Ubuntu on netbooks
March 31, 2011 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: "Netbook-ubuntu-linux-dual boot-newbie question: recently purchased a Toshiba NB310 netbook. Please recommend me a version of ubuntu to install."

"I recently purchased a Toshiba NB310 10.1" netbook, with the 2GB memory upgrade. I want to try out an ubuntu OS on it. This will be my first exposure to ubuntu/linux systems, and I'm for the most part a computer newbie. I have some questions:

- Is the only advantage to dual boot that I have two OSes that I can work with? If I went with dual boot (Windows/Ubuntu), would that make the netbook run slower?
- Which version of ubuntu should I install? I'm unfamiliar with all the versions/differences between the versions. Should I just look for the most recent stable version? Should I install the netbook version, or just the regular version? (I'm assuming netbook version is more lightweight?)
- Would another linux system work better for the netbook? I have heard of Mint, but I don't know anything about it...
- Any tips/cautions for an ubuntu newbie? After/If I manage to get ubuntu working, what other software would you recommend?

posted by oracle bone to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: First paragraph typo: out = try out. Sorry about that.
posted by oracle bone at 6:50 AM on March 31, 2011

- If I went with dual boot (Windows/Ubuntu), would that make the netbook run slower?

Not really, at least not in any perceptible way. The only thing I can think of is that you need to choose the OS when booting and that menu adds a couple of seconds to the whole process.

- Which version of ubuntu should I install?

In my opinion the netbook edition was good until 10.10. Now it's unmitigated crap thanks to the Unity interface they are trying to push. So, just install the normal edition. That's the only major difference anyway.

However, take into account that Ubuntu's new version will be released in about a month. So, you may want to wait (or install now and wait before updating, brand new releases tend to be a mess anyway).

- Would another linux system work better for the netbook?

Jolicloud is fun and easy to use if you have a good internet connection but it can feel somewhat limited once you know what you're doing.
posted by Memo at 7:08 AM on March 31, 2011

Try Wubi.
It lets you install Ubuntu "as a windows application", magically dual-boot, and uninstall ubuntu very easily "as a windows application".
posted by jozxyqk at 7:11 AM on March 31, 2011

In my opinion the netbook edition was good until 10.10. Now it's unmitigated crap thanks to the Unity interface they are trying to push.

The screenshots of the layout looked pretty cool to me - can you explain why the normal layout is better? I'm interested because I have also been thinking about doing the same thing as oracle bone's friend.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:13 AM on March 31, 2011

Memo gives good advice above. To add to the discussion about what version of Ubuntu--

I agree that the Unity interface is unmitigated crap. It flies in the face of convention, which I typically am intrigued by, but unfortunately Unity is horrible.

I was under the impression that Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) wasn't just Unity that made it different than Ubuntu Desktop, because there were other switches flipped in the default install that made it more friendly to an underpowered small screen device. So in my case, I stuck with UNR and then googled for how to dump Unity for the (ahhhh, that's better) Gnome desktop. It was very easy to do, and believe me there's tons of information out there on how to do it.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:14 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

EndsOfInvention: Try this for starters

I know Canonical is trying to make Linux on non-servers more of a mainstream thing, but Unity IMO is frought with UI issues, is buggy, and is on the whole a complete nightmare for someone that wants to do more than launch a web browser or an email client. The workaround of moving to classic Gnome desktop (or KDE, if that's your pleasure) is not hard, so this falls short of a complete Ubuntu dealbreaker for me. But man, what a garbage default they have on netbook right now.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:21 AM on March 31, 2011

I have the same Toshiba netbook. I tried a couple different netbook-flavored distributions and settled on Linux Mint, which does everything I need it to without much hassle and otherwise stays pretty much out of the way. I didn't like Jolicloud at all, for what it's worth -- the "cloud" features weren't useful and the "app"-themed interface just felt like a gimmicky cosmetic change.
posted by theodolite at 7:26 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did the same thing, I have Kubuntu (not the netbook version, it sucks) and Windows 7 dual booted on my Acer Aspire One. I gave each OS 20 GB to install on, and they share a 170 GB partition were all my data and media is stored. That way I can access it from either OS.

One tip: keep a CD image of both operating systems on the netbook and a CD image to USB creator program in both operating systems, so if one has a problem or crashes you can boot into the other, make an install USB drive, and fix the broken one.
posted by token-ring at 7:27 AM on March 31, 2011

FYI for the OP - Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, with the added feature of having all the extra rights encumbered stuff such as Flash, MP3 support etc provided in the base install. I haven't used it, but I've heard only good things about it.

Ans yes, some people would consider the extras a bug, not a feature :)
posted by COD at 7:49 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) Although I've liked earlier Ubuntu releases more than the latest one, the problem with running old versions is that things start to get out of date, and you run into dependency issues. There are ways around that, but for a new user I'd go with the latest stable release of Ubuntu.

2) The only significant difference between the netbook remix and vanilla ubuntu is the GUI. If you're new to Ubuntu, either will work.

3) Jolicloud is ubuntu based and I'd treat it like the netbvook remix. Okay for a new user, but not my favorite.

4) I've moved to Debian on my home computer, but I'm still a big fan of Ubuntu, it's the best OS for new users IMHO.

5) As stated above, dual booting shouldn't cause any problems except for that extra few seconds to select your OS of choice. It may be more effort than you want to go through to set up though, depending on what your goals are.

6) Default Ubuntu is great, and you shouldn't need to add a lot of new applications. But they're easy to add, that's one of my favorite things about it. There are a lot of pages like this and this and this that might answer your question though.

7) The documentation on the Ubuntu side is pretty good, and the forum community is great. Don't be afraid to use them.

Good luck!
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:51 AM on March 31, 2011

Some really good advice here. In particular I would second trying wubi and, if you like, eventually partioning your drive with two OS partitions and a large vfat shared partition. I would also suggest another partition for /home but that's another discussion.

As far as distributions go my money is on lubuntu which feels a little homier than unity and really is lighter than the gnome or ode offerings.
posted by mce at 12:16 PM on March 31, 2011

I just installed ubuntu on my Aspire One last week [posting this from it right now]

I have the old tiny 8gb SSD version, so dual-booting for me wouldn't be very feasible simply for reasons of space, but my other pcs are all dual-booters: if you have the space for it go for it, it won't slow them down at all. Do take care to manage your partitions though so you don't end up running out of space on either.

The main advantage of dual-booting is you get to run your windows-only software when you need to [read: games], and get to use linux to maintain your sanity otherwise.

As for distro: I'm running the netbook version ubuntu 10.10 [UNR] with the unity ui that everyone here hates, it isnt that bad for me really, but i do spend 90% of my time in the terminal so might just not be using unity enough to feel everyone's pain. I also run practically everything full screen since its such a tiny screen anyway. That said, it is fairly painless to switch to the regular GNOME gui [it gets installed with the netbook edition and you just have to select it on the login screen].

Why don't you get a live cd version and give that a shot if you aren't convinced?
posted by xqwzts at 4:22 PM on March 31, 2011

Just my personal experience, but another vote for Wubi, which was seamless, and particularly the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, which is great for a small screen.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:36 PM on March 31, 2011

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