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The Search for a Netbook OS

posted in: Gadget Impressions | 3

the-search-for-a-netbook-os

I’m going to replace my Dell Mini 9 with a new MacBook Air. I want one powered by Sandy Bridge and if rumors are to be believed, I won’t have long to wait. In the meantime, I’m on a quest to transform the Dell Mini 9 to what it is and that is a netbook; a laptop made for surfing the web.

Windows 7 is a fine OS. It works well with the Dell Mini 9, but it’s a bit much for what is ostensibly an internet machine. What I want is Google Chrome, but I can’t have it because Google is only shipping it with Chromebooks. There are Chromium builds, but I’ll get to that later.

MeeGo 1.2

My first choice was MeeGo because it was supposed to be made for netbooks powered by Intel Atom processors.

ProsCons
  • Fast boot times
  • Powered by Chrome web browser
  • Easy to navigate UI
  • Poor Flash performance; especially full screen
  • Wi-Fi doesn't always reconnect properly after sleep; complete restart of netbook required
  • No way to save wireless profiles
  • Clumsy multitasking support

MeeGo showed promise, but it quickly fell apart. Some of the most basic functions (ie: wireless network management and Flash performance) didn’t work as intended which was incredibly annoying since it took away from MeeGo’s strengths.I

Perhaps I could go the “pure” HTML 5 route and somehow disable flash support to alleviate the Flash performance issue, but why should I have to compromise?

Chromium Builds

I tried three Chromium builds:

  • Dell’s build – Made specifically for the Dell Mini line of netbooks, but doesn’t support sound or Wi-Fi.
  • Chromium Flow build – A fixed up build with limited hardware support. Not everything works (ie: can’t control volume properly). It’s also quite outdated.
  • Chromium OS Vanilla – Very limited hardware support. No Wi-Fi

None of those builds work for my situation. Performance is great for all of them, but it’s not suitable for daily use without proper sound or working Wi-Fi

Joli OS 1.2

Jolicloud is a cloud OS, but that’s a bit of a stretch because if you boil it down: it’s a glorified bookmarking service. It reminds me of Google’s Chrome App Store and Google Chrome OS which isn’t much of a stretch since it is running off Chromium 10. The actual OS is simply a modified Ubuntu 10 build with the Jolicloud interface grafted on top.

To be honest, I didn’t think this would work out, but after spending some time with: it’s the next best thing next Google Chrome OS or Chromium OS.

Google Chrome OS itself is based off an Ubuntu build, but unlike Joli OS, it’s much more tightly integrated to the hardware and much more restrictive. You’re essentially using Chrome and the web store with limited local system functions.

ProsCons
  • Decent boot times
  • Powered by Chrome web browser
  • Easy to navigate UI
  • Solid Flash performance
  • Can install local applications
  • All primary hardware functions work as intended
  • Most "apps" are actually bookmarks to sites
  • Battery display isn't accurate
  • Chromium version is a version behind & unable to update

I can utilize Joli OS and Chromium browser as if I was running Chrome OS I could do a bit more with this this pared down Ubuntu install. For example, I can install local Adobe AIR applications and run the TweetDeck client instead of the clunky Chrome Web Store version. It also features an iOS-like interface for easy apps/shortcut navigation.

Joli for Now

For now, I’m using Joli OS 1.2. MeeGo 1.2 would have been fine if the basic functions were working. Chromium OS would have been my first choice, but it’s such a hack at the moment and I don’t have the patience to wrestle with it. So until MeeGo and Chromium OS get it together, it’s Joli all the way.

3 Responses

  1. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Just saw this post… did you check the new May 13th build of Chromium for the Dell Mini 9?  The audio is still an issue, but the WiFi works great on mine.  Not a bad little setup.  The audio can be fixed too. But the negative is that it doesn’t keep the fix and you have to do it every time you reboot.  Annoying.  I’ve tried one permanent fix that didn’t work, but some people are working on it.  Boot times were nice… 14.5 seconds using my 32GB Runcore SSD in my otherwise stock Vostro A90 (Dell Mini 9).

    I still think that Windows 7 is a heck of a lot more versatile on the Mini 9.  OS X is fine and fun to prove that you can do it.  But it’s not ideal.  Linux is also really good once you get used to it (honestly, how much more do people do than simply use a browser?).  But for a no-muss, no-fuss setup, Chromium on the Mini 9 is tough to beat.  I like it.

    • Anonymous
      | Reply

      Yes. I based my impressions of that version.

  2. Luis Fernando Tapia Bustos
    | Reply

    Hi
    I have Joli OS and it updates Chrome and other apps automatically 

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