Netbook with Jolicloud vs Windows 7 vs Ubuntu Maverick vs Ubuntu Lucid 13

I tested Windows 7, Jolicloud, Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick, and Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid on my new Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1012) Netbook.  First let me say, Window 7 on this netbook is barely usable. If you wait for the OS to finish booting, which takes at least 5 minutes before all the background processes finish loading, then it operates *Ok*.  But to be honest, I didn’t want to run this thing with Windows from the start.  Biggest reason…  from initial power on, it takes 3 minutes and 13 seconds to boot, connect to Wifi, and have your home page open.  WHAT!  Are you kidding me?  That’s just way too long for something that you want for some periodic web use.  And remember, that’s Windows 7 without any Antivirus software loaded up (at least any that I saw from a fresh Dell install from factory).  Once you load up some basic programs, Antivirus, Dropbox, backup software (I prefer Crashplan, but you could consider Dropbox just for essentials.), Office, just basic stuff for any Windows system, it’s going to slow down even further.   I don’t expect much from this little, underpowered Atom-based, mini laptop, but it should be something reasonable to use.  I think another post is coming for “My advice on buying a Netbook, for non-Geeks.”

So… I didn’t like the idea of Windows on my netbook. I am a Linux/Unix guy anyway, and I know there’s been some big improvements in the Linux Desktop area.  I use Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid as my primary desktop and laptop OS anyway, and I love it.  ( I still have a secondary Windows 7 system though.)  I wanted to give Ubuntu Netbook Remix 10.10 Maverick a try. I installed it, and immediately noticed something, I had no wireless.  Man, still!  For the last 1 to 2 years I’ve tried netbooks with Linux based OS’s and they always have issues with the wirless!  And to make it worse, getting the wireless to work looked easy, but it didn’t work. The “restricted drivers” in Ubuntu didn’t want to load. I did get everything working, but Maverick has some major issues that drove me nuts.

Maverick netbook version uses that nice looking, and clever user interface called Unity.  But I had a very hard time with it.  For one, I couldn’t add my own launchers.  Right click menu’s didn’t work, and it customizing it, if you even can, was very difficult.  For two, it crashed constantly!  For three, once I added the current Apt updates, the whole thing slowed so much I could barely operate it!  Maverick was such a pain to use, I just formatted and loaded Lucid after wasting over a day of tweaks and adjustments.

I will say this, Ubuntu Maverick did boot quickly. Times below are from initial power button, which includes BIOS POST.
– In about 50 seconds I had a desktop.
– 1:13 I saw the Wifi connection established
– 1:27 the web was launched and home page loaded.
Not too bad, in my opinion.

However, continuing with Maverick was a NO-GO.  Next, I installed Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid. Install was easy, just like Maverick, but I didn’t see the crashing, it got all the updates and didn’t slow to a crawl, and most importantly, the Restricted Drivers for the Broadcom Wireless adapter loaded without an issue and connected right away.  NICE! Even better, the boot times were almost identical to Maverick! Including waiting 20 seconds for the Dell to POST, it was about a minute and a half and I was online surfing.

Of course, I’ve also heard recently that there’s this OS called Jolicloud.  So I had to test that out too.  I guess its Ubuntu 10.04 based, so should be easy and familiar for me.  And it was! Install didn’t work using their USB creator. I had to get a separate tool and do a manual USB disk creation of their ISO, but I am not complaining about that because you have to deal with this for all the Linux-USB-netbook installations.  It just didn’t use their own USB creator as described on their website and required more steps, but still easy.

Jolicloud installed effortlessly on the netbook! I had pre-allocated about 30G of free space on the hard drive just for this. When install ran, it asked if it could install into the free space, I said Yes, and it was easy from there.  You do have the option to resize and change the partitions if you want, I had done this previously with Ubuntu in my case.  Install took same amount of time as Ubuntu,and I think was about 20-30 minutes.

Initial boot asked for user credentials and to create an account with Jolicloud.  You can even use Facebook login with it, but the base Linux still requires a user account.  I think the developers don’t really intent it to be used by more than one person, just for ease of use.  But I wanted my family accounts on there, so I created one for each, which is a little odd and buggy process. (it didn’t work right away, gave me an error, looked like it was crashing, but then did actually work with a disabled account.)

Best thing about Jolicloud was, THE WIRELESS JUST WORKED!  I love it!  Install was easy, system booted, and I clicked the icon to use my Wifi connection.  Nice!  Even better, I was online and adding their apps easily and everything just worked in that area.  For most people, this is all you need.  It installed and things get you online and functional with ease.  Next best thing… it boots with the same times as Ubuntu!  In about 1 minute 30 seconds, I am online and browsing, from the moment I pushed power.

Two things I don’t like about Jolicloud.  1. Suspend doesn’t seem to work, but that may not be the fault of Jolicloud, and rather a driver issue or Dell issue.  Hibernate works great, so I setup the system to use that on lid close. (which takes about 17 seconds to power down).  2. They seem to want you to use their apps.  I can understand that, but this is Linux,and I like to geek-out!  I couldn’t find a way to make a launcher, anywhere, for specialized apps.  In my particular case, I was using Netbeans, which installed fine, but there was no way to launch it, except to A) use command line, or B) browse to the folder and double-click the launch script.  I have other apps that may be an issue with this. I don’t like it,and I don’t like being confined to their launcher interface. Although, their user interface is very nice and for most all other operations it works very well and I like it!

Also, I don’t think they recommend it, but I used “apt-get” easily with no configuration. Everything I wanted to load with apt, worked without issue, so far.  I installed Mercurial, Apache2 and PHP5 to run a testing web server. Yes, I know, why would you do that on a Netbook?  Well, because, my son and I are playing with Javascript and PHP, and the netbook is really handy for him to play with while I use my laptop next to him.  Its fun!  Plus, with Jolicloud, using their built-in app install UI, they have about a Gazillion games and there’s lots to do on there for a kid.

So far, for me anyway, I am really liking Jolicloud. For most people, they’ll like it too, and its faster than Windows and you don’t need to deal with AV software. Not that you can’t get spyware or viruses, just that its not Windows, where you WILL get one without AV.

As for the Dell Mini 1012 netbook, I like it!  It’s got a nice, high-res display at 1366×768, unlike most netbooks that have only 1024×600. It’s battery is great too, and so far is lasting close to 5 hours. (probably average about 4 hours)  And with hibernation and only periodic use, it goes a couple days till I need to charge. Charging is slow though!  The keyboard is a little small for me, but usable.

This is not a post about comparison with an iPad, but I just have to say, even though I like this netbook and Jolicloud, it will only have limited use.  Now that my family has had an iPad for about 9 months or so, they don’t really want to use the netbook.  Main reason being… even with fairly quick boot time and ease of use, the iPad is WAY FASTER and easier to get online!  There’s also a “cool” factor, but even my anti-technology wife, she insists on using the iPad.  They all like it for that reason more than anything, that it powers on and you are online in literally a few seconds.  Also, the batter needs charging about once a week for us on the iPad.  I should also say, there’s no logins, weird moments where you need to “wait for that thing to show you are online”, or confusion about what to click and where to go. For the non-tech people, the iPad is hands down the best casual web device.  My kids use it for super quick Facebook checks and updates, my wife handles her recipes and does quick web lookups, and all if it without any of my help, and all of it very fast and easy.  A netbook, even with Windows, just doesn’t even compare.

If any of you readers have further questions regarding Jolicloud or Ubuntu Lucid or the Dell Mini, just comment and ask. I have the 250G drive loaded with all 3 in a triple boot setup, so I can probably check for specific issues if you like.

UPDATE 3/14/11 :

I added a new post on resource usage of each OS, if you are interested, with Screen shots.

Go here to check it out:



I wanted to note to anyone reading this post, I have pretty much given up on Jolicloud.  In fact, I’ve pretty much given up on Netbooks!  I still use mu Dell Mini, but only about once a month or so, and when I do, I use Ubuntu.  (NOTE that Ubuntu 12.04 Precise is pretty slow on it, just stick with 10.04)  Jolicloud is a nice idea and made it easy to get Linux on the Netbook, but too many times I needed a particular Linux app and couldn’t get it working with Jolicloud, so I would end up booting into Ubuntu anyway.

Just about a year ago now, I got a Macbook Pro.  I am so, so , so much happier I did, rather than mess around with Linux.  Its expensive, yes.  And for Macbook Air vs. Netbook, yes, expensive.  But here’s the thing.  Being a Linux guy, and yes, I still love and use Linux a lot, using a Mac is like a breath of fresh air!  Once I bit that bullet (The Apple bullet!) , and believe me, that was hard to do, I was very pleased.  But the reason why I was so happy, I didn’t have to tinker and spend so many hours trying to get things working!  It’s a time-vs-money thing, and these days for me, time is money.  Getting the Mac is nice, I’ve got a Unix under-the-hood system, only things pretty much just work, no messing around and wasting time.   So add up your time, if the time is worth it, get a Netbook and screw around with cleanup up Windows 7 (and it will still be slow) , or get the Netbook with Linux and screw around with all kinds of settings to get it working the way you want.  If its not worth the time, just get a Macbook Air.  Actually, for 90% of what you’d want to do on a Netbook, you could just use an iPad!  Just my personal opinion, but I know we all have our preferences.  :)