Linux Netbooks: They're Still Out There

By Caitlyn Martin
October 22, 2009 | Comments: 45

Back in February I wrote about how Linux had gone mainstream as netbooks became ubiquitous. Nobody doubts that Windows has captured the overwhelming majority of the netbook market. Even so, Dell claimed around that time that one third of their Inspiron netbooks were selling with Ubuntu preloaded rather than Windows XP.

When my Sylvania netbook died last month and the manufacturer took their sweet time responding to me I was offered a refund by the dealer. Suddenly I was surveying the market again for a good buy on a netbook preloaded with Linux. I found a wide variety of systems with Linux available from mainstream outlets and factory direct, at least here in the United States where I live. While I don't have updated market share figures it's clear, despite claims by Microsoft and their supporters, that Linux remains entrenched in the netbook market and is spreading out from there.

For example, Dell has expanded their offerings, with desktop and laptop offerings in addition to their Inspiron Mini 10v. The smaller (8.9" screen) Dell Vostro A90 (formerly the Inspiron Mini 9v) remains available starting at $219 factory direct.

mini110mi.jpg
I, personally, have had excellent experiences with Hewlett-Packard products. I've supported everything from their high end servers running HP-UX down to desktops and laptops in the course of my work over the years. It's not at all surprising that when I found HP offering a competitively priced Mini 110 netbook preloaded with Ubuntu and their custom HP Mi desktop that I chose it. I'll be reviewing the little HP once I've had a bit more time working with it. I will say that so far I've been pretty pleased with my choice. Ladislav Bodnar of DistroWatch reviewed his new Mini 110 a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, in retail outlets, at least in my area, HP only offers this system with Windows.

aceraod250.jpgAcer briefly offered only Windows on their netbooks after some half-hearted support of Linux last year and early this year. That changed last week with the announcement of the Aspire One AOD250 which is being sold in a dual boot configuration with both Windows 7 and Google Android. The system is now available from Amazon.com for $349. It will be interesting to see if this Acer model shows up in retailers like Wal-Mart, CompUSA and Best Buy, which currently sell Acer Aspire One models with Windows only. It will also be interesting to see if any stores display the system running Android rather than Windows 7.

Asus, which started the netbook revolution two years ago, not only all but dropped Linux from it's product line but some of the company's management saw fit to throw the Open Source operating system under the proverbial bus, proclaiming that Windows is the only OS suitable for daily work. Linux, BSD and MacOS users would dispute such claims and generally reacted with disgust. Asus has quietly continued selling some netbooks with Linux, though. Toys 'R' Us continues to offer older Asus models, including the original EeePC 701, preloaded with Linux, both online and in their retail stores. For those who want the smaller 7" screens and smaller footprint of the early netbooks Asus seems to be the only choice still available new. In addition, refurbished older EeePC models with Linux are offered by a number of online retailers. I've also seen other older netbooks, particularly the HP 2133, offered refurbished, but prices were as high or sometimes higher than current models purchased new.

Specialty Linux retailers remain another excellent option. Zareason continues to offer a full line of Linux systems including their Terra A20 netbook, which starts are $349. System76 also offers a full Linux line including their Starling Netbook, with a base price of $359. Both companies offer their netbooks preloaded with Ubuntu. I elected not to go with the smaller Linux retailers for two reasons: first, I held myself to a $300 budget and neither offered a system in that range and, second, after three failed Sylvania netbooks I wanted a major brand name.

liberty1000.jpg
Finally, back in May I wrote about low cost netbooks powered by MIPS processors appearing on the scene. While the very low end sub-$150 models have disappeared, the far more capable Emtec Gdium Liberty 1000, featuring a 900MHz 64-bit Loongson 2F processor and a 10" screen, is now available from Amazon.com for $240.21. It boots from 16GB removable SSD storage preloaded with a customized version of Mandriva.

For those who read FBI Director Robert Mueller or an Australian police Detective Inspector specializing in computer crimes or Bruce Krebs in The Washington Post all recommending against using Windows for online banking or internet transactions due to security vulnerabilities, and instead recommending Linux, I would suggest that a system preloaded with Linux is the best solution to migrate away from Windows. For those of us who already use Linux for our daily computing needs, purchasing a preloaded system rather than a reloading a system which came with Windows will reduce Microsoft's inflated market share and avoid paying for an operating system we will never use. Besides, we need to maintain the demand for Linux so that OEMs and retailers continue to offer our favorite OS as an option. If you want a netbook which comes with Linux already installed, well, they're still out there and there are probably more choices than ever.

UPDATE: Yesterday, on the day Windows 7 was released, HP stopped offering their netbooks with the HP Mi interface built on Ubuntu. In a piece published this afternoon I raise an interesting question: Is this an amazing coincidence or something more sinister?


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45 Comments

When I originally purchased my netbook, my intent was to install Linux ASAP. I soon discovered the battery management under Linux does not match the capabilities of the now ancient Windows XP. I also discovered I won't be doing any development on my little wonder. I got Eclipse running, but I need all my views!

Going for the absolute cheapest price tag isn't always the most cost-effective tactic, because independent vendors like System76 and Zareason offer superior hardware and customer service, and you get a good machine where everything works.

@Benfrank: First, I didn't go with the lowest price tag. Second, are you seriously suggesting that custom-imported, no name laptops from Zareason and System76 are of superior quality to both Dell and HP? Why do I find that incredibly hard to believe? Is HP customer service lacking? In my experience it isn't.

System76 and Zareason were the most expensive offerings. They simply are not price competitive. I can understand wanting to support Linux boutique businesses but there are limits.

@Evan: IME Linux battery management is in no way inferior to any version of Windows. Quite the contrary. There are any number of battery management tools; unlike Windows there isn't just the one. Which did you find limited? Did you try more than one?

No need to get all excited Ms. martin, not every comment is an accusation. Yes, System76 and Zareason do sell machines with better-quality components, and their service is better than anyone's. I have purchased several different types of computers from both of them and their service and support are superior. My company has also used Dell and HP for the past few years, and while they're decent, Linux is still a second-class citizen and their support is OK but not excellent. They also play shell games with their offerings to where it takes an advanced calculus guru to do comparison shopping.

When you make direct comparisons and factor in service and hardware quality, the independent shops are very competitive.

I'm not "all excited". I don't believe that small stores have the resources or support to compete with Dell or HP. I got what I consider to be an excellent system built to my specs for $294. I don't consider Zareason or System76 to be price competitive. You make a claim that they use better components. I find that very hard to believe. Can you provide some evidence to back up that claim?

I'm not looking for Linux support. I provide Linux/UNIX support for a living. I am looking for excellent hardware service and I do believe that HP offers that and that a smaller company would have a very, very hard time competing with them.

You disagree. That's fine. You're entitled to your opinion. However, when you offer that opinion as fact you need to bring some evidence to back it up.

If you want Linux to be more than a second class citizen to major vendors you need to show demand for Linux to those companies. It's a bit of a Catch-22, isn't it?

LinuxCertified, Inc sells Lenovo netbooks with Linux.
They may be little pricey but you get what you pay for!
Excellent hardware, excellent service. Its a known fact that you get better customer service at a small business than from MNC. You don't have to hold for hours getting through to a real Tech person.

As far as I can tell, HP no longer offers the Mini 110 Mi Edition with customized Ubuntu GUI directly from their website. If this is incorrect, please provide URL link.

Quite frankly if you want a Netbook look at the most supported.

At first it was the EEPC now after last weeks blow up between the script maintainer and ubuntu, I would have to say it's the Acer 10.1" Aspire One AOD250-1165 Blue 3 Cell XP since it's available from Wal-Mart and Target.

I would dual boot it with Ubuntu Netbook Remix or as you point out buy the one with Moblin dual boot. Can you spell i-n-t-e-l c-o-o-p d-i-s-c-o-u-n-t!

Acer is the largest supplier of computers worldwide. Likely also the largest netbook supplier. Certainly it has the largest share of decent ubuntu forum reports.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_Aspire_One#Linux

Cheers John

@Chuck: Your "known fact" is an opinion, nothing more. I've dealt professionally with HP customer service for the past 15 years and have never "waited for hours" for a tech. I haven't had to do that with Dell, either.

@Embedded: First, Acer is offering the Aspire One AOD250 with Android, not Moblin. Second, it comes with Windows 7 and I don't recommend or understand why anyone who doesn't plan to use Windows would want to pay extra for a Windows license. Third, Wal-Mart doesn't have it yet and Target doesn't seem to carry it in their stores at all. Fourth, can you please explain to me and to my readers how Acer is "most supported". What makes an Acer more supported than a Dell, for example?

Folks, you all have your favorites. That's fine. Your opinions and personal choices aren't facts. Please don't portray them as such.

@drhood: You are correct. HP dropped Linux on netbooks yesterday. I've added an update to the article above with a link to my story questioning what prompted HP's move.

I've seen it all. From the early business Cobol based machines in the UK engineering and commercial sector in the 1970s through to the introduction of the desktop PC in the home to the mobile phone revolution with open source programming methods and the netbook. Mine is an EeePC 1005HA with Ubuntu on it. I've seen one paradigm shift after another in the world of computing and software development.

Nowadays I write for Linux magazines. Gives me something to do. The netbook has made such a difference to mobile communication. If I want a mobile phone I want something that fits into my pocket. If I want a brick or mobile e-mail I want a netbook. Do anything with them. Watch films, read a book, listen to music on the move. Great on Linux !

Caitlyn Martin: "Folks, you all have your favorites. That's fine. Your opinions and personal choices aren't facts. Please don't portray them as such."

Caitlyn: Just as your favorites aren't "facts" either. Nor are your opinions any more valid than anyone else's. It is a FACT (to me) that my Zareason Notebook is of superior quality and finish than almost any offering the big names can crank out. You suggest that Dell and HP use better components. I find that very hard to believe. So, can you provide ME with some evidence to back up your claims?

@David Metal: I never claimed that Dell or HP use superior components. I listed all the available choices and explained why I chose HP. I never offered any opinions as "facts". I don't need to back up something I never claimed to be true.

I ask again: how is a Zareason product superior? Can you list the superior components they use and contrast them to the ones Dell and HP use?

are you seriously suggesting that custom-imported, no name laptops from Zareason and System76 are of superior quality to both Dell and HP? Why do I find that incredibly hard to believe?

Given my experience with my Dell Mini-9's hardware issues (mostly battery and BIOS related), I'm not sure there is a great variance. My understanding is that most vendors from IBM/Dell/HP down to the little guys like Zareason & System76 all end up sourcing their hardware from a rather small pool of Asian suppliers and simply attach their branding and/or case stylings.

-gumnos



Ms. Martin,

Given that HP Linux netbooks seem to be no longer available, what would have been your second choice ?

@Jason: If I had to make a choice now I'd probably go with a Dell. The people I know who have Dell netbooks are all happy with them.

@Gumnos: That is my understanding as well. There is little (or sometimes no) difference in the build quality or components used and they all come from a handful of factories. My HP has the same graphics chipset that my Sylvania had, the same audio chip, the same processor... It all comes down to who has the best price on the system with the features you want and who delivers the best service.

And who is likely to be in business in a year or two when you need a new battery or keyboard or charger...or have the resources deal with a battery recall or the like. This is all part of service, I guess.

With respect to the OEMs that are not Tier 1, like System 76, I noticed you cannot compare their hardware to the Tier 1 OEMs like Dell. I am not opposed to paying a little bit extra if the company is a quality one (no idea about System 76), but when they are $50 more expensive and using an inferior processor I do more than just hesitate.

Yesterday, on the news that HP had pulled the Linux netbooks, I sent HP a strong protest email. I am a Linux user and an HP shareholder. I wonder if HP management will listen to their shareholders. They just might if killing the Linux netbooks means a reduction of their bonuses at proxy voting time.

I believe HP also offers the HP Mini 5101 with SUSE Linux pre-loaded ( http://h71016.www7.hp.com/ctoBases.asp?oi=E9CED&BEID=19701&SBLID=&ProductLineId=539&FamilyId=3066&LowBaseId=30672&LowPrice=$329.00&familyviewgroup=2190&viewtype=Matrix ). The machine with SUSE Linux is also $50 cheaper than the Windows version.

@UPR Student: I checked your link and, lo and behold, if you want to spend $500 or more you can get an HP Mini 5101 (older model) with SLED. Thanks, but no thanks!

So... to be more precise, HP dropped Linux from their consumer netbooks and killed off their Mi interface. That's only slightly better.

I have Karmic KDE plasma-plasma that is being released as a teaser at the end of the month on my Acer AOD150. I would like to see them sold with linux but installing it works wonders. I don't know how Win7 can run on flash anyway.

I never claimed that Dell or HP use superior components.

By stating, "after three failed Sylvania netbooks I wanted a major brand name" you certainly implied that only major brand names use superior components.

I ask again: how is a Zareason product superior?

1. The ZaReason screen is 1024x600 vs. the HP at 1024x576. At such a low screen size, those 24 pixels make a big difference.

2. The ZaReason wifi is an Intel 5100 draft-n vs. the HP's Broadcom b/g wifi. ZaReason's wifi will be more compatible, have better range, and faster speed. Broadcom is well known in the Linux community to be inferior.

3. The ZaReason is well designed in that upgrades like replacing the ram are as easy as removing a back panel vs. the HP where you have to tear the entire thing apart.

4. The ZaReason ships with the latest Ubuntu version vs. the HP's 18 month old version. I'd be concerned if a major manufacturer is unwilling to provide up-to-date software releases on their hardware.

5. ZaReason will always support Linux vs. HP only when Microsoft allows them to.

Whoa, Bill, lots of fallacies there...

1. The 24 pixels are not a big deal to me. I've owned netbooks with both resolutions now and the difference, at least the way I work, is negligible. You feel differently and that's fine.

2. Funny, I've had four different WiFi chipsets now (counting the two in my current systems) and the Broadcom has, by far, the best range. network-manager or wicd are picking up my neighbor's wireless networks where previous chipsets did not. I'm part of the Linux community. You could have said the driver was partly proprietary and I'd have agreed with you. The minute you said "inferior" you were skating on thin ice.

3. You obviously have never owned an HP Mini 110. I did the memory upgrade on mine and I didn't have to tear anything apart. I removed the little cover over the memory compartment, removed the old memory card, and slid in a new one. Replace cover and done. It couldn't be easier. You might want to check your facts before making such statements in the future.

4. Actually, 8.04 LTS is still current. "Long Term Support" versions offer greater stability. My experience with the semiannual releases from Ubuntu has been pretty miserable. Karmic actually does look good but Jaunty and Intrepid were buggy as hell. I'll take stability and long term support over cutting edge any day of the week.

5. HP will be in business two or three years from now. I don't know if the small Linux boutique will be. HP also still supports Linux in their business products line and always will because their enterprise customers demand it. The consumer line is another matter. I notice Acer is back doing Linux and I suspect HP will be back in time as well.

Bill, as far as I am concerned you are oh for five. None of your arguments are convincing and you certainly haven't proven that I'd be better off going with the small boutique sellers.

The OSS/Linux "community managers" at the major PC companies which have such positions (HP, Dell, others?) should push for standardized global procedures within their companies for refunding MS-tax.

That would simply mean that the company refunds MS license fee and in return won't need to listen that customer's software-induced headaches.

For the customer it would mean she/he can walk into a shop and buy that company's product without added MS-tax headache. Both parties are happy.

What's so darn difficult about this?

I don't care if my new laptop is preloaded with pink elephants as long as I don't need to pay for such tie-ins and I'm allowed to install the software that works for me.

Caitlyn;

The mistake that you are making is that you are comparing Dell and HP's enterprise customer service with ZAReason and System76's consumer class service. I've been on the receiving end of both Dell and HP's consumer class service. While Dell has made some strides in improving theirs, I can only recommend the experience to those who truly enjoy wasting their time. Endless time on hold, first line support reading from scripts in sometimes nearly incomprehensible accents, an incredibly stubborn wilful refusal to escalate to second and third tier support, sloppy to poor experiences handling RMAs, and on and on. It's an awful, awful experience.

By contrast, both ZaReason and System76's phones are answered by very knowledgable staff who work with you to quickly diagnose problems. The one time that I needed to return hardware, it was a breeze.

>There was a time when Michael Dell was building PCs in his dorm room. Do you think that there were any analysts who would have thought that his company would be #1 or #2 in the US market in just 10 short years? BTW, did you know that System76 saw 61% year over year growth in revenue in the first quarter of this year? :)

I can understand why you might choose to limit your choices to just the big vendors. However, doing so based upon their consumer class customer service is a serious mistake. This, more than anything, is what I think people are reacting to.

1. Which has more pixels, 1024x600 or 1024x576?

2. Which has more speed, n or g?

3. From the looks of this video it appears to be quite difficult to access many parts like the hard drive and wifi card.

A lot of people need to relax a bit. 'Linux', or more particularly 'FOSS' will still be around when all that kids know about Microsoft are what they are taught in their History and Economics classes, and maybe what they experience from some old Windows installation CD they dig out of the attic (assuming they also have the authorisation code!).

Linux has no need to compete with Microsoft, and certainly no need to be concerned about replacing Windows as the ubiquitous and dominant OS---that has all sorts of problems that we users could well do without for as long as possible.

Linux/FOSS is an organic creature and a philosophy that no amount of money and anti-competitive practice is going to suppress. We're all best just getting on with making it work for us, for others, and making as good as it we can---on whatever hardware we have to hand or choose to buy.

@sgtrock: If someone has written about how they had bought from one of the boutique vendors and had received wonderful customer service there would have been no argument from me. None at all. The claims made were for superior hardware and those claims were completely unsubstantiated. The claim was that it was better that I spend an extra $65 for a no name netbook and that it was really price competitive because I'd get more for my money. I just don't see it.

@Bill: I see we're into silly season with the comments. Of course you get an extra 24 pixels of height at 1024x600. THAT is worth an extra $65 and another no name brand? Speed depends on what the access point provides. I'm not aware of any "n" networks I can access. Oh, and isn't it "draft n" (your words) because that standard isn't finalized yet?

You know, I could look at video and make comments about the System76 netbook too. It would be as meaningless as your guesses about mine. You made a false statement about changing memory cards. How about coming back and admitting you were wrong about that and really don't know anything about the netbook I bought?

@Alisdair: I wouldn't bury Microsoft just yet. I also wouldn't make assumptions about it being unimportant to do Linux advocacy or to get big companies behind us.

Caitlyn, go for it, do all the advocacy you want. It's a good thing to do---more power to your arm (or fingers and mouth :-D ), but the people who get all screwed up about Microsoft and Co's. sharp and monopolistic practices, etc. are in danger of missing the point that the whole Linux/FOSS deal is playing out in a way that goes far beyond anything Microsoft has to offer.

I don't care if MS is still around in 100 years, and still going strong. Good on them if they can hold out that long. Whether or not FOSS remains an underground/niche/subversive movement or becomes mainstream, even dominant, doesn't really matter

What matters is that it exists on its own terms. In the end it's all about freedom, whereas MS is all about profit and control, and thats a profound difference.

They seem to be at least competitive in price with the Dell Mini 10v when you get down into the details.

Comparing Dell to the system76 offering, Dell has 1GB RAM by default to s76's 2GB, Dell has a 3-cell battery by default to s76's 6-cell, but Dell is $60 cheaper. Dell's webcam is better (1.3 MP vs. 0.3 MP), but s76's screen is LED backlit, which are usually thinner and only support the smaller webcams. My source for that is other Dell machines. If you match batteries, Dell is $25 cheaper. Dell doesn't have the option to increase RAM.

Also possibly of interest: system76 sells extra 6-cell battery for $99, vs. Dell's $150. Dell offers bluetooth, s76 doesn't.

ZaReason's $349 offering appears similar, but not as compelling to me. It doesn't say what size battery it uses (it only says up to 3.5 hours), but seeing as the spare is $39, it's probably 3-cell or maybe 4-cell. They use a matte screen, which is rare these days and a big deal for some people (not including me) who hate glossy, and is also LED backlit. They also offer a 3G modem option for $99, which the other two do not. Also a minor point, the color options are free, whereas Dell charges $40.

All come with 1 year limited warranty.

Luke, thank you! Finally a comparison based on facts and not emotion. FiLuke, thank you! Finally a comparison based on facts and not emotion. Finally a comparison without false claims about superior parts or the mythical need to disassemble the netbook to add RAM. Finally a comparison that actually makes sense.

FWIW, when I bought my HP Mini 110 they offered it with Linux. If I were purchasing today I wouldn't consider the HP since it only comes with Windows and there has been a $25 price increase on top of it. Market conditions seem to change day-to-day and what I chose three weeks ago or more makes no sense today. What I'd choose today might make no sense tomorrow.

I think, personally, I like a smaller footprint so I probably would look seriously at a Dell Vostro A90 and customize it to be a bit better equipped. I recognize that a lot of people prefer the 10.1" screen but the extra 1.2" don't mean much to me. I was very happy with the 8.9" screen before.

My preference for a large company is my preference. I hope people can respect that if everything else is equal I'm still going to choose the large manufacturer. Others prefer to support the Linux boutique vendor and that's fine as well.

Dell just pulled the Ubuntu version off the Mini 10v webpage, but they still have on the dark and dusty "Open Source" page. I sometimes wonder how committed they are to Linux.

@Darvish: It may be because they are in the process of updating their offerings to reflect the release of Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) rather than any lack of commitment to Linux. I did some digging on the Dell site and the are offering the Mini 10v with your choice of Ubuntu Netbook Remix or Ubuntu Moblin Remix.

I still believe that commitment by a company like Dell is going to be directly proportional to demand.

"I would suggest that a system preloaded with Linux is the best solution to migrate away from Windows. "
It would be a good solution if the preloaded Linux was good:
I was slightly annoyed, with a MSI wind with SLED, to find :
* drawing programs had menus which went below the screen, thus making impossible to exit from the menu(it was last year: I do not remember whether it was the gimp or Inkscape)
* there was no gcc to compile supplementary softs or softs I write...
* there were no X headers (installing recent versions of qt and R was impossible, as I had no direct IT connection).


The two later sorrows I could fix with a gcc I compiled in a special directory and tarred in another linux PC.... and with cygwin's X headers I already had on a XP PC.
Then, I could have anything (mostly CLI applications, but graphical ones , too) I wanted compiled..

What made me angry was with gimp : I could have, with unetbootin, woolvix -a beta- , Scientific Linux with a working gimp (and Mandriva 2009.0, and 2010.1 have a working gimp, with menus having a reasonable size).
But the Linux distributor, who got money for installing it, should have been less careless...

(In the fora -from cybercafés-, the unanswered question was : "were are the repos for supplementary software?)-

But it is not the end:

there was some help , but it was not a pdf or *.txt, it was a video : my mother explained me there were some loud , English seeming,
sounds -I am deaf and she does not understand English- though I had specified at install time I was French, with a French keymap -and konsoles had a french localisation- ...

OTOH, when I decided to buy a XP netbook :
I could install cygwin from a cybercafé as a mirror.
R, gimp, octave s window ports had no flaws and I had not to compile them (and I could put them where I wanted to have partitions not too full: I know rpm can do it, but it would be complicated for a beginner).
These XP ports were as adapted as possible to the tiny size of the screen.

If GNU linux distributors, when they are in charge of -and payed for!- installing a linux distribution on a given hardware have worked with less care than
- their colleagues -who do not get money from me when I download and have to cope with lots of hardwares...-
or
- than native XP ports (as GNU softs claim to be highly portable...), it is not that surprising people prefer buying XP (even with free open source softs!) and use live DVD/CDs with unetbootin if they like working versions of linuxen! -when it works : {mandrivaseed works better from XP than from GNU linux, as it needs a version of glibc I do not have on old linux PCs}, unetbootin seems to work on both systems, but it cannot start Mandrivas , I do not know why....-

As XP MSI wind netbooks have twice more RAM (and twice more adressable one), I got a very fast PC, with everything I wanted, thanks unetbootin, Microsoft and *not* preinstalled linuxen (I am almost happy with Scientific Linux)!!

And I think Microsoft was surprised there was such demand for XP (I do not know whether it is pleasant, from an economical point of view, to support XP for a long time).


@Marechal des Logis: The MSI implementation of SLED was notoriously bad. OTOH, you cannot judge all or even many netbook Linux preinstalled systems by MSI, a company that barely and briefly supported Linux on one model.

The vast majority of preloaded Linux systems come with Ubuntu Netbook Remix which is very good. I reviewed the Sylvania g Netbook Meso I had with UNR and I must say that the software was no problem at all. Ditto the HP Mi interface over Ubuntu LTS which came with my Mini 110. While Mi may not be my cup of tea, it did just work and did give you access to the entire Ubuntu repository. Nothing was hidden or dumbed down.

Dell netbooks come with Ubuntu: your choice of the Netbook Remix or the Moblin Remix. Gdium netbooks come with Mandriva. Those are also very good choices.

"The MSI implementation of SLED was notoriously bad."

I agree : but it was the only "netbook" (all were linux, at this time ) I could find with a rotating HD (Ifelt safe and comfortable, as I need to have softs compiled and I do not know whether SDs are reliable for many writes) :
the eeePC was worse on a HW point of view, though I thought their management of their SD disk was very clever , and it had almost no soft installed -
my nephew has it, and I gave him a Mandriva live to use the GIMP and added the maximum of RAM I could stuff : a posteriori, it looks a wiser choice, as he likes using the GIMP and has good eyes, than with UBU linux "copy and break" policy w/r to the GIMP) ...

Other netbooks could have been bought with a credit card, but I would have had to use a cyber-café ... under XP (their landlords *forbid* using credit cards, ....following FBI advices....).

BTW : I need XP at home to have 8|16 bits microcontrollers programmed... (under linux, the drivers are esoteric -the assemblers and cross compilers are often GPLed and work under both, even the GUI under XP is emacs derived but I only can get help for the XP ports....)

My family could see linuxen I gave my nephews (-I use too much the CLI for it to be sexy -, the eeePC were classical, I fixed the MSI wind SLED before giving , but , for Christmas gifts tothe rest of my family, a safe bet is XP (if it upsets them, I have three live USB keys for dualbooting, with different distributions -Scientific I trust, Sabayon which might emit music, and Mandriva 2010.0 if I have time to test it : 2009.1 would have been very slow as you reported it in this summer -I can tolerate it,but...-, 2010.0 seems much better but they might hide ugly jokes)...

And I really do not think there was an Microsoft conspiracy -your latest sentence- (
very long term support might be very expensive, even for Microsoft: they were surprised by the netbooks, reacted rather cleverly, and forced HW manufacturers to have better HW , the price difference being small: and ports of FOS softs are often easier to manage {if you have two partitions with inequal sizes, or didfferent versions of "the same" softs, the canonical linux/unix way is not always optimal nor safe; workarounds are terrible to understand and explain... : msi.exe is more clever, by default} : if a colleague of mine hates /shies away from linux, I manage that he gets cygwin+R, generally : that makes more free softs -in terms of size- than in the eeePC....)

Every live CD I tried was better than SLED (I just kept those who had a simple FR keymap support and could access NTFS disks without too much efforts, out of laziness...).

The only linux PC I can see at a vendors boutique in my small provincial town is the ordissimo -they get advertised at TV, too, but I saw real ones:a tiny desktop, with a huge screen and a comfortable keyboard ; it is a debian, with no or little wx rights -or carefully hidden- , and aimed to old people, to watch photos, read/write emails and very safely browse the wild Internet (nothing more), if they have an IT connection...

http://www.ordissimo.com/ -I have no shares in it, but it seems very good for old "beginners" ;they seem satisfied, anyway -...

@Marechal: SSDs have proven to be more durable than conventional rotating discs in terms of lifespan. By the time the HP 2133 was out there were netbooks with conventional hard drives preloaded with Linux from at least a dozen vendors.

The idea that Microsoft is pressuring vendors is not a conspiracy theory: it is well documented. You might not think it exists but I can provide ample links to back it up.

Giving Windows XP to family? You must not like your family very much. A netbook running XP is a slow, painful experience.

"You must not like your family very much. A netbook running XP is a slow, painful experience."

But my family ***asked**** for it... and knew about linuxen.... and knew what their friends were using... and, 3 months later, they seem satisfied...(else, I would have put linux on their netbooks! they knew I could do it-)

As consumers pressure vendors (and Microsoft) to have XP,
why should Windows pressure vendors, too (for W7, it would be more likely : for Vi$ta,it was obvious).

In my small province town, noone wants to buy linux netbooks anymore (sellors do not sell them any more as XP netbooks have greater screens, larger RAM, bigger disks and the buyers neighbor can give some help...)

FYI : I find W7 very slow on my other new netbook...
Mandriva2010, once installed on a flash USB drive, seems fast (installation was a *very* slow and **very** painful experience, but it was before I put the maximum of RAM and I chose KDE4 instead of gnome on the installation ...

ScientificLinux is faster than XP, on the same netbook, but it is perhaps a 30% gain....

I use my PCs basically for developping, and being fast or slow (in task switching| starting time) is not the bottle-neck for me, as I remain a long time doing the same thing -editing/fixing/scratching my head/detecting errors-.

OTOH : thanks for making me know that flash is more durable than conventional disks : I had very unpleasant experiences, 5 years ago, and I dared to retry only recently.

OTOH2 : thanks for making people know (I do not remember in which DW) that Mandriva 2009.1 was almost unusable on netbooks (it was very weird), linked with Hun-tel new free drivers...

thanks to all for this thread. Helpful to a Linux newbie (user, not developer) trying to get his feet wet with a netbook

The vast majority of preloaded Linux systems come with Ubuntu Netbook Remix which is very good. I reviewed the Sylvania g Netbook Meso I had with UNR and I must say that the software was no problem at all.

The only linux PC I can see at a vendors boutique in my small provincial town is the ordissimo -they get advertised at TV, too, but I saw real ones:a tiny desktop, with a huge screen and a comfortable keyboard.

As noted in the article, Linux at brick and mortar retail stores has all but disappeared. However, according to both ABI Research and Dell the market share for Linux on netbooks is still around 32%. Most of those sales are online. Linux nettops and desktops are still easy to find online as well.

Where can I find one?

Lots of places, at least here in the U.S.:

System76: http://www.system76.com/
ZaReason: http://zareason.com/shop/Laptops/
LinPC: http://www.linpc.us/
Dell: http://www.dell.com/content/topics/segtopic.aspx/linux_3x?c=us&l=en&cs=19

Or, if you don't mind Android as your distro and an ARM processor you can walk into almost any K-Mart store or order either of the Augen models from them: http://www.kmart.com/shc/s/s_10151_10104_Computers+%26+Electronics_Laptops_Netbooks?sLevel=2

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