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. The included software lineup is also slightly different too, Java, Flash and the media codecs are already included, but more significantly, it includes OpenOffice 3.0 (whereas Ubuntu 8.10 only includes OpenOffice 2.4 by default). This is really handy if you need to open documents sent by colleagues using the lastest version of Microsoft Office. It also includes Skype so you can ring up your friends for free and tell them how good it is, the new cutting edge Songbird music player from Mozilla and the Picassa photo editor from Google (a list of features can be found on the Ubuntu EEE Wiki. All of this is fronted by the Ubuntu Netboox Remix interface which does an excellent job at getting the most out of the limited screen space on netbooks.
Installation was much easier than the last time I installed Ubuntu on my EEE, back when Ubuntu EEE (as Easy Peasy was know then) first came out. I downloaded the ISO image, went to System -> Administration -> Create a USB startup disk on my main Ubuntu machin, transferred the ISO image to a USB memory stick, plugged the stick into the EEE, started it up, pressed Escape to boot from the USB stick and started the installation process. The installation process itself was much the same as the Ubuntu install process, and is very easy with only a couple of questions to answer. The actual install to the EEE took about 30 minutes, very quick for an operating system install and on the first reboot you are taken right into the Netbook Remix environment. Pretty much everything you need is already installed. A particularly noteworthy point is that the new version of Network Manager is included (as it is with Ubuntu 8.10) which means that many 3G mobile broadband dongles will work with no extra software needed, as an added bonus you can also set them up with a wizard, all you need to know is your network name and what country you are in. The install was missing a couple of things I would have liked, I installed Mozilla Thunderbird straight away as I prefer it to web mail and of course Apache and MySQL which I use for my work. All of this can easily be achieved though Synaptic though.
So onto the name - "Easy Peasy", I must admit I'm not sure about it, but first some background as to why it is no longer called Ubuntu EEE. This all came about because Ubuntu EEE was not an official spin off from the Ubuntu project, and Ubuntu is a trademark. Back in September Jon Ramvi, the man behind Ubuntu EEE got an email from Canonical's (the commercial backer of Ubuntu) trademark team which told him he could no longer use the Ubuntu name because the project was "attaching the brand, quality and assurance messages of the Ubuntu marks to something which is not Ubuntu", after a naming contest the project was renamed "Easy Peasy". This is a really difficult issue as of course Canonical really want to protect the Ubuntu brand and make sure it is always thought of as a high quality operating system, and of course can't have something they don't run being called Ubuntu. It is a shame though that in an area where Linux has had a real impact for the consumer, netbooks, that people will be installing an operating system on their machines which is essentially Ubuntu, having a high quality experience, but may never realise that what they are using is Ubuntu, and so may never think to install it on other machines. It seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, particularly after all of Canonical's excellent work on the Netbook Remix. I suppose a nice plus point of the name "Easy Peasy" is that it directly challenges the idea that Linux is too hard for most users - whick just is not true anymore.
That wasn't the last trademark issue that Jon had to navigate his way around either, as the name begins with the word "Easy" this meant checking with UK business easy.com that this was ok. They are best know for the budget airline easyJet, and, er, not a lot else really unless you happen to live in Milton Keynes and remember Easy Cinema. That didn't stop their trademark attorney laying out some strict rules including "no use of orange/white"; the old Ubuntu EEE logo had orange and white in it he was told sternly that "this would have to stop". He was also told that "in the event that... you moved into a business sector in which we trade... we reserve the right to take action against you", so no talk about Easy Peasy taking off, ok?
For me, using Ubuntu on my EEE PC really brought the machine alive and enjoy its full potential, and I'd like to say thank you to Jon Ramvi and everybody that helped him for their work. The version of Linux that Asus installed on the machine by default wasn't great, and it was difficult installing extra software. Ubuntu EEE brought out the best in the machine and I'm sure Easy Peasy will continue this great work not only for EEE PCs but for other netbooks as well.It would be greatif a manufacturer decided one day to ship their netbooks with already Easy Peasy installed, this would allow Linux netbooks to become an even stronger competitor and show people that Linux can be easy to us, and convenient for the every day user. In fact this might be a really good time to do this as another operating system may soon be making an appearance on the netbook scene: Google Android, originally released for smart phones but over the weekend we all found out that it is possible to run this on netbooks too, including the EEE PC. It looks like netbooks are ready for the next chapter in their story.
*** UPDATE 11 Jan 2009 **
There are some minor bugs with this build of Easy Peasy, a list of common issues can be found at:
(thanks to Sarah Horrigan for the tip!)