Finally, after a few hours of searching, reading and thinking through, I’ve found my “best Linux variant” for my Asus Eee PC 4G netbook. Though Joli OS was my first pick, it seemed that the developers were gearing it to netbook models that are more powerful than my Eee PC. Not to mention it’s roots to Ubuntu.
Puppy Linux was another good choice because it’s lightweight and such, but I feel it needs the “tinker more for your convenience” type of Linux, which at the moment I am not that kind of Linux user. So yeah.
As said in my previous post, my “third opinion” was Peppermint OS, a lightweight Linux flavor that I overlooked at first. It was clean, it’s fast, and the interface is smooth and direct. Though somewhat Ubuntu-based because it came from Linux Mint (as well as Lubuntu and such) and uses the Synaptic Package Manager, the desktop environment is not GNOME-based nor Unity-based, two of which are known to be system resource-intensive. Instead it uses LXDE, a desktop environment that’s fast and efficient, and has a low memory usage compared to GNOME, KDE and others.
And so just a couple of hours ago this netbook of mine underwent another SSD-wipe, then booted Peppermint using the live USB. The first gripe that I have is that the installation window was too tall for the 7-inch screen, and I had no way of scrolling down to see which buttons were the “yes”, “no”, “cancel”, “quit”, etc. Not to mention the installation process acted up on me again by stopping midway and giving me the cyclic cursor of doom (yes, I made that up), which meant something happened along the way, either the live USB is missing something or I’m doing something that isn’t right (which is weird, considering all I wanted was to install the darn thing onto the SSD).
So I went back to the tried-and-tested live CD route, but this time another surprise flanked me: after choosing the “try the Live CD first” option, I was greeted not a desktop, but a command line interface! I mean, what the heck? Two different types of interaction from two kinds of media (optical and thumbdrive), but I only used the same ISO for making either the live CD AND live USB. It was really frustrating.
Unfortunately, I don’t know the command for “install peppermint”, but I do know “sudo reboot”, which the machine gladly recognized. So out with the live CD, and once more I tried my luck with the live USB.
Since the only frustrating thing about installing was the window height of the Peppermint installer, I searched around the web to see if anybody else who has a 4G netbook had the same problem as mine. Turns out there was one article that was posted last December that had the same type of problem, and the author left instructions on how to edit (kudos to you sir!). I did so as well, and when I fired up the installer, I can finally see the “forward”, “back”, and “quit” buttons. Hoooray!
This time the installation process proceeded as straight as it can be: asked me if I want to use the whole partition of the SSD, what timezone I’m in, and so forth. I guess the Linux gods gave me a good second chance to see if I’m worth it. And after a bit of time, I rebooted, changed boot priority of hardware, and the next few blips, I was greeted by the login screen of Peppermint OS.
After a few software/component updates (and leaving me with 800+ MB of free space from the SSD), the netbook’s performance does not suffer at all. the cursor isn’t jittery, opening windows doesn’t lag, and opening Chromium (their default choice of browser) was speedy enough.
Right now I’m finishing this post using the Eee PC. Interface-wise, I don’t see any reason to customize it yet; the default look works for me. But the Site Specific Browsers and Ice Application is something I’d like to experiment, since Peppermint OS boasts itself as a hybrid “cloud-desktop” computer OS. We’ll see.
For now, I’m just happy I’ve found the right OS for my netbook. Though I had to go through all that trouble, it’s prolly safe to say it was worth it.
From my previous post I’ve talked much about my initial interaction with Linux, and up until now I’m still looking and trying out what I would say the ‘best’ variant that’s capable for my Asus Eee PC 4G netbook. Ubuntu has a lot to be desired, but with much add-ons and updates after the base installation, it looks more like bloatware to me.
As such I’ve looked into other Linux variants through Google and Wikipedia. Other flavors include some popular like Fedora, Debian, openSUSE, Mandriva, Gentoo (Ubuntu is categorized here as a Debian fork), Slackware and others. Some offers ease-of-installation, while some offer full customization of what to install and what to throw away, and there are some that are tuned to specific applications.
Now, I’d like the full customization variant, but most Linux flavors that fall in this category are mostly command-line based. Though I am not the type that abhors typing commands with the keyboard (our very first family personal computer was way back in the 80s), I am not very well-versed with linux commands, nor even UNIX commands. Though Gentoo looked good, but with the amount of time spent on command lines before having a GUI at the end of the whole installation process, and with my current computer skills on CLI it’ll take me more than just one night to complete it. That goes for Slackware too (and its variant, Arch Linux).
Debian, openSUSE, Mandriva and the like offer ease of use, a GUI to help you in installation, but at the cost of more than 4 GB disk space used up just for the OS. Again, software updates will balloon that value more.
Then I’ve read about a particular category of Linux variants: the so-called “lightweight” flavors that are optimized for either netbooks or aging hardware (this applies mostly up to Intel Pentium 4 and Celerons). Some boast that it can be installed in under 300 MB, while another contests that it is lighter than its original variant. So there’s really not much of a strict definition of what “lightweight Linux” means.
After looking at some forums, the first lightweight Linux that I read upon was Peppermint OS. It claims to be light on system resources usage and is a quick loader, and most of the apps are cloud-based (a trend I’ve been seeing lately). Though I haven’t tried it yet, I’d love to download the ISO soon (only 512MB when installed? Good enough for me!)
Then I’ve come across another lightweight Linux that I’ve tried and tested: Bodhi Linux. This one installs in just 300 MB, and you get graphics and detail that doesn’t rob you of your precious system resources.
I was able to try this variant using the live USB mode (thanks to UNetbootin), and I can say that it IS fast. Boot time was like under 20 seconds, and it gives you the option of what the live USB interface would you like to load on. I chose the laptop/netbook theme (minimalistic, yes), and in under 5 seconds I was playing around with the Enlightenment desktop interface like crazy. The cursor was responsively fast, desktop animations are present but not much of a hog, and all in all it was under 300 MB. It seemed that this would be the Linux I’d be using from then on.
But for some reason, I couldn’t install Bodhi on my Eee PC. I don’t know why, but every time I attempt installing it on the on-board SSD the installations stops midway of the process. It frustrated me for awhile, then I abandoned Bodhi altogether to look for another lightweight OS.
This time I went with easypeasy (formerly known as Eeebuntu). Again, using the live USB mode, I find clean and somewhat reminiscent of Ubuntu; then again it IS based from Ubuntu (ver. 9.04 or something). There’s the familiar synaptic package manager for downloading updates for important components, and the response is fast, though not as fast as Bodhi.
I was convinced that easypeasy would do the job for my netbook. Again, another hiccup on installation: the live USB can’t install on the on-board SSD, and when I tried formatting the SSD for good measure, there was this “drive currently in use” error. Huh. I couldn’t even format the SD card for some reason.
Then I remembered I still haven’t erased the Ubuntu OS from the SD card, and probably it was causing some conflict with installation. So i removed the SD card, and tried booting thru the live USB. But all I got was a black screen after BIOS POST-ing.
Hmm. Guess back to the old live-cd method with easypeasy (good thing cd burning these days are faster than it was 10+ years ago).
I’ve had a better success in installing easypeasy with the live cd method, so I waited for around an hour to complete the installation. By the time I rebooted, easypeasy was now the OS on the Eee PC, and I was…
…not that elated. More downloads were required as some of the components were outdated, and by the time it was finished, all that’s left from the 4 GB was around less than 512 Mb.
Well, that’s Ubuntu for you (even if it’s a variant). Resource hog.
For now I’m typing this post on the Eee PC running easypeasy (I’ve turned down all other download requests of updating old components), and I’m setting my eyes on two more lightweight Linux variants: Joli OS, but I have my doubts since it is also Ubuntu-based, and Puppy Linux (as recommended by a reader).
But as a third option, I’ll look back at Peppermint OS. That one looks very promising.
Several months ago an older brother of mine handed his ASUS Eee PC 4G (701) as he upgraded to a bigger, beefier laptop for home/sideline use. This Eee PC was one of the earliest generation of netbooks, and as such the tech specs of this machine is ‘meek and modest” in terms of cpu power and other capabilities compared to today’s models:
- 900 MHz Celeron processor
- 4 GB of SSD (soldered onto the motherboard)
- 1 GB RAM (DDR-400, expandable to 2 GB via 1 RAM slot)
- VGA out port
- 3 USB 2.0 ports
- 1 SD/MMC card reader (internal)
- 0.3 MP front-facing camera
- 802.11 b/g wireless card
- 10/100 mbps ethernet port
- no bluetooth built-in
- no internal optical drive (mine came with an slim, external USB tray-loading DVD-ROM)
- 7″ (diagonal) lcd monitor
- 4-5 hours of battery life (but due to wear and tear, mine was reduced to just an hour of battery life)
It comes with Windows XP as default OS, and it can dual-boot to Linux or any other open source operating system using the SD card slot.
Since his handing of the netbook over to me, I’ve had this idea of booting/using it full time as a Linux laptop. Personally, XP works, but it’s rather clunky and such compared to MS’s newer OS release (ie Windows 7; I’ve never used Vista, as I’ve heard/read dreaded stories about it). Since my older brother left me with just a functional OS and no other important files in it, I set out to find the perfect Linux flavor for my little machine.
….And it turns out it’s not that a walk in the park.
My first choice of Linux was Ubuntu Linux, a very popular variant that I’ve heard from my peers. The interface is clean, smooth, and very user-friendly. At first glance at the screenshots, I knew that it’ll be the perfect Linux for my Eee PC.
Then again maybe not.
Turns out that Ubuntu is much of a resource hog, not to mention that the minimum installation of the OS requires AT LEAST 4 GB. And the built-in disk space on the Eee PC was like, 4.1 GB. That only leaves about 100 MB for system updates and some other features.
As said before, I can an SD card as an alternative OS disk space for the Eee PC, but it would mean sacrificing expandability. And the 4 GB of SSD would be such a waste if unused.
First, I tried to install my copy of Ubuntu for dual-booting with the original XP that came with the netbook (XP was installed on the SSD, and I disabled the update manager to save space) in a 16 GB SD card that was always inserted in the card reader. I used the live cd method, as I haven’t read up about the live usb method, which the Eee PC can do as well. First impression was the live cd method was slow; it’s a given, really, with the optical drive connected via USB. But as said, the interface was smooth and clean, and those two are my two main points for Ubuntu.
After an hour of installation, I was ready to boot Ubuntu for the first time on the Eee PC. I was excited at using Linux (I only had few instances of using Linux, and that was when I was back in college), and when the Ubuntu desktop greeted me, I realized a few things:
- Booting up was slow. Past the BIOS POST, GRUB greets me as to which OS I want to use: Ubuntu or XP (of course I want Ubuntu!); however, after logging in, loading time was much of a waiting game.
- Not-so-much responsive interfaces. Either because of my netbook’s specs, or what.
- The borders of the windows opened are cut, and at times I can’t adjust the window size even if the cursor changes from simple pointer to ‘adjust window’ pointer. I suppose Ubuntu isn’t really for 7-inched monitors.
- There are a LOT of software updates to download after installation. Some of them total up to 1 GB in capacity, and my disk space is getting smaller and smaller for personal files and whatnot.
Really, I had high hopes for Ubuntu. I know it’s also my fault as I could’ve upgraded my RAM and bought a larger capacity SD card, but my budget is tight and I have to make do of what I have right now. But if Ubuntu wants me to download more important updates for some components (which I ask myself: do I really need to know all of them like lib-prc-gnuil-whatever?), it may or may not bog down my system in the long run.
So for now, I’ve taken the liberty of turning the SSD of my Linux into a clean slate: no more Windows XP, and the SD card is next to be formatted.
Next, I’ll post about my journey of finding another suitable Linux.