So you’ll no doubt be aware that a while back I wrestled with trying to get a fully-functional version of Ubuntu onto my Asus EeePC 901, and had to jump through some fairly complicated hoops to get it all working. Then Canonical went and released their beta version of Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope and all my problems were solved – all the Eee hardware working out of the box. Superb.
So, with the arrival of the official release of 9.04 Jaunty, I decided I’d try out the three main distros of Ubuntu – plain GNOME-based Ubuntu, KDE-based Kubuntu and the stripped down XFCE-based Xubuntu. In addition, I also thought I’d give the official Netbook Remix of Ubuntu a spin as well, just for the sake of completeness. For all four distros, I downloaded the ISO, and set up a 2GB USB flash drive using Unetbootin to run a live version, and then used this to install to an 8GB SD card in the Eee 901’s card slot.
I have to say, I’m surprised by the performance differences between these four versions – because they are quite marked. Good old vanilla Ubuntu runs just fine and dandy. The only thing wrong as far as I can tell is that it’s a bit sluggish running from SD, but I guess that’s to be expected. The package is well-rounded and it includes most things that you’d need, apart from maybe Skype (but that’s a doddle to install).
I tested the Netbook Remix (NBR) version next. Now undoubtedly this cosmetic tweak makes things a bit easier to navigate on the small 9-inch screen of the Eee, but I really noticed a performance hit. It showed a remarkable amount of slowdown over ordinary Ubuntu, and changing between the tabs was quite painful – about a second between clicking and it actually changing. The general sluggishness meant that I couldn’t put up with it, so it had to go.
Then I tried Kubuntu, with it’s all-singing-all-dancing KDE 4 interface that I’ve been hearing so many good things about. Now I’m sure if I was installing it on a fully-fledged desktop machine it’d fly along, but running off the SD card was – again – just too slow to be usable. In addition, the interface isn’t at all suitable for the tiny Eee screen, as the top and bottom of each window were not visible. Also, no Firefox as standard is a black mark against it as far as I’m concerned.
So onto Xubuntu. The whole idea of the XCFE interface is that it’s designed for lower-spec machines. As such, on the Eee it positively flies along! Admittedly it’s not quite the slick, full package that ordinary Ubuntu is, but it still has everything I need, particularly on a netbook which really only uses Firefox in anger. I quick trip onto the interweb to install Skype and I’m as happy as Larry. I reckon this will be the distro that’s staying on my Eee, at least until I feel the urge to start tinkering again.
Just to clarify – my comments above are my personal experiences of running these distros from an SD card on an Eee PC. This is NOT the ideal means of running these distributions, and if you’re up for it you’d be far better installing to the primary SSD instead, and you’d be even better off installing to a proper desktop machine. However, for my purposes, Xubuntu is the one for me.