Get ready to supercharge those netbooks with Ubuntu 10.04

Holy cow...The early beta of Ubuntu 10.04 is really fast.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

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.

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