Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

Summary: Ubuntu may be a great replacement for Windows, but it doesn't have to be for the netbook market. It runs, surprisingly, better than you think.

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Ubuntu is all good and well, but still the operating system that wipes the floor is Windows 7 in the netbook market. That is, what little market there is for the netbook at the moment; overshadowed by the iPad and increasingly productive smartphones.

Chris Dawson believes Ubuntu can revive the netbook market, especially within schools dispite their lack of appeal. His two test machines were designed and built for Ubuntu's netbook and education edition. But the specifications of the laptop are nearly identical to my new Christmas present, a Toshiba NB250, but runs Windows 7 a breeze.

But does the operating system have more of a factor in consumer purchasing than the device itself? Maybe a combination of the two, to be fair, but hardware has come along way since the original netbook.

I like Ubuntu. Not only did I bite the bullet and engage with the operating system as a first time user for an entire 48 hours with the support from the ZDNet community, but the latest release of Ubuntu 10.10 also has other new users positively engaged from the word go.

Dawson's first hand experience of Ubuntu vs. my first hand experience of Windows

Ubuntu didn't want to work on my new netbook, annoyingly, after my first attempt to install Windows XP, an operating system with a lesser memory footprint than Windows 7, failed. Windows XP did finally install, but Toshiba's drivers were simply not available for the device and continuing would have resulted in VGA graphics at 640x480 and with no networking controller.

After spending the best part of Christmas Day trying to install an operating system other than Windows 7 - certainly not Vista- on a netbook with almost exactly the same specs as Dawson's tester netbooks, I settled with Windows 7 Enterprise. This time, however, was without any of the pre-installed crapware that bloated out the out-of-box experience and pushing the netbook's memory usage to nearly three-quarters.

After disabling non-essential Windows processes such as HomeGroup services, Tablet PC input and all Aero themes, and the installation of Microsoft Security Essentials, classified as an excellent and superior anti-virus to paid products, the memory footprint was way under a third consumed.

To cut a long story short, Windows 7 runs incredibly smoothly, even on memory intensive applications like CityVille (Dawson and I are neighbours on the increasingly popular Facebook simulation game), just with a few reasonable cutbacks. To also consider that the platform runs, obviously, all Windows applications is surely yet another reason why Windows is vastly superior to Ubuntu.

Why Windows?

While I don't want this to be one giant advertisement or advocation to and for Windows, nor do I want to appear that I am slating Ubuntu for being a poor operating system. On both counts you would be wrong.

But netbooks are surprisingly powerful compared to only six months ago, and with better processors managing memory better, partly down to Intel Atom chips in my opinion, which are present on both Dawson's netbook and my machine, netbooks don't have to settle for second best.

In an ideal world, even though Windows XP may be dead and buried for the desktopand laptop market, it is still a brilliant operating system and indirectly designed for netbook perfection. Ubuntu netbook edition works well, but lacks the full Ubuntu desktop experience.

But Windows 7 cuts out the bulk, stress and sluggishness from Vista which would make even the desktop experience difficult, onto a netbook device with great results.

Have you got a netbook? Which operating system do you use and why?

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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71 comments
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  • Netbook

    I have an Acer Aspire One, had it almost a year now; from the beginning it was multi-boot, running XP, Ubuntu and Win7. I did have some issues getting some system devices to work with Ubuntu, but was able to resolve them fairly easily with minimal research. I did do a few things right out of the box: 2gb ram and external cd/dvd are a must for what I do, and once I made a driver cd, I just cleared the hd and started from scratch. Most people won't have to do this, though. I have worked on many since for clients and co-workers, and the factory software is fine for most people, no matter what you get it with. (Granted, I do this for a living, and some things I would not recommend for the average user, but really, any reasonably competent tech or end user could handle it..)<br>I don't get why everyone dismisses the netbooks; I got mine specifically so I could have a small, full featured computer to carry along on field service calls, and it has far outperformed my expectations. I really didn't expect it to do some things as well as it does, like full-screen movies, and I actually prefer the smaller keyboard. It is my direct replacement whenever I am away from home, in the office I just run it on an external monitor and mouse. My only gripe so far has been the short battery life, and that is no longer a problem with 12 cell batteries available for $50 or so. I mostly run Ubuntu 10.10, really only boot into XP to use Outlook. I would run Win7, but not interested in paying $200+ just to have it. As far as an iPad goes, there is no way I could or would trade, even if someone bought it for me. It simply could not do all things I can do with my Acer.
    Skyhawk2420
    • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

      @Skyhawk2420

      I've gone through so many laptops and netbooks in the past year I have lost count. Macbook Air 13 inch, 11.6 inch, several netbooks, a Sony Z Series yada yada yada...

      A few of the computers I had during that time stuck out as being exceptional machines, and my Aspire ONE was definitely one of those. I had one of the original iterations in black, I think it was the ZG5 or some such thing, and for a period of several months before I got heavily back into my computing hobby *this Acer was my ONLY computer*. I too played full screen videos on it without a hiccup, and took it everywhere, bangs and all.

      I prefer Lenovo products overall, but me and my brother's series 1 S10s did not hold up NEARLY as well. Cracked display housings, flaking surfaces and generally poor build quality.

      I'm using a "grown up" netbook now, a Lenovo X100e with a dual core AMD Athlon Neo architecture and while I love using it, I have doubts about its long term durability. Anything portable and AMD powered also tends to heat up to worrisome levels in every single AMD device I've ever owned, and the X100e is no exception depending on what's running.

      Hang on to that Acer, it is one of the few Netbooks I would have hung on to as a backup had I known how piss poor some of the others are.
      Playdrv4me
  • LMAO

    Hey Cyberidiot...if you're gonna install XP onto a SATA, you [i]may[/i] need to have a driver handy.
    SonofaSailor
    • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

      @SonofaSailor You are right about that, unless you switch the sata from AHCI to IDE in the bios. I slip streamed a driver and SP3 onto an XP install cd.
      Skyhawk2420
      • true dat...

        @Skyhawk2420

        they say it causes a performance hit, but I've never noticed one.
        SonofaSailor
      • XP, Vista and Win7 have issues with AHCI

        @Skyhawk2420 All versions of Windows have issues with AHCI. I still have no idea what is the main cause but the symptom is the same:
        - Eternal blue-screen reboots .... even when trying to run in Safe Mode.

        The only solution is to disable AHCI and switch to plain SATA on the BIOS.
        wackoae
      • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

        @Sonofasailor they said the same thing about your mother when she had you and she did take a performance hit it ruined her stripper career.
        cyberslammer2
      • Nice

        @Cyberslammer
        Maybe 'Windoze98' will up with something better? yes?
        SonofaSailor
    • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

      @SonofaSailor Why can't you just be civil?
      zwhittaker
      • I'm afraid you have a better chance

        of getting rain by asking for it from the clouds.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

        @zwhittaker He's a moron that has zero IT experience. Look at his name probably trolls the docks looking for his daddy on the next trawler.
        cyberslammer2
    • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

      @SonofaSailor Hey faggot how about saying it to me in person?
      cyberslammer2
    • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

      @SonofaSailor

      I have a question for you, you seem to be so knowledgeable about IT but in the time I've been on these boards reading the stories and your comments you have never posted one thing that could be remotely considered as IT expertise. Granted, cyberslammer2 spouts a lot of fanboyism towards Apple and hate towards Microsoft, at least he posts some valid technical things once in awhile, yet all you seem to do is follow him from story to story like a lovesick teenage girl. You even posted about him using an avatar of Zod from Superman and how it was homophobic, and then proceeded to change your avatar to Zod...what does that say about you?

      By the way, I did read where he posted his qualifications, nowhere did he list that he was Windows XP certified, or did you forget that little bit of information prior to attacking him? If he's not XP certified, how is he supposed to know that the base driverset that loads in and XP install doesn't include SATA and you have to slipstream drivers into the install to do it, and what makes his situation even more of a challenge is that he's trying to put XP on a netbook without a CD and doing it from a USB thumb drive.

      So tell me Sonofasailor, in all the years you've supposedly done IT you've never run into a situation that stumped you? Even the most ardent and experienced computer person runs into a wall on occasion, but I guess you're just too perfect to do that. I'm not certified in Windows 7, so if I run into an issue that requires me to do some research are you going to laugh at me as well?

      So tell us, what makes you so qualified to come in here stalking people from forum to forum?
      Brick Tamland
      • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

        @Windoze98 Bahahaha you just got OWNED deck swabber!!
        cyberslammer2
      • hypocrite much?

        @Windoze98 <br>Funny...for someone criticizing me about my posts habits, you sure do seem to know alot about mine. <br><br>BUT...I'm betting you are same person as Cyberslammer, Cyberslammer2, Ron Burgundy, and Sonofasailorsdad (oh yeah, you comment on my posting habits...this SOB is running around posting as my dad). Maybe I'm wrong, maybe yesterday wasn't day 1 of the username "Windoze98" being created. But I doubt it. And a quick google search of your posts on ZDnet confirms it...only 1 post for you: this one I'm replying to. Plus, your post above and Cyber's posts carry a similar thread of hypocrisy to them. You accuse me of stalking him; yet, you seem quite knowledgeable about my behavior. Cyber, he criticizes others for derogatory comments towards him, but he has no problem making those kinds of comments towards myself and others...trollish comments, 1st level insults directed at me, NonZealot, Tricktom3, and Loverock. But...I guess you've turned a blind eye towards his activity huh??? I wonder why?<br><br>However, for the other points you bring up. XP certified? Um, XP and SATA have been around for years and years, and you don't have to be XP certified to know about the driver issue and how to correct it. <br><br>Now, I'll give you the 'loading XP, drivers, sp's onto a USB'...somewhat. However, Netbooks have been around for a while now too, and re/installing an O/S has always posed that problem because none of them have media drives. At the very least, For as long as there have been netbooks, there have articles on how to load XP on a USB and install on a Netbook. <i>Especially on this site.</i><br><br>Have I ever run into an instance where I was stumped or had a problem? of course, I'm not perfect and have never claimed to be. but XP and SATA? really? Imagine what kind of feedback I would get if I went over to Ubuntu forums and described the difficulty I had in pulling updates for Lynx, especially if had been posting around calling the other regulars idiots beforehand.<br><br>Cyber has done that very thing, and he had that coming to him. I would think you would've noticed that while you were noticing my posts. But, again, that is assuming you and cyber aren't the same person.
        SonofaSailor
      • @Windoze98, Cyberslammer2

        OWNED

        Multi-profile FAIL
        SonofaSailor
      • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

        @SonofaSailor

        How am I a hypocrite? Also, you didn't answer the one fundamental question I asked you in the first post I made...why are you stalking this person from thread to thread, you make fun of him for his avatar and then you take his avatar as your own? Are you obsessed with this individual?

        Yes Sonofasailor, every individual who comes on here at ZDNet that creates an account is an alter...do you also have a tin foil hat to block out the voices in your head? Yes, I created my account yesterday because I've been on here reading the posts for awhile and following the news stories because unlike you, I come here for actual information related to IT, but sometimes I read the posts, and I can say yours are pretty much those of someone whose sole purpose is to belittle, degrade, and stalk without any substance whatsoever.

        I wouldn't even put you in the same league as Loverock. Granted, cyberslammer2 rants a lot and is full of crap from what I read, but he does post some genuine information at times. Who cares if he's a fanboi? Do you brag and high-five your colleagues over supposedly "owning" someone you've never met, never talked to, never dealt with personally?

        Thanks for admitting you're not perfect, and if you went into the Ubuntu forums and posted about pulling updates from Lynx and caught crap for it, I would hope that people would give you an answer without belittling you, but if they are then they are no better than the belittling you do here and I wouldn't want to have them involved with me professionally.

        I've run into issues before with installs and maintenance before, I don't think "Oh, I better run to ZDNet and figure it out..."...maybe he's done installs on standard machines and never encountered a net book, they are a little bit of a different animal than a standard PC as they don't have a standard CD/DVD ROM on them so it's a little trickier to get it installed. Does that make him any less of a techie than you just because he may have never encountered this before?

        Get off your soapbox.
        Brick Tamland
  • Been saying from day one...

    Windows 7 runs fine on netbooks. My ASUS EEE PC 900HA was my Win7 test bed. XP never saw the light of day again after the first build leaked.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

      @Cylon Centurion 0005

      Had one for nearly a year. First thing, wiped the toy Linux OS and installed Win 7 Ultimate - works fine and has been the main computer for my business partner.

      I always have a choice -install a "free" OS with virtually no apps or business integration or Win 7 that integrates into my business and home environment.
      tonymcs@...
  • RE: Windows 7 can revive netbooks, not Ubuntu alone

    Why is this even a topic? Sounds like people are trying to compare them to tablets again. They are different, used for different things. I have no use whatsoever in the real world for a tablet of any flavor, but use my netbook probably 8 hours a day.
    Skyhawk2420