I’ve Been Distro-Surfing

Over the course of the last 3 days, I’ve checked out plain-jane Ubuntu Netbook Remix, Jolicloud Alpha2, and EasyPeasy v1.5 on my Asus 1000HE EeePC. This is, apparently, also referred to as ‘distro-surfing’. At the end, I’m left with EasyPeasy, for a few reasons.

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Ubuntu Netbook Remix

For starters, all three of these versions of Linux are essentially the same thing. Ubuntu Netbook Remix is the ‘core’, and then the other two build on that, with a few tweaks here and there. They all three have the same basic ‘netbook friendly’ homescreen, which is basically an organized list of icons to the various applications. Windows users, it’s essentially your ‘Start’ menu, but it’s there all the time. While this seems silly at first, it’s actually really logical, since a blank desktop is rather useless to most people (and you’re not supposed to have hundreds of icons all over your desktop anyways).

Jolicloud

Jolicloud Alpha2
Jolicloud Alpha2

When I first installed it, I really thought Jolicloud was going to be ‘it’. It has a great application setup, with applications that you would actually recognize and use, such as Facebook, Google Reader, Twitter, etc. It’s quite brilliant until you realize that the majority of these are little more than ‘visual bookmarks’ – clicking on one basically opens the site in a browser window. It also comes with Adobe AIR and WINE installers, though neither of those worked well for me. Jolicloud is, without question, the friendliest Linux version I’ve ever used. Unfortunately, it was slow as molasses on my Asus 1000HE, though it *was* the only one to show my processor performance by default in the taskbar, which I liked.

EasyPeasy

EasyPeasy v1.5
EasyPeasy v1.5

EasyPeasy v1.5 is the latest release, and it makes far less changes to the Ubuntu Netbook Remix interface than Jolicloud did. I like EasyPeasy over vanilla Ubuntu Netbook Remix for several reasons. For starters, it includes more up-to-date applications, like the latest version of Skype, Firefox, and others. While I realize I could just as easily install those on UNR, the fact that I don’t have to is important, to me. Also, I like that EasyPeasy is green instead of that ghastly orange/brown nonsense. I’d definitely prefer a calming blue look, but for the time being, green is far better. Also, EasyPeasy used to be called Ubuntu-Eee, because it was originally designed for the EeePCs. Since that’s what I’m using, it works out awesome, and all of my hardware was instantly supported.

For the time being, I’m dual-booting with Windows 7 and EasyPeasy v1.5. If you don’t know, ‘dual-booting’ means that when I turn my computer on, it gives me the option to either use Windows 7 or EasyPeasy v1.5. I have 2 operating systems installed, and I can choose either or quite easily. (NOTE: EasyPeasy v1.5 currently sets the bootloader timeout to ‘0 seconds’. You need to install StartupManager to change this so you can have time to choose. I have mine set to 20 seconds, currently).

Booting back into Windows 7, I’ve noticed several rather important differences:

1. WiFi strength – using the built-in wireless managers on both Windows 7 and EasyPeasy, Windows shows that I have 5 out of 5 bars. Booting into EasyPeasy v1.5 with the computer in the exact same place, I only show 3 out of 5 bars. While I realize that ‘bars’ is a completely non-scientific or exact measurement tool, it is, currently, the one that I have, and thus, it concerns me.

2. Touchpad sensitivity – when using EasyPeasy, my touchpad is noticeably less responsive than it is in Windows 7. I have tinkered with the mouse settings, but still have trouble using the touchpad. Perhaps there’s a better driver I could download?

3. Overall system speed – switching back and forth, I’ve noticed that EasyPeasy *feels* much more sluggish than Windows 7 does. I haven’t really investigated this much yet, but it’s definitely noticeable, particularly when multitasking.

I’ll continue dual-booting as much as I can tolerate, and have my bootloader currently set to default to EasyPeasy, which should help me try to transition. I can, currently, fully work in either OS, so it’s just a matter of personal preference at this point. I *am* getting frustrated that I can’t find good applications in EasyPeasy to duplicate those in Windows, such as Windows Live Writer, Digsby, and a few others. I also have not tinkered with tethering in EasyPeasy, which could potentially be a complete dealbreaker if I can’t do so over Bluetooth (or USB).

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