I have got fed up with the rubbish Linpus operating system that came on my Acer Aspire One. I tried putting XP on it but with the slow solid state hard drive of this particular Aspire One model it was painful, XP makes too many writes to be suitable for this kind of drive. As a result of this I have put up with Acer’s version of Linpus, tweaking it and editing it to make it bearable, because none of the other Linux distributions have proper support for the Aspire One .
Last weekend the latest version of Ubuntu, Jaunty Jackalope (that is 9.04) was released. Apparently the desktop version is “as slick as Win7, Mac OS X“, and I’m sure it makes a very good operating system, however I’m not really interested in the desktop release, I do a lot of gaming and currently the support for this on Linux is very poor, with very few developers making native Linux versions. What does interest me is alongside the desktop and server downloads there is something new called the Netbook Remix. As they list my netbook as supported I thought I would give it a go.
I last used Ubuntu back in 2005 on the laptop I had back then, I was quite impressed comparing it with other Linux distros of the time but there was a lot that wasn’t working, the lack of wifi was particularly irritating as it meant I had to dual boot XP and keep swapping OS to access the internet and get the rest of it working. In the end the lack of wifi made me go back to just XP. Since then I have tried several other Linux distros on that old laptop, and when I got my desktop to replace it I had it permanently running Mandriva 2007 as I found it had the best out of the box support (still no wifi, but I shared the internet connection from my desktop to get around this).
That laptop has since been retired, the netbook replacing it. So other than Acer’s version of Linpus I have not used a Linux distro in over a year. I said that the OS the One ships with needs a lot of tweaking to make it bearable, and if you head over to the Aspire One User forums you will find information on how to do this. The desktop is very limiting, has no wallpaper and just has some big icons on it. Tweaking gave me a classic desktop and menu, but this is not ideal for the small screen. The desktop of Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix is actually not that dissimilar to the original on the Aspire, the thing that stick out immediately however is the fact that behind the netbook interface you can see a wallpaper, so you can have your own custom pictures. Looking a bit deeper shows that there are far more changes than the superficial ones.
To give you a quick comparison the fist image below is the original Aspire One OS, the second is Ubuntu.
The second thing I noticed was that the wireless worked immediately, as I mentioned, this has always been a killer for other Linux distrobutions I have tried . Now it is connected to the internet there it becomes useful as a netbook again.
The update manager is nice and easy to use, and is the first thing you should look at after installing any OS, there have been several changes in the last week, so it is clearly running regularly.
The next thing I did was swap out the default software that comes loaded on Ubuntu netbook remix for the programs I wanted, this was easy as there are a huge number of programs available in the Ubuntu repositories. The interface for this is easy to use, think of it like the Windows “Add and Remove Programs”, but it lists programs you don’t have installed as well.
You can search within this list, select the programs you want, deselect the ones you don’t, click apply and it does the rest. The main changes I made were removing Open Office, replacing it with Abiword, installing The GIMP and installing Warsow.
Warsow may not look as pretty on my netbook as it does on my PC but it does run. This was something I was unable to get working properly before, mainly because every time I tried to update my graphics drivers under Linpus, it would break something else. The fact that this is a new OS means that it has good drivers for the graphics card and Warsow now runs very smoothly (as long as it isn’t running a bot, but that is CPU limited). Sadly I can’t work out how to take a screen shot of this so you will have to take my word for it. Sorry.
It comes with Firefox 3 as the default web browser, as well as an extension that allows you to save a bookmark to your main screen. Just click the heart and you can you will find a new launcher in your favourites on the netbook interface.
One thing I was disappointed in is the fact that I have been unable to access shared files on my windows network. It can see all the computers but it is unable to mount the shared folders. This I think needs more looking into, as I’m sure it can do it, it is however somewhat annoying that it doesn’t work out of the box.
I’m sure with a bit of work I will be able to get this working, I had it working before I installed Ubuntu, but it wasn’t exactly a default feature in the Aspire One’s OS anyway, I only got it on that with a lot of work.
What I can say at the moment is that I will not be going back to Linpus, I might even go as far as to erase my recovery USB stick for the netbook. Despite the few glitches, most of which I am sure will be ironed out in the 9.10 release, Ubuntu is far superior to the OS that came with this machine. I highly recommend it if you are unhappy with the OS on your netbook.
 At least not without lots of hassle that I can’t be bothered with.
 Since putting it on my netbook I have tried Ubuntu 9.04 on my desktop using WUBI, and failed to get the wireless card working yet again.