In case folks haven't noticed, I'm quickly becoming enamored of the Acer Aspire One netbook I'm reviewing for the next couple of weeks. So what does it take to make the Acer even better? It takes a better operating system.
Linpus Linux is actually a great choice for inexperienced users. Everything works right out of the box and it's obvious and intuitive how to get online, create documents, and use the built-in webcam. You can certainly launch a command line, as well, if you want to get more sophisticated, but it will quickly leave experienced users feeling a bit underwhelmed.
So I installed Fedora 10 last Friday and have been playing with it all weekend. The result? It isn't as fast as Linpus on boot and shut down (Linpus runs about 20 seconds for each, while I'm hitting a little about 45 for bootup on Fedora) but everything worked without a hitch. I did notice that the fonts were overwhelmingly large, so I forced them to 96dpi (a simple option in the control panel) and all was well.
With Fedora, I have drastically greater control over the function and appearance of the OS, regular major updates, and access to the entire Fedora software library. Linpus is far more limiting in terms of software, even via yum on the command line. Better yet, I installed Wine and now have our literacy and math RTI software running (I'll be testing this more extensively this week, but both installed without a hitch as soon as I copied a missing DLL file).
Performance, once loaded, is quite good and OpenOffice 3 (not currently available on Linpus) and Firefox 3 (not included out of the box on Linpus) loaded very quickly. Multi-tasking performance is still sluggish; I killed a few stray processes and still wouldn't recommend more than Oo.org and Firefox/IM software running at the same time. Simple image editing was no problem, though.
Obviously, netbooks aren't designed to be speed demons; they are supposed to keep us productive on the go. In educational settings, they are supposed to provide as many students as possible with access to computing facilities. In both cases, I would certainly say mission accomplished with Fedora 10.
Fedora 10, in my opinion, turns a useful little device into a highly-functional mini-computer. Since I'm running KDE 4, all of the KDE Educational suite, as well as a wide variety of educational software from elsewhere in the Fedora repositories runs quite well. KStars fits very nicely in a coat pocket for stargazing with my netbook.
Fedora, like most distributions, isn't for everyone. My real goal here, though, was to evaluate how a full-fledged distro appropriate for a wide variety of educational settings (really primary through college) and manageable in a more "corporate" environment (unlike Linpus) would perform on decidedly limited hardware. Guess what? It works quite well. Whether learning to type for my youngest, taking notes in class, writing papers, or otherwise doing school "stuff", Fedora makes the Aspire One much better suited to general use.
Now next weekend, I'll have to install OpenSUSE. Their educational repository contains volumes of great stuff, but the distro is not known for being lean and mean. For now, it's back to school for us and I can get the Aspire into the hands of a lot of students for more first-hand evaluations.