Netbook OS showcase, linux options priced right

The open source community has been hard at work releasing a wide assortment of free linux based operating systems for almost anything. Linus Torvalds is known as the father of Linux after writing the first kernel in 1991, everything afterward is a result of his quest to be free. In fact, all these (linux) operating systems are free, and easily obtainable from sites all over.

Netbooks are nearly in every household these days, most of which are running Windows XP or the newly famed Windows 7. If your tired of Windows or ready to venture out into the world of Linux, you have quite a bit of options. I put together a list of some of the more popular versions of Linux specifically designed for Netbooks.

Most of these OS’s can run entirely live from a CD or thumbstick, so you can try them out before you do a full install or wipe anything. You can also setup a dual-boot and choose between your current OS and a Linux flavor of your choice during bootup. If your new to Linux some of this maybe a bit scary. The forums and discussions for each OS have lists of links and tutorials to help you get started.

Most linux variants also include or list a recommended windows replacement apps for things like Office, Media Players, Web browsers and wireless connection managers.Just be sure to do your homework and find out which Linux distro is right for you. No matter what you do, making a good backup of all your data first can lead to less headaches and fist smashed equipment down the road.

Windows XP: XP is still available for netbooks and I am gonna say the primary OS for whats already on the streets today. XP is solid and reliable, and compatible with almost every netbook made to date. This is probably the OS that came installed on your netbook from the factory.

Pros: Very solid and reliable, common to most people, drivers and most all programs compatible
Cons: Same old OS you had since ’02

Windows Vista: Not recommended for Netbooks. Although most will run Vista, I do not recommend it. Keep this one for your two year old laptop or desktop until you go for the Win 7 upgrade. Some business models came with Vista but that doesn’t mean you need to try it. I recommend to stay away.

Pros: Newer than XP, some slick new UI designs
Cons: Not very lightweight, resource hog, expensive

Windows 7: Winner for the MS options, this OS runs on almost anything. I had the beta of Utimate running on a few of my own netbooks without a hitch since Feb of 09. Drivers usually are self detecting, and it doesn’t use too much resources. If its gotta be Windows, this is my choice. I highly recommend Home Premium over Starter if you have the option, Starter is limited, which annoys a lot of people.

Pros: Runs fast, Compatible with almost any netbook, great new UI, easy to use, great program compatibility, SSD and multi-touch support
Cons: Starter edition included with most netbooks is limited, expensive if you have to buy, did I mention its expensive

Mac OSX: (Hackintosh) No native support for any netbooks, but not very hard to install with some help around the web. This OS is of course popular with the MAC community and finds its way on a lot of Dell Mini Netbooks. I have not used this OS myself but assisted in installation on a Dell and it was not very hard. All seemed to run pretty smoothly and most drivers and software run fine.

Pros: Its MAC, either you love it or you hate it. Full OS, prices vary. Runs smooth on machines I have seen.
Cons: Its MAC, either you love it or you hate it. Not natively supported. Can be expensive.

Chromium OS: Chrome OS is a very simple minimalistic OS that is really based on the web. If your familiar with the Chrome browser, the OS will look very similar but with of course the addition of the backend of a linux based OS. Chrome is due out publically sometime later this year but beta code can be found throughout the web. There are some companies jumping on board promising OS will be included on future netbook releases and news of the OS actually working on almost any type of computer. Some videos have floated around of the early code being installed on some netbooks and devices, but nothing stable has yet been released.

Pros: Tons of development going into the project, extremely simple interface, Should run on almost anything once complete.
Cons: Not ready for public use yet, May lack some advanced OS features for business use

Ubuntu Remix: Ubuntu is probably one of the more widely used Linux distro’s ever put out. The remix is a slimmed down version of Ubuntu and of course is free. If you order a netbook with linux on it, this is probably the base of the version you are getting. Some programs included with the netbook are not free, but the base is free and available from Ubuntu for download. This has minimal system requirements and generally a simple setup. Linux forums are among the best for support.

Pros: Free, Can be installed from a thumbdrive, only takes 4GB of space, easy to use interface, lots of support around the web, Free open source program alternatives for almost anything you can think of
Cons: Not the same windows your used to. Wont be able to run some of your native windows apps.

EEEbuntu: Another Linux Ubunto based distro specifically design for Asus EEEpc models. Most of the drivers and Asus software work right out of the box so there is less setup and installation than with other versions of the OS. The community is big and has some great support on the forum and wiki page. Basically a better Ubuntu version if you happen to have an Asus EEEpc.

Pros: Free, drivers/apps work out of the box for EEE models, based on popular Ubuntu, USB stick compatible
Cons: designed only for EEE models

Leeenux is another EEEpc specific OS that works right out of the box. This distro is free just like the rest of the Linux platforms and is very lightweight. The OS is designed to be ran on the original 7″ EEE’s and is based from Ubuntu Remix. The OS installs most drivers you need and only takes up about 1.2GB of space once installed. They don’t add any extra bloatware and include EEE-control which keeps your battery running longer.

Pros: Works out of the box, no drivers to install, maximizes batter life, Free
Cons: Works best with 7″ screens only, A few bugs during install. (fixes available)

Moblin Linux is a full feature OS that is available for Atom based Netbooks and Nettops. Moblin has many built in features including 3G support (limited), application installer, BT support, connection manager, and an updated Internet browser. The Moblin team updates the OS based on user feedback and is highly involved in customer forums.

Pros: Simple interface, Easy app manager, great support out of the box, Good support, Always growing
Cons: limited to Atom based machines

Jolicloud is another Linux variant designed for netbooks. Another out of the box working OS that automatically picks the right drivers and setup for you, so most of the installation is hassle free. The small OS is optimized for the best graphics, performance, wireless and battery so you can get the most of out of your netbook without all the extras you don’t need or want. This comes highly recommended from some friends that use hands on. All the apps and updates are a snap to install and use.

Pros: Simple installation from a windows machine, Cloud backup, huge compatibility list of netbooks and hardware, easy updates and app installs
Cons: ??? None yet, find me some.


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