Monday, 16 February 2015

Netbook Xubuntu ....

Long term readers will remember that I bought myself a Windows 7 netbook back in 2012 to replace my Linux based Eeepc as lightweight machine to take travelling.

I won't rehearse why, but I still find that while tablets are good there are some things that just work better on a 'normal' computer.

However, increasingly I’ve grown dissatisfied with the performance of my Windows 7 netbook. Just too slow to boot, start a browser etc.

The original rationale was to have a windows device and use it with a 3G stick while travelling but I’ve kind of circumvented that by buying a portable 3G wifi hot spot. The other advantage was to have a recent version of skype, as the linux version was always several releases behind, but these days I can always circumvent that by packing a tablet.

The only other things I would lose that I actually used were the quite nice Windows Live offline blog writing tools, the nice Postbox application for Gmail, and Evernote.

While Nixnote works well enough it’s never been a substitute for the Evernote desktop client, but more recently Evernote’s web client has improved vastly in terms of user experience, even if the splash screen seems to feature slightly freaky looking people who have just been struck by some form of divine rapture.

Evolution will certainly substitute for Postbox for offline mail composition. The Microsoft web tools are a little more tricky, and I don’t have an answer other than Focuswriter or Retext with a bit of pandoc plus some cutting and pasting.

Other applications don’t really matter - I always used abiword as a word processor anyway, and everything else can be done via the web, and there’s quite a nice dropbox client for linux should I want to sync and share content.

But which distribution?

It’s a netbook with only 1GB of memory so the full standard Ubuntu might have been too much of an ask. I could have used Crunchbang, which I’m very happy with on my revived Eee, but development has recently ceased, so it looked like a lighter weight version of Ubuntu might be the goal.

I couldn’t decide between Lubuntu and Xubuntu, so I built myself a couple of VM’s to see if I really disliked either of them, and I found myself marginally more comfortable with Xubuntu, which I’d used a long time ago when I used an old ppc based imac with Xubuntu 6.06 as my main desktop machine at home.

Next, I made myself a bootable USB and then tried Xubuntu on the machine in ‘live CD’ mode to make sure that everything worked and that performance was adequate.

It was, so a sticky Saturday afternoon, I installed Xubuntu. I chose not to keep my Windows 7 home basic install reckoning that I’d probably never use it, and there was no content on the machine that wasn’t synced elsewhere.

Installation took a couple of hours - really because I also needed a slew of post install system updates, plus I wanted to install my extra apps. But at the end I had a working machine.

Speed and responsiveness is pretty good, and it doesn’t seem to swap excessively.

As always with new builds it takes time to get a feel for how fast (or slow) the machine is but it certainly seems more than reasonable ...

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