One of the most common questions asked on the Linux based sub-reddits at Reddit.com is “Which Linux distribution would be the best for a netbook?”.
The truth is that what works for one person may not work for another. I have however reviewed a large number of Linux distributions and many of these reviews have been conducted using an Acer Aspire One D255 Netbook.
The Acer Aspire One has a 1,6 ghz Atom processor, just 1gb of RAM and a small 160 gb hard drive. The netbook comes pre-installed with Windows 7 starter, dual booting with an old version of Android. To be honest it runs like a hog.
With Linux installed the Acer Aspire One is actually a very nice little netbook but it does rely on you being sensible about what you are installing.
The following distributions have either been installed on the Acer Aspire One or I believe would run perfectly well on an Acer Aspire One. I have included links to the original reviews so that you can see any issues that I found.
I reviewed Bodhi Linux last year when it was version 2.1. The latest version is 2.4.
Bodhi uses the e17 desktop environment and it looks very stylish. The installation is quick taking between 5 and 10 minutes.
Connecting to the internet was simply a case of clicking on the network icon on the top shelf and choosing the appropriate wireless connection.
Flash doesn’t work out of the box but it is easy enough to install.
There aren’t many applications installed by default but Bodhi provides applications in bundles that can be installed via the Midori browser. You can also install applications by using the familiar Synaptic application.
There were a couple of minor issues (which may have been fixed now) but Bodhi is easy to use and very responsive on the netbook.
I tried Crunchbang earlier on this year and although I didn’t try it on the netbook I did try it on a computer with fairly low specifications.
Crunchbang perhaps isn’t for people who like their bells and whistles. You will be amazed however at the performance Crunchbang gives you.
Connecting to the internet is simply a case of selecting the appropriate wireless network by clicking the network icon from the toolbar at the top.
Crunchbang comes pre-installed with GIMP for image editing, VLC media player, Abiword and Gnumeric.
There isn’t an audio player installed by default but you can use Synaptic for downloading and installing applications.
Flash works straight away but to play MP3s you have to install the GStreamer Ugly Plugin.
If you are a Windows user then you will find that Linux Lite looks quite familiar especially if you are used to using Windows XP.
You can connect to the internet by clicking on the network icon in the system tray. Linux Lite uses the WiCD application for connecting to wireless networks. It is fairly obvious what you have to do. Pick a network and enter the relevant security details.
To install software in Linux Lite you can either use Synaptic or to install common applications use the “Install Additional Software” menu item. The latter option makes it easy to install WINE, Virtualbox and the Restricted Extras package (which then gives you Flash, the ability to play MP3s, Java and truetype fonts).
Applications included by default include GIMP for image editing, LibreOffice, Mumble voice chat, Steam, and VLC.
Linux Lite is very stable, responsive and comes with a good set of applications.
LXPup is a variation of Puppy Linux that uses the LXDE desktop.
Puppy Linux comes with a great range of small applications that just do the job required without too many bells and whistles.
For instance to connect to the internet you can use the simple network setup tool. There are dozens of programs installed by default including Abiword and Gnumeric.
LXPup includes CD rippers, media converters, video players and the excellent PMusic player.
Flash isn’t installed but there is a menu option that makes it easy enough to get it.
Puppy Linux is great fun to use and you get so much installed by default and it is incredibly responsive.
MacPup is another version of Puppy Linux but this time it is set up to look more like a Mac desktop.
MacPup is excellent and is my favourite version of Puppy Linux. It comes with the usual number of applications that you expect with Puppy Linux and there is also the Quickpet application which makes it easy to install programs such as GIMP and Audacity.
Connecting to the internet is as simple as using the simple network setup tool. Flash isn’t installed by default but can easily be installed via the package manager.
I didn’t actually try Manjaro on the netbook but I did try it on a computer with fairly low specifications and as the version I reviewed was the Openbox edition then it should be perfect for a netbook.
The first thing you will notice is the ultra quick boot time. The performance of Manjaro overall is also very impressive.
Connecting to the internet is as easy as selecting the network icon and then choosing the appropriate wireless network.
Navigating around Manjaro requires right clicking on the desktop and navigating to the chosen application.
There aren’t many applications installed by default but you can use Pacman to install applications.
Flash worked but getting music to play via the default XNoise application was a little tricky.
I would say that Manjaro is for the more experienced user and might not be the first port of call for people who are new to Linux but for people who don’t mind experimenting and who have the skills to find their way around Linux it is ideal.
Linux Mint 15 XFCE
Most distributions running XFCE will be great for a Linux netbook. Linux MINT provides a standard interface whether you are using a laptop, desktop or netbook.
For more powerful machines the Cinnamon desktop would be the desktop of choice, however the look and feel is the same with the XFCE version but without the glamour. Substance over style.
With Linux Mint you get everything working out of the box. Connecting to the internet is as easy as clicking the network icon and choosing the appropriate wireless network.
Flash works without having to install anything and MP3s play without installing extra codecs.
Linux Mint 15 comes with LibreOffice and GIMP installed by default.
I reviewed Peppermint 3 but the latest version is now Peppermint 4.
Peppermint utilises the concept of cloud computing.
Basically you use web applications for all your needs and using the concept of a site specific browser you turn the web application into a desktop application.
If you don’t like that concept then you can use Peppermint Linux in the same was as Lubuntu. Peppermint uses the LXDE desktop and comes with Synaptic for installing desktop applications.
SolusOS uses the Consort desktop environment which is the Phoenix out of the ashes of Gnome 2.
The layout will again be familiar for Windows users and the menu system looks very similar to the Windows 7 menu.
Flash and MP3s work straight away and connecting to the internet is as simple as choosing the appropriate wireless connection after clicking on the network icon.
SolusOS comes with PlayOnLinux installed, Dropbox, Firefox, LibreOffice, Rhythmbox and VLC player.
I used SolusOS for a number of months on the Acer Aspire one and I can vouch that it works really well.
SolydX uses the XFCE desktop. It is based on Debian and is very crisp and clean looking.
SolydX uses the WiCD network manager for connecting to the internet and comes with Flash and MP3 codecs installed by default.
There is a good range of fairly lightweight applications including Firefox, Exaile (Audio), VLC player, Abiword and Gnumeric.
SolydX provides a great blend between functionality and performance.
If you want to go more mainstream then Xubuntu is Ubuntu with the XFCE desktop.
For me Xubuntu provides the best method of navigation around the XFCE desktop by providing the panel at the top and a panel of icons at the bottom.
Using Flash and playing MP3s requires the installation of Xubuntu restricted extras.
There aren’t many applications installed by default but you can use the software centre to install anything you require.
Zorin OS Lite
Zorin is now at version 7. My review was written back at version 6.
Basically Zorin OS is made to emulate the look and feel of other operating systems. You can choose to make the desktop look like Windows 2000 or Mac OSX within Zorin Lite.
For users used to Windows it really does provide a familiar look and feel.
Connecting to the internet is as easy as choosing the wireless connection by clicking on the network icon in the system tray.
You can choose the browser that you wish to use using the browser manager.
Flash and MP3s were supported straight away and Zorin OS Lite comes with Audacious as the music player which is a good choice.
There aren’t many applications installed by default but there is Abiword for editing documents, a PDF viewer, a messenger, a personal organiser, calculator and mail client.
You can install extra software by using the Software Centre, Synaptic or the Zorin Extra Software tool. The Zorin Extra Software tool includes WINE and VLC.
Update!!! Here are another 6
When choosing an operating system for a netbook you need to go for a more lightweight distribution but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on functionality.
You can have a stylish looking desktop and all the applications you would normally use.
Thankyou for reading.
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To make it easier for everyone who wants to read my Ubuntu based articles and tutorials I have formatted them, rewritten them and added extra content which has resulted in the eBook “From Windows To Ubuntu”.
The book isn’t massive like a SAMS guide so it isn’t going to take you forever to read it but there is certainly a lot of content.