What’s best for your netbook – Ubuntu, Moblin, Solaris or Windows?

During last week, expecting new Ubuntu 904 to appear shortly, I cleared the partition where my Ubuntu 810 used to reside, and played a bit with various alternatives. I installed and tried in quick succession OpenSolaris 906, Ubuntu low power MID edition, Ubuntu netbook edition, Moblin Alpha 2.


Disclaimer! This is a rant that do not in any way intend to claim to be the ultimate truth. I am only using Linux for half a year. While I feel comfortable digging through forums to enable support for various network and graphics hardware when I have free time to do this, I feel that at the moments it is not worth it. E.g. spending couple of nights to get Linux drivers working, costs me more than buying a Windows license. Having said that, I still enjoy Linux in a freaky kind of the way, treating it as a brain muscle stretching Lego for adults, and enjoying the process whenever time allows it.

OpenSolaris is interesting alternative to other Linux distributions, but not for a netbook. While I spent couple of days last year customizing Ubuntu 810 to work with all my hardware in eeepc 1000h. I do not feel like I want to spend such time again, since Ubuntu 904 supports all of it out-of-the-box. And I do not feel like I need ZFS on netbook. Its benefits are in ease of use of multi-disk storage, and all netbooks have only one disk.

Various Ubuntu derivatives – Netbook edition and lowpower MID edition. Netbook edition could be useful for touch enabled netbooks. Larger icons that make it easier to navigate with big fat fingertips. You do not need it on non-touch device. As to the the low-power MID edition - I had problems using it. It has increased fonts and icons, and after that, does not fit 1024x600. I wonder what kind of display they had in mind developing it.

Ubuntu 904. Loads quite fast (I use new ext4 file system) and supports all hardware features of eeepc 1000h. Compiz is still the best eyecandy you can get. Recommended.

Moblin – still in a hardcore alpha stage. Promising. Not recommended.

Windows 7 – RC (builds 7077 and 7100) are very stable. If you want to do any light gaming, or connect with Microsoft exchange or some other MS only corporate services,  or comfortably play 720p videos (1080p still out of question) then you have to get Windows 7.

Conclusion – for web browsing and document editing, watching movies and taking notes, ease of setup and use – Ubuntu 904 finally matches Windows. I like eye candy of Ubuntu more, but Windows still feels speedier to use. I am going to multiboot Ubuntu 904, Windows 7, and OSX on my laptop.

My new home server build on DualCore Atom

I am in that sweet time phase, when I made my research and ordered the parts. ETA is on Monday. I am building my home server on


Modecom mini ITX case with external power adaptor (96w, $70)

DualCore Intel Atom 330 in Intel D945GCLF2 (90$) – which has 1 IDE, 2 SATA connectors, Gigabit NIC

2GB RAM ($25)

500GB 2.5” laptop hard drive ($100)

and I will reuse my 1TB Barracuda 3.5” SATA from my old server.

Going for a laptop hard drive was a tough decision. I had to consider that laptop drives have limited capacity, that they are 2 more expensive than 3.5” drives, and the fact that 2*3.5 drives do not fit into mini ITX case (at least the cases that I could find in Latvia) because most of MINI-ITX cases support only one 3.5” drive and a slim CD/DVD. An alternative was to go with micro-ATX case, but then I would have to deal with the problem of finding the low-power PSU, which are not available in Latvia at all. Buying those online is possible from mini-box.com or minipc.de, but it costs an arm and a leg (upward of $100), negating any savings on purchasing a larger hard drive.

Moreover, I had to give up any idea of toying with the RAID for data protection. I will backup my personal data, which includes about 30GB of documents, photos and music, between server and my gaming pc hard drive, but for the movies, there will be no backup in this setup. I think that movies are not a critical information, because you can restore most of them from internet. At the same time, I am happy with the setup, because my space requirements will be met for another year. (I managed to fill about 700GB during 1 year). Only the small drive will be running 24x7 for torrents. It consumes less energy than larger drive and make less noise too. By the way, noise was not a consideration in this build, since I have a separate technical room for my computers. If I had to build a completely calm pc (for use on the table or in a living room) I’d had to take more expensive fanless MSI board with SSD drive, which cost too much to my taste anyway.

As for OS, I will be choosing between WHS and FreeNAS. I have seen FreeNAS, and I have yet to try WHS for the first time. And of course, there always is W7 and Ubuntu, but I do not see a benefits to running those on a headless server.


Shozu problem

I don't get why people like this program. I honestly try it once or twice a year, hoping to start using it. But I again find that it is useless for me. I have some photos (5mpx) that I want to reduce in size and upload to blogger service. But there are 2 show stoppers. 1 - it would resize only to some ugly qvga resolution. 2 - it would create a separate post for each photo. No go. I need to resize to VGA or 800*600 and send multiple pictures as single post. And if they could allow for additional extra - like creating an embedded slide show or collage from those photos - I would love them.
Unfortunately, the most important change in Shozu that I noted so far, is that now it correctly processes russian encoding. Deleted. Will try it again after 6 months.


Try OpenSolaris without downloads and installation - online

I keep studying options for my new home server, and one of the ideas that intrigued me, is that people swear by OpenSolaris filesystem called ZFS. Went to OpenSolaris sandbox. I haven’t tried it yet, but I already like the note in bold at the bottom.



Update: So, I tried it. On the surface is the same Gnome 2.24 as in many other Linux distributions. Seems that I need to go elsewhere to understand the benefits of ZFS.


Using Asus eeepc 1000h as home server

I want to replace my P4 2.8GHz home server (Power draw around 100+ W/h, no processor scaling) with something more efficient. The current king of the hill in terms of power efficiency while providing adequate performance seems to be Intel Atom processor. I already have a netbook based on single core Atom, and before jumping and taking a mini ITX motherboard based on Atom (good list here at kramfs.com) I decided to test how well it is doing its job in the netbook.

So, I connected eee 1000h to my router via ethernet cable. Unfortunately, 1000h has only 100Mbps NIC. I shared a movie folder with the network, and connected 4 computers, playing 2 HD videos (up to 2.5 MB/s each) and 2 DVD videos (up to 1MB/sec each).


On the picture – eee pc 1000h as server. 2 laptops and home entertainment PC, and old server (not visible) are playing videos, trying the limits of eeepc. Didn’t succeed by the way. Here are proof pix.


Network utilization seems low, peaking only at some 43% (or 6MB/sec). I used a 9GB movie for this test. Sure it would be different if I used a 20GB movie. But it also reflects the current state of torrent popularity in our country. Videos larger than 10GB are not here yet. I watched “The Matrix” in 20GB hi-def, but deleted it later.


CPU usage averaged around 15-20% in the process. So, for my current usage patterns, it means that all my kids can watch their own movies on as many computers as I got in this house.

I am now on the crossroads, my two options are

1) take a new mobo based on DualCore Atom. It is around $100 here, and only $20 more expensive than single core Atom option. But it has Gigabit NIC, which is good for file transfers. Investment - 100$ mobo, $70 case with power supply, $30 2GB RAM stick. Total $200. The drawback here – I get another computer to care about.

2) use my 1000h as home server, as I do not have much use for it since I got a 12inch work laptop. I would need to buy a 500GB 2.5” SATA HD to make this a useful home server. My current server has 1TB 3.5” SATA and I could move it into my video/game machine. Investment - $120 for harddrive. Drawback – slow file copying on the network. Copying one file immediately fills the NIC with some 11 MB/sec transfer. My current transfer speeds are limited by harddrive writing speeds at 35-40MB/sec.

Decisions, decisions…