Microsoft pounded itself on the chest last week saying over 96% of netbooks now use Windows. This made me somewhat sad, because I was hoping these little computers could be the break Linux had been waiting for.
The first couple of netbooks all had Linux pre-installed. Unfortunately, Asus chose to go with a custom Linux distribution for which it has yet to release its first update. No Firefox 3, no Flash 10 and no easy way to get additional software. Except for the easy to use interface, they came up with the worst example of what Linux can be. But if there’s one thing Linux offers its choice. It is my opinion that Ubuntu is the most user-friendly Linux distro out there, and I highly recommend giving it a go on your netbook.
1. It does everything netbooks are good at
There’s no Adobe Photoshop for Linux, and the same goes for many other professional applications. There are alternatives, but that’s not the point here. Running Photoshop on an Atom processor is no fun. That’s the kind of thing you do on a desktop PC or a high-end laptop. Ubuntu comes with everything installed that you need to surf the web, chat, download (a bittorrent client!) and email. Oh, and OpenOffice too.
2. It’s fun
If you’re even slightly geekish, you’ll probably like tinkering with a new Operating System. Ubuntu, like any Linux distribution is extremely configurable. Lots of options to play with, tons of new software to get to know. But even if you’re not into all that, you’ll find Ubuntu to be incredibly easy to operate and very stable.
3. It’ll soon boot in seconds
Intel’s Moblin version of Linux has proven that it doesn’t need to take minutes to boot into a fully operational OS. Moblin boots in seconds, even on slower hardware. They’ve released it into the wild on the very same day a Microsoft’s post, and I think good things will come of that. Because of the nature of open source software, these good things will probably end up in Ubuntu as well.
Linux is the software equivalent of punk rock. Some Mac users may credit themselves for being rebellious for not going with Bill Gates, but if you really want to ‘stick it to the man’, that includes Steve Jobs too. With Linux there is no man. Linux is free as in speech.
5. It makes your netbook more than just a slower, smaller laptop
I used to have Windows XP on my Asus Eee-PC 901. It came pre-installed. It took a long time to boot and then I had to wait for the updates to finish. Firewall, virus definitions, Windows Updates. Not fun at all. And once all that was done I’d be looking at XP’s ugly (and ancient) user interface. I could then do ll the same stuff as on my main PC, just a lot slower.
With Ubuntu, using my netbook has become a little adventurous. Because I’m still new to Linux I’ll occasionally need to figure out how to do something, and that’s when you come across Linux’ best feature. Its user community is full of helpful people. I’ve never not been able to do something I wanted, and even the most challenging issues took no longer than minutes to fix.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics?
I wonder if Microsoft included people like me in their statistics btw. Most netbooks might be sold with Windows on them, but the only reason I didn’t get one with Linux was because those weren’t actually available. Very few Linux models are, so everyone wanting to run Linux on them will still need to buy a Windows version. That will definitely skew the statistics.
But I don’t want to be a poor sport. People like Windows. It’s familiar. Yet many of those people buy a 4×4 car because the commercials told them it would add adventure to their lives. So how about really going off the beaten track on your netbook? Perhaps that’s the angle Linux should use to lure in new users. Linux as the SUV of operating systems, who’d have thought?