November 2, 2009

795 words 4 mins read

Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 Review

I’ve got an ASUS Eee PC 1000, and it is a fine little device. Originally it came with Xandros, which quickly became Ubuntu. I was especially happy futzing about with UNR 9.04. Unfortunately for Linux, Windows 7 was coming out, so I wanted to try that out on the netbook. I like Windows 7, but it wasn’t designed specially for Netbooks; I find that it runs a lot of background processes that slows the machine down. So with the release of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala, it was time to re-install again! Of course, I wasn’t going to install the regular Ubuntu when there was the Netbook remix available. I have written my review in the form of pros/cons. Much of my comparison is based on UNR 9.04 (what I remember of it) and Windows.

==

Good ==

  • Hardware support is very good. Picked up wifi, sound, and proper screen resolution right off the bat.
  • Much slicker than UNR 9.04.
  • Ubuntu Software Center is much nicer for newbies. It would be better if you had the option to rank by popularity or similar criteria. That way you know what games are worth installing, for example.
  • The sound situation is much better than it was in 9.04. It worked properly off the bat (as previously noted), but more importantly it was at an audible level. In 9.04 due to the oddity of pulseaudio and other hacks, sound for me in many cases was extremely quiet.
  • They changed the running application box slightly so the inactive applications icons were grayed out, in style with the rest of the “Start Bar” (for lack of a better name). This way the application that was active popped out much better.
  • The boot process is more “user friendly” and smoother looking. Basically, that means it looks less scary, not necessarily faster.
  • For the most part, “it just works”

== Bad ==

  • Annoying to remap file associations. In Windows you Right-Click > Open With > Choose Program… Find the program you want and click “Always use”. Ubuntu has this same ability, but no “Always Use”. To do so under Ubuntu you much Right-Click > Properties > Open With > Select Program. It isn’t a huge deal once you know, but why not put all the “Open With” stuff in “Open With”?
  • No Windows key shortcut mappings. I realize it is Linux, but most of us are used to using Windows. My Eee doesn’t actually have a “Windows Key”, it has a “Home Key” (with a picture of a house, rather than the Windows icon), but functions as the Windows key in Windows. For example, I had to ask what “Minimize to Desktop” was (it is Alt+Ctrl+D by default), why not add the option to have Win+M (or “Mod4+M” as the keyboard mapper) also as a default for that. Run Terminal? Win+R. Few simple bits would make life for us “switchers” much easier.
  • Some applications that are included in the NETBOOK remix, don’t work on a netbook sized screen. “Lagno”, for example, which is an Othello clone. While I really enjoy Othello, the game is completely unplayable for me because it has an entire row and a half of grid spaces that fall off the bottom of the screen. I’m at the fairly standard netbook screen resolution of 1024×600 (tt doesn’t go any bigger). I realize I’m picking on applications rather than the operating system here, but Canonical included it by default.
  • So far for me, the boot process is much, much slower. I don’t remember what (if any) optimizations I had made on 9.04, but I had a boot time of 16 seconds (according to bootchart). On 9.10 (again with bootchart) my boot time is 1 minute 9 seconds. Windows 7 boots up just as fast if not faster.

== Overall ==

In the end I’m happy with UNR 9.10. I think the interface is much nicer than the previous implementation, along with the netbook UI being laid out in a more logical and screen economizing manner. The boot speeds are less than stellar, but that really doesn’t upset me that much because in the end I use suspend & hibernate far more than I use reboot (plus I really haven’t tried to optimize it). Out of the box, everything works fairly well, but if I had my druthers some of the software defaults would be different like VLC instead of “Movie Player” and rythmbox. I would recommend UNR 9.10 to anyone who wanted to use their netbook for the standard netbook tasks (web surfing, word processing, email). Some of the more adventurous uses of Netbooks, like say GPS, are more limited by Linux as a whole, rather than by Ubuntu specifically. Even still, for costing nothing, it is a damn nice OS.