Saturday, 16 May 2009

Linux Netbooks

Yes I know we're not supposed to call them netbooks but I don't care, everyone does now.

Today I helped a friend of mine buy a netbook. She told me she wanted 'one of those tiny laptops for typing lecture notes on.' She knew what she wanted, and wanted to pay under £200. Well, we walked to PC World, we had a look, she played with them, asked me a few questions regarding why it was different from her desktop PC, was satisfied with the answers I gave and decided to buy a pink Acer Aspire One.

When she got back she un-boxed it in my flat, she wanted to make sure she could use it properly before going back to her flat. The un-boxing feeling, even for me, observing, was fantastic. I saw the little card with the GNU GPL on it, which made my heart leap slightly. Not seeing any windows logos or microsoft branding was a fantastic breath of fresh air. It felt like something fresh, something free, something fun!

She named it (of course) and had a little fun setting it up. When I got a chance to play with it, I first set about making it work with my wireless network, which it found, associated with, and was happy to use, then used the included "Live Update" utility to make sure it was all current.

Having a play with it myself I have to say, Linpus is actually very nice, some people give it negative reviews, but even first impressions were good. It booted from cold in 15 seconds, was very snappy and was very easy to navigate. It's based on Fedora 8, with the XFCE4 window manager (Made to look a bit XP-like to make windows users happy). OpenOffice started quickly, and she happily spent a good few hours typing up some lecture notes on it.

I can see a few problems occurring as she uses it, on Monday she'll take it onto campus, and I don't think it'll play nice with the WPA2-enterprise network we have to connect to, but that's only due to the version of NetworkManager it has on it not supporting it. We also have the option of connecting via unprotected wifi then VPN, which may be easier to set up. We shall see. There are lots of places with information about connecting by either of these methods, so I'll get that sorted when she tells me it doesn't work.

All in all, she seems very happy with it. We'll see how her relationship with it progresses as time goes on.

I'll be honest, I'd love one myself. I may even go and get one now I've seen what they're like. I'm not sure what I'd run on it though, perhaps the netbook remix of Ubuntu. But will it boot as fast? It would need to...


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