I first reviewed the ASUS Eee PC 901 when I was getting frustrated with the Xandros Linux customized installation that it came preinstalled with. Within a couple of days, I immediately installed Easy Peasy over it and had a significantly better experience. And while Canonical was pushing their Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR), I recently decided to install the desktop release and have my netbook run the standard 9.04 release of the Ubuntu distribution. Below are the results to my experience.
Now before I get into the details, I know that this is an appliance and should be used as such. My problem is, that I am used to multitasking and being efficient. Some of the netbook based operating systems restrict the user’s ability to multitask. It does not mean that it is not possible. It just means that it becomes increasingly difficult when every application you open full screens and cannot be adjusted. This is why I wanted to try out the desktop version. This multitasking becomes much easier when I connect the VGA output to my 47″ 1080P HD TV. There is a lot of desktop space to work with. Note that I am familiar with UNR’s desktop switcher. I still wanted to try the desktop version.
I downloaded the ISO from the Ubuntu website and then used unetbootin to convert the ISO image to my USB flash drive. I plugged in the flash drive and powered on the netbook. Before anything, I verified the device boot order in the BIOS. The installer loaded from the USB flash drive and the installation began. The installation was simple and I experienced no problems. After the installation, I removed the USB flash drive and rebooted the PC. All loaded without any problems. This included device drivers. The only thing additional that I had to install was Cheese as my webcam application. Seeing how this was not Easy Peasy or the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, it would not have been configured to install by default.
With regards to performance, this operating system seems to run smoothly. During my customization of the installation, I went ahead and enabled the enhanced 3-D rendering while also installing gDeskCal, Avant Window Navigator, GNOME-Do and Conky. I also modified my startup applications to load all at login.
Two weeks I have been playing with this and have experience nothing but positive results. Visually there are differences between 9.04 and previous releases as you start seeing fancier looking transparent windows informing you that the wireless device has connected to a broadcasting signal. I do not remember how the previous releases handled audio configurations but it seems somewhat intuitive in 9.04. Normally I would go back to my wife’s PC to check this out as she used to run on 8.04 but that too has recently been upgraded.
The most noticeable change is boot time. It is super quick! After grub loaded the kernel image, it takes 20-25 seconds for me to be logged in and working on my desktop. Another few seconds go by and I get a message that my wireless is connected. Wow! Fedora 11 Leonidas (just released 2 days ago) has also sped up boot times to about 20 seconds. This is probably in response to all those instant-on PC setups such as the Splashtop, etc. The focus being: get me to my desktop and working in as little time possible. I wonder how Microsoft will compete with that on Windows. Even when I tried the Release Candidate of 7 for the 2 days I virtualized it through VirtualBox, it still took some time to load the OS and get me to my desktop.
I believe Canonical is doing an excellent job with this distribution. I just wish I could see more laptops sold with a customized version of Ubuntu pre-installed. As Mark Shuttleworth had pointed out in the past, Canonical’s first focus is to go up against Apple. Apple is well known for its visually appealing hardware and software. The only way for Ubuntu to get its chance is to have its distribution pre-installed on capable hardware where it can then be pre-customized with whatever 3-D rendering and applications are required.