Netbook Operating SystemsLast Modified 01/28/12
by Akensai

For Christmas I bought myself a netbook, mainly so I can lay around on the couch, play video games, etc while I work. It's been nearly a month now and I have been trying various Operating Systems to figure out which is best for what I need, what I need is just web access, SSH, and an RDP client. Anyways, lets get down to it. I started out with this refurbished laptop for $240 (including shipping). As I was waiting for it to be delivered I kept trying to figure out what OS I should run for best performance on the 1.6ghz and 1gb ram hardware it comes with, when it got here it had Windows 7 Starter on it. So I will explain how bad of an idea that is first.

Windows 7 Starter

Boot Time: 2-3 minutes Initial Desktop load: 1 minute Opening Chrome: 30 seconds Slow as hell for the hardware, when I need to do something in a timely manner (eg: power on and answer a few support tickets / read a few emails) I can't be sitting for 5+ minutes before it even allows me to open Chrome. So, let's just toss this idea out altogether, it simply won't work for a netbook. Next I tried Win XP Pro simply because I had a disc and serial handy, don't even bother. I spent 2 hours installing it to figure out that it's completely incompatible with Atom processors, if you know anything you know Atom runs almost all netbooks, so toss that right out.

Ubuntu 10.10 (Desktop) and Netbook Remix

Boot Time: 2 minutes Initial Desktop load: 30 seconds Opening Chrome: ~5 seconds This came out a lot better than Windows as you would assume, but it turns out Ubuntu is more designed for retards than it is techs as it was in the past, I suggest against it for netbooks. As for the Netbook Remix, it was even worse.

Debian 6 + Gnome

Boot Time: 1 minute Initial Desktop load: 30 seconds Opening Chrome: Instant Much better than Ubuntu but Gnome is just too damn bulky for netbooks, this is where I decided that I will NOT be using any OS with the GNOME Environment.

Debian 6 + XFCE

Boot Time: 30 seconds Initial Desktop load: Instant Opening Chrome: Instant Everyone know's Debian is fast but what they don't know is that any desktop environment running under Debian looks like complete crap on small resolutions. While it is the fastest and overall the best for what I need I decided to go with something else entirely, if you can get over the grainy pixelated looking resolutions (and there are no fixes, trust me I looked) then go for it.

ChromeOS (Both Hexxah Builds)

Boot Time: 2 minutes Initial Desktop load: N/A Opening Chrome: 2 minutes So after all that hype we went through thinking ChromeOS was going to be amazing for netbooks is a total sham, it's slow as hell and let's face it we need to be able to store and or open media files via our netbooks, not just use Google Docs. While the idea is good, the OS is complete crap even if you plan to only use Chrome you will find that functionality is broken.

JoliOS 1.2

Boot Time: 1 minute Initial Desktop load: Instant (HTML5) Opening Chrome: Instant So this was the winner, JoliOS is a web-based desktop that runs off of a modified version of Ubuntu. Basically, you power up and everything is ready for you (assuming you have auto-connect to wireless enabled). Now, while it has the same idea as ChromeOS, it loads infinitely faster and still allows you to use the actual OS (Terminal) which allowed me to install tsclient for RDP. Overall the OS is just Ubuntu that loads up a web page that is your desktop. Your "desktop" is an HTML5 page that allows you to add links/icons/etc as you see fit. See the screenshot below of my laptops JoliOS Desktop:


If you are looking for the perfect netbook OS but wanted to test a few out and see what's best I highly suggest JoliOS or Debian 6 + XFCE.