corner?

When I click it, Cogizio will be added to the front screen of my computer.

Terminal: The command line of *nix

Being built on the powerful Linux core, Ubuntu has Terminal.  If you’ve ever used a Unix-like system such as Mac OS X, Ubuntu or other Linux flavors, or BSD (mentioning this specifically for one user), then you know how powerful Terminal is.  Rather than go into details here, I’ll just tell you: this is good. Very good.

The User Interface

Where is the familiar task bar?  The start menu?

Ubuntu Netbook Edition is a totally new animal, different from all the other OSes out there: it’s not Ubuntu (although it is), it’s not Mac OS X, and it’s not Windows. It has an overhauled interface built for netbooks: there’s the front screen, the fact that applications open maximized, and the new top bar (to name a few).

You’ll see in that shot of the top bar, it has an Ubuntu logo, a Firefox logo, and a graph-like thing. The Ubuntu logo takes you back to the home screen, and the Firefox logo means I have a window minimized. My current window was the System Monitor.

So… how do I go about trying this Ubuntu Netbook Edition?

I’d recommend reading my excellent guide on Virtual Machines here at dotTech. The ISO (you’ll need this for installing the OS-this is the install medium) is available at Ubuntu.com (it’s a 700MB download). If you try it and love it, then you can install it from a live USB or live CD–I’ll post about those some other time.

This article originally appeared on dotTech (http://dottech.org/freeware-reviews/16532) on Tuesday June 8, 2010. To use this content elsewhere, please read the fair use policy.

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42 comments

  1. Craig Sicknick

    I just installed Ubuntu netbook on an old machine that was running XP. It was a last ditch effort to save the machine since the XP was running terribly and I thought the hardware was still decent. Ubuntu runs perfectly and I am able to use the Netbook for a while longer now.

  2. Locutus
    Author/

    @Emrys: XP is good.

    I only have 40GB on my laptop!  (Which is why I went from XP to XP & Ubuntu, to “oh I just ran out of space on both Ubuntu and XP” to just Ubuntu.)  But then again, I have 2 backup machines.

    Unfortunately some wifi card manufacturers simply haven’t and won’t make Linux drivers, which just makes it a bad experience. 
    (I don’t think there is a CCleaner for Linux.)

  3. Emrys

    @Locutus: Without a back-up machine, I’m leary of leaving XP after trashing my Vaio. I only have 80GB so I don’t want to dual boot another OS. I’d buy another system and see what penguins can do for me, but the last time the wifi was dead and I couldn’t find Ccleaner, blah, blah blah. Like learning another language with no one to talk to.
     
     
     
     
     

  4. Locutus
    Author/

    @Emrys: It’s pretty amazing.  OpenSUSE is not for the beginners, use Ubuntu-Linux for human beings.  Everything works together smoothly, and Compiz Fusion (look for it on your local Youtube) is amazing.

  5. Emrys

    When I tried OpenSUSE I had the impression that there were “too many cooks in the kitchen” or “too many Chiefs and not enough Indians”. I’m back to XP and will have Win7 on my next machine. That is unless some Linux evangelist can convert me….

  6. Jason Carver

    I run the regular Ubuntu 10.04 on my eMachines em250 Netbook, and while support for skype is screwy with the built in mic, it works fine with one plugged into the mic jack. Its very useable! Even detects Wifi just fine.  One big complaint is the touchpad sensitivity on this model. Switch it all the way down or become impatient!

  7. OldElmerFudd

    @Emrys: Wow! What an experience for you!
    Without knowing exactly what distribution of OpenSUSE you tried, I’m pretty sure 10.1 or higher should have worked for you without all the fuss. Whether you selected GNOME or KDE for a desktop environment could have made a difference if the operations weren’t clear to you. Granted, Ubuntu is a little easier for first time users to install. OpenSUSE is a bit more intuitive with non-open source software, imo.
     
    As Locutus said, trying out any new install is safer in a virtual environment. Another option is a Live CD – boot and run Linux without installing. I’d recommend Ubuntu, Puppy Linux, or openSUSE CDs for openers.
    hth

  8. WECH

    it’s always good idea use secondary machine for new OS try out, in my experience, most live linux won’t hurt your system. of course, I used them on primary machine only because I have full backup.
    tested ubuntu today, it works very well, wifi webcam all pickup and configed fire away. only problem is mplayer unable to play my Kodak camera home video, some codec plug-in required. and I don’t know how to install that yet.
    a Vista(capable) VAIO sell for $100? I would buy it if you only got the OS problem, SONY sometimes get tricky for their drivers, if you have preped the recovery disc, that would be much easier.
     

  9. Locutus

    @Emrys: I did use this on a disposable machine–Linux was “scary” and still is.  When this didn’t pan out on the even more disposable computer with no hard drive, I hackintoshed the worse one.  Now I’m a Mac, a PC, and I run Linux. :D

  10. sunny

    Ashraf has morphed…… I say no more.

    Other than this is a very nice intro to Remix. I ‘ve got a netbook sitting around and this article will give me the push into Linux. Thanks.

  11. Emrys

    Hold the phone. This is a warning as a result of a similar Linux experience that I had a year or so ago. Here’s what happened: My trial period of Win7 was over and the obvious option was to reload Vista on the now dead Vaio. I got brave and burned an ISO of OpenSUSE which is another Linux distribution. The result was that my wifi was gone (having never been able to find drivers) and the system was tethered to the wall. Also every song, video and picture that was not backed up was lost. And those saved were retrieved only on a MS system. Worse than that, when I tried to restore Vista, the effort failed with an error stating “insufficient memory”.  As a result I consider myself lucky to sell it as is for $100. IMHO these fringe OS distributions should only be used as the experimental platforms that they themselves claim to be. Nutshell…when I dumped Vista by ISO boot (to Win7), everything still worked. And very well.  When I went to Linux, I had placed the noose around my neck myself and the Penguin kicked the chair out when I tried to go back to MS. Please keep in mind that I am only a geek by sheer will and no training (ask Ashraf about my silly questions) and I already hear the Borg’s giggle. Last word: Go for it. But do so on a secondary machine that you need not depend on (as I did; I still have my little old XP). Comments and replies are welcome; I’ll stay tuned to this one…Live long and prosper…:)