Ten reasons Linux is the best choice for netbooksThose who believe Windows is the best netbook operating system are plain wrong, because Linux is a much better fit, says Jack Wallen.
I have read countless Microsoft-funded studies that try to persuade me Windows is already dominant for netbooks. According to these studies, Linux might as well just take a curtain call because its netbook act is over.
But that picture is simply not true. If it were, Asus would not be selling netbooks with Linux preinstalled.
Linux is not going anywhere but up in the netbook market. Here are 10 reasons that justify my position.
1. Netbook hardware is the perfect match for Linux
One of the biggest arguments people use for preferring Windows to Linux is: "You can't play games with Linux." But you cannot play games on a netbook either — apart from web-based games.
There are many other types of software you cannot or will not use on a netbook. No Photoshop, no QuarkXPress, and none of those proprietary apps that people seem to need to do their day-to-day business. Netbooks serve a small purpose — to let you get online — and they do it well.
Linux is the perfect networking operating system. It plays well with other operating systems, it is secure and fast. But one thing any purchaser of a netbook should know is that space is prime.
Although a fresh installation of Eeebuntu might take up nearly 2.8GB, you can quickly reduce its size by removing applications you do need using the Synaptic package manager. Windows XP with SP2 takes up 2.5GB so the difference is minimal.
2. Netbooks require a secure operating system
If you are using Windows XP on an ultra-portable piece of hardware, you are a target for viruses. And you will not be installing Norton or McAfee on your netbook — especially if you are using a flash-based storage netbook.
With Linux, you will not need those tools in the first place. Your Linux-based netbook can travel anywhere you want and you will not have to worry about picking up viruses or spyware as you would with a Windows-based netbook.
3. The interface is key
If you have limited screen size, why not use a desktop interface designed for it?
Instead of using the standard desktop metaphor, the Eeebuntu Netbook Remix desktop introduces an interface that is perfectly suited for the desktop size offered by netbooks. This interface makes the netbook experience far more efficient than Windows.
It may not be what you are used to. But it is cleaner, faster, and more user-friendly, and will soon become familiar to you.
This interface is not different just for the sake of being different. It is obvious it was well thought-out and aimed at the new PC user as well as at the new netbook user.
4. Your netbook can be more than just a slow laptop
When I bought my last netbook, one of the first things I did was install Eeebuntu over the purchased Xandros Linux. Why did I do this? Because Xandros is a limited operating system, whereas Eeebuntu is a full-blown Linux distro that happens to install on an Eee PC.
When using Eeebuntu on a netbook, you really feel like you have the power of a full laptop at your fingertips. You can even install a full-blown Lamp — Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP — server on your netbook if you like.
5. Linux will keep costs down
One of the reasons why netbooks are so popular is that they are cheap. Where, other than eBay, can you find a PC for near or under $300 (£200)? And soon, the magical $200 (£120) price tag will be reached when Freescale releases its Linux-only ARM-based netbook.
Remember, Linux is open source, so any software you are installing will be free. Because of the cost of the Linux operating system, the cost of netbooks can continue to fall.
If Microsoft were to attempt to use Vista or Windows 7, the cost of your average netbook would not fall. What about any extra software...you want to install — or any antivirus or firewall software you will want to use when you are running a Windows operating system on your netbook? You will pay for it.
6. Linux offers more choice
There are plenty of Linux varieties to choose from. Even with netbooks, you can go with the basic Xandros or even try the full-blown 3D Elive+Compiz — yes, even on a netbook.
I have witnessed the 3D goodness of Compiz running on a netbook and it is impressive. Of course, it is not for everyone. But that is OK, because there really is a Linux distribution for everyone.
Just be careful when you make a choice. Some distributions such as Eeebuntu and OpenGeeeU include the array kernel, which has wireless for netbooks built in by default. Some of the others will require you to take a few extra steps to build in wireless support.
With some of these distributions, there are different sub-variations. Eeebuntu has the standard release, which is just like a standard Ubuntu desktop, along with the Netbook Remix, which is a special desktop designed with the Eee PC user in mind.
7. You will gain speed
I have used the same netbook running both Windows XP and Eeebuntu, and there is no comparison. The Eeebuntu desktop was noticeably snappier than that of Windows XP. The web browser and mail clients opened nearly twice as fast on the Eeebuntu install than they did on Windows XP.
Of course, there are differences between the various Linux flavours. For instance, the Xandros distribution is slower than the Eeebuntu distribution, but the Xandros is noticeably faster than OpenGeeeU and Elive.
8. Improvements come faster and more often
Just like any other software in the open-source community, Linux netbook operating systems will continue to improve at a much faster rate than the Windows operating systems for netbooks.
For one thing, more people are working to improve the experience. It is well known that open-source bugs are found and fixed far faster than Windows bugs. That situation helps improve the Linux netbook operating system more rapidly than anything Microsoft can manage.
Open-source users are more apt to submit bug reports, and open-source developers implement patches faster. These patches and bug fixes will not come in the form of service packs as they do in Windows, which are released infrequently and in large chunks. Consequently, you are less likely to mess up your network when updating a Linux-based netbook.
9. The next version will work
Are you sure Windows 7 will work on your Eee PC? And if it does, how well will it work? You can be sure the next release of Eeebuntu will work on your Eee PC because it was made for that hardware. From release to release, you never know what a Windows operating system will work on.
Vista was a disaster on the netbook. Windows 7 has yet to be released or to even prove it can work well on netbook hardware. And XP is eventually going to meet its maker. So why take a chance on purchasing hardware that Microsoft will make irrelevant with its next release? Instead, rest assured your Linux operating system will continue to work whenever you upgrade it.
10. Support is better
Finding support for a Windows-based netbook is not as easy as it is for a standard laptop or desktop. The great thing about the Linux netbook community is that developers are interested in making sure the operating system works well and are keen to listen to users.
So you know if you have a problem with your Linux-based netbook, a quick search on Google will probably find a simple solution to your problem.
And if you fail to find an answer on Google, you can go to the website of the distribution developers, where you will find either a support forum, a contact form or email address. Getting help on your Windows-based netbook will require a call to the company that sold you it or a call to Microsoft — or you will have to hope your problem has already been reported and fixed so you can find it on Google.
Give it a shot
I am always amazed that people think, even for a moment, that Windows is a better operating system for netbooks. If you are curious, try a couple of Linux distributions on your netbook.
Not only will you be thrilled with the difference, you will probably find yourself having to install that same operating system on your friends' and family's netbooks. And you will be all the happier that you did.
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