Yup, I’m taking a delve into the netbook linux distribution world, and because I’m lucky enough to have a netbook that utilizes an Intel ATOM processor I have the opporunity to make use of Meebo! So we’re going to take a look at a few linux distributions both meant for and not necessarily meant for netbooks. I have basically had my netbook since they first hit the market shelves, I have a first generation Acer Aspire One, so because of this I also have a unique perspective on responsiveness and viability of certain platforms.
Now, because of the fact I have this “first gen” netbook, I am also limited in computing power (that’s right, my processor only supports 32 bit architecture). This does not limit the platform or the distribution so much as the capabilities of my netbook itself so it may not factor in to your deciding factors.
The first Linux platform I’m going to share with you is Fedora Core 16. Yes you heard me, the right out of the box and as some people call it; “Open Source Red Hat” no modifications, and not a branch version of Fedora Core (one of the most branched form of Linux at least in the enterprise arenas, I’m looking at you CentOS!) Anyway, Fedora Core 16 is actually a very fast, very powerful, and very versatile platform. It utilizes the latest version of Gnome (Gnome 3) and it does it very very well. It is one of the few linux platforms I know of that by default supports the use of the “special key” (For Apple users this is your Apple key, and for Windows users this is your Windows Key), by default it only supports the “left” side. It provides a very unique, fast, and intuitive interface with a very cool window management feature.
The install process of Fedora Core 16 on my netbook was rather straightforward, however it’s partition manager left a little to be desired (I wasn’t quite sure what was being partitioned to where or why, but I just left it at default assuming that the default was what was most optimized for this particular release). Apart from that the installation process was rather streamlined and had little to no errors, it also provided a quite nice interface to do it (for a linux meant for a “new” user).
Once into the Operating System itself, Fedora has managed to jump on the bandwagon of not having to “sift” through the web to find all the software you need, and it has provided you a rather nifty and useful tool, as with most Linux platforms that allows you to search for and install your linux software with little actual command line (if any) interaction. The only problem with the organizational and descriptive method of the software manager is the fact that it does not provide you software names, only a basic description then a more detailed description, it is not until after you finish installing does it tell you the name of the software and asks you if you run it, this is obviously an inherent flaw, primarily because of the next “bandwagon” feature, which became common place in linux operating systems far before it ever showed up on Apple devices, that is the “application search” feature.
The application search feature is actually rather cool and useful, because it actually works closer to that of the Apple search bar than anything; it searches your contacts, if you have e-mails it searches your e-mails, it also searches your software listing, it also searches your files. Obviously this all gets indexed and can take up some processing power; however it is mostely cached and because of this it is actually quite responsive, and quite useful. Along with this is a “commonly used” or “currently open” bar that sits on the “left” of your applications window, the applications window is actually an overlay which you can get to by either bringing your mouse cursor to the top left corner of the screen, or just by clicking the “Applications” text in the same location.
The window management feature for Fedora Core 16 in Gnome 3 is also very very cool, basically it provides you with a currently used “screen” and allows you to organize what windows are available in that “screen”, it also shows you, on the right hand side an “empty screen” which you can use by clicking and dragging a currently open window in to that second screen, at which point a third empty screen shows up which you can either click on to start using, or you can yet again drag another window onto it and it creates more as you place certain applications into each screen, this allows you to keep your running applications nice and tidy without cluttering too much. This is especially useful on netbooks due to the limited resolution sizes.
The operating system operates and launches quite promptly, and it’s quite simple to use, once you get use to it, I do suggest it, and would even suggest this to new users of Linux.