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Get ready to supercharge those netbooks with Ubuntu 10.04

Holy cow...The early beta of Ubuntu 10.04 is really fast.

Holy cow...The early beta of Ubuntu 10.04 is really fast. On a netbook.

Jason Perlow gave a great video review of the updated OS, but he used a virtual machine simulating an average desktop computer (dual core processor, reasonable graphics capabilities, etc.). So, although he pointed out the snappiness of the snappiness of the OS on his setup, I wanted to give it a gander on a netbook. A lot of us in education have purchased more than our share of netbooks since they're kid-sized, cheap, and relatively disposable.

I've written before about using the LXDE interface to improve the performance of Ubuntu on netbooks and older PCs, but since this is an early beta, I figured that I'd stick with the standard Gnome interface. However, it booted so quickly that it really didn't matter that I was using Gnome.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. This isn't meant to be a full review. Rather, it's meant to call out the speed of the new OS on hardware many of us use as a necessary compromise to get closer to 1:1 and achieve both educational and financial goals. Particularly given that so many of the netbooks we purchased came with Windows XP Home, I know that I've been eyeing up Windows 7 Professional upgrades. The latest Intel Classmates are shipping with Windows 7 and Intel reports that performance is outstanding. I've used Windows 7 Starter Edition on a few netbooks as well and have been quite impressed with the performance on mediocre hardware.

Guess what? After using just the first beta for a day on my Lenovo S10 with a gigabyte of RAM and the first generation Atom, I'm not eyeing up Windows 7 anymore. Not only is this free, but it feels just as fast (if not faster) than Windows 7. This is seat-of-the-pants only, but let's just say that it's a significant upgrade from XP Home. I've also already installed one of our major Windows-only math RTI programs under the latest beta of Wine: it installed flawlessly and works as well as it did on the Windows machines. Sound, video, software updates, authentication, etc., built into the software all work like a champ. The reading RTI software is installing right now for some more thorough testing with my 2nd-grader this weekend.

What gets me is that this is merely the first beta. I know that other early testers have been impressed with 10.04, but I think that Ubuntu has an OS here that is not only a worthy competitor to Windows 7 (which I really like, by the way), but will drastically expand the usefulness, utility, and security of our netbook investments. It will also be a great platform going forward as we evaluate improved netbook specs, tablets, VDI, and other 1:1 implementations in our schools.