Ubuntu 9.10 – Karmic Koala on a Gateway Netbook

Netbooks are the in thing right now. They’re compact, lightweight, power conscious devices that are fun to use. You can bring a netbook on a trip with you and not worry about having to carry around a big expensive laptop. There are a lot of practical reasons why you would get a netbook, but most people get them because they’re “cute” without realizing that the software they use on their desktops requires a lot more power than a netbook will provide.

My personal experience with my new netbook is slightly different since I’m used to Linux and computing. I went into Best Buy after looking at various netbooks online from Dell, Gateway, and the Best Buy website. I chose Best Buy since it was closest and had a good selection. I’m not an advocate for Best Buy, I just wanted a netbook that day and didn’t want to wait.

I looked at the Asus Eee netbook, which has a really good zooming mousepad, Intel Atom processor, 1G memory, 120G HD, but the Gateway model was slightly bigger and seemed more natural (10.1″ compared to 11.6″). The Gateway LT3103u offered an Athlon 64 L110 single core processor, Vista Home Basic, 2G DDR2 SDRAM, 250G HD, ATI Radeon X1270 graphics, and nice styling.

I also purchased an external USB DVD drive, but the computer offers a USB boot option in the BIOS. Some tweaking of the boot order is necessary to get the computer to boot off a USB CDRom or USB memory stick.

I wanted to get Ubuntu loaded onto the computer since it would boost performance and allow me to run programs that Vista Home Basic would not. I downloaded Ubuntu 9.04 first but the installer errored out. It stated that a file could not be found, so I assumed that a driver in the installation was not made to work for the USB CDRom or Netbook. I decided to try Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 4 and found that the installer worked perfectly. A few clicks and 30 minutes later I had a working Ubuntu Karmic Koala installation on a Netbook.

Karmic is fast and I can even run Compiz. No big surprise there. I even downloaded Netbeans so I could program PHP websites using the netbook. Netbeans is a bit slow, but not by much. It still opens fine and is snappy once the application window has been loaded. Karmic Alpha 4 still has a couple of bugs, like an application that crashes, but the crashing and small bugs aren’t noticeable besides the crash report showing up. The developers are playing around with the user experience, so buttons no longer have icons within them and the panel menus have also lost their icons. The icons can be re-enabled if you really liked them. Overall I believe Karmic to be the best iteration of Ubuntu that I’ve experienced. It’s clean, easy to understand, user oriented, and should help to get more people using Linux.

If you want Linux on your netbooks from the factory please contact Gateway, Best Buy, Dell, HP, and any other computer manufacturer and tell them that they need to provide Linux as a viable alternative to Windows. Dell is doing a great job of leading a new effort for this, but more companies need to hear this from potential consumers. While you can easily download Linux and install it yourself, it would be better if you didn’t have to pay the extra $50 for the Windows license just to remove Windows.