Every time I look at my netbook I keep thinking I've got a new machine, and an expensive one at that, but I haven't, I just installed the new Ubuntu 9.10 (code named Karmic) Netbook Remix on it. The upgrade cost me nothing, not even £25, and I've still got an operating system with designer good looks, a new user interface that even more elegant and user friendly than before. Installing it is easy and everything just seems to work out of the box. The changes in this new release of Ubuntu though are more than just skin deep, and show signs of the cloud based future ahead for computing.
ubuntu netbook remix
Today I installed the beta version of the upcoming Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 on my Asus EEE PC. So why illustrate this post with a picture of a foam hand with the word "goal" written on it? Well, as you may or may not know I like to attend ice hockey matches from time to time and whenever a goal is scored is is fun to wave around this foam hand in celebration. When I had a look the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 today I had a similar feeling of excitement! This is a real winner.
Netbooks have become a bit of a haven of innovation when it comes to operating system user experience design. While proprietary operating systems have settled for just working or not being unusably slow on netbooks, Linux distributions have become drivers of change, questioning the traditional approaches to a computer desktop and designing new experiences like the "Easy Mode" interface on the Xandros Asus EEE PCs, Ubuntu's Netbook Remix interface and Intel's Moblin project. Jolicloud is a derivative of Ubuntu Netbook Remix that aims to bring "the cloud" and your netbook closer than ever before by keeping all of your data on the web and using the operating system simply as a launcher for web apps. It is still an alpha at the moment, so it might change quite a lot before release, but thanks to Dan Monsieurle I managed to get an invite (which was needed at the time) and decided to take it for a test drive on my Asus EEE PC.
The recent release of Ubuntu 9.04 (a.k.a Jaunty) saw the release of the usual desktop and server editions but also a new edition: Netbook Remix. Confusingly we have all being talking about Netbook Remix for some time, meaning the distinctive interface that makes the most of the limited screen space on a netbook, but here we mean Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) in the sense of an installation image that contains the entire operating system, including the Netbook Remix interface so you can easily install it on your netbook. This was a gap that was filled by popular derivative distributions such as Easy Peasy and Eeebuntu. I've been trying it out on my Asus EEE PC 701.
Monday saw the release of Easy Peasy 1.0, a version of Ubuntu 8.10 adapted for netbooks like the Asus EEE PC. I've just installed it onto my EEE, and am looking forward to using it. It is essentially similar to Ubuntu, but has some important differences: firstly all of the drivers needed for the EEE are included by default, meaning, amoungst other things, that the WiFi will work straight out of the box.
It's a sad fact that most of the mobile operators, in the UK at least, sell their mobile broadband solutions with no support for Linux computers, despite the popularity of this operating system on netbooks.
*** Please note that this post is now out of date. Ubuntu Netbook Remix has been updated and now works on the EEE 701 without the need for the modifications detailed below. See: http://www.greenhughes.com/content/quick-peek-ubuntu-netbook-remix-910-… ***
I can't help noticing the number of Asus EEE PCs around now, it is strange to think that twelve months ago these weren't really about and there was still discussion of when will be the "year of the Linux desktop". Of course, events took a different turn, and suddenly the desktop didn't seem so important anymore. The real prize was a computer that was small and convenient, inexpensive and easy to carry about.