My 3-yr-old netbook is Ubuntu Certified. It has an orange sticker with the old bouncy Ubuntu logo saying so, and a page on Ubuntu.com shows that the last LTS (long-term support) version, 10.04, was approved for installation on this machine. I used that with absolutely no issues.
When 12.04 arrived I was unprepared for Unity since I only jumped from LTS to LTS versions as I wasn’t enamoured with bi-yearly upgrades. I actually quite like Unity as I do think it’s a refreshing and modern-looking user experience; however, it doesn’t like my netbook as the boot time increased, and though actually quite usable, Unity seemed to strain my netbook and therefore many aspects of my computing experience. I figured that if I’m going to try an alternative desktop environment I might as well change distribution too as I’ve used Ubuntu solely one way or another since 2006.
To begin with I completely broke ties with Canonical by trying Mageia and openSUSE – 2 KDE-flavoured distributions (distros). Mageia looked somewhat unattractive while the latter just irritated me. Though KDE was fun to use, I realised I should maybe go lighter. Though I upgraded my RAM to 2GB, the fact still remains that I have an underpowered Intel Atom chip… So I tried Mint XFCE and found that, although good, it wasn’t stunning. This was the cue to go back to Ubuntu, but preceded with an L.
Lubuntu is a lightweight derivative of Ubuntu which uses LXDE instead of Unity as the graphical interface. On loading the 12.10 live CD, which allows you to trial the operating system, I immediately set about installing it and I’m glad I did. While lightweight in terms of default application selection and environment, it’s actually beautiful to look at and a joy to use. Boot time is less than half for Ubuntu 12.04 and my only issue appears to be an easily solvable one with the power button – I can only turn the netbook off through clicking the power icon. I’m sure a fix in an update will appear.
My netbook needs are relatively small and so I didn’t have to install much from the repos (repositories). I plan to install LibreOffice sometime but AbiWord is okay for me at the moment and is a sensible default for this distro. Dropbox, though designed really for use with the Nautilus file manager (in most GNOME/Unity desktops), integrates well with Lubuntu’s PCManFM; the only deficiency is no file emblems (green circle white ticks etc.) which is barely a minor issue.
All my hardware worked ‘out of the box’ and virtually all the OS defaults were apt for me to just get on with computing straight away. I can’t test battery life as mine is dead and I run it off power mostly anyway, but the machine does run cooler and I can even watch YouTube videos in a more acceptable way than with Ubuntu. I got to install proprietary things like Flash and Java etc. at install time.
I wholeheartedly recommend Lubuntu 12.10 to anyone with older hardware as you can still have a great experience on those with this; and there are a few even lighter distros which could even run on late 90s computers.
The IT press have proclaimed the netbook dead but thanks to this sanctioned derivative mine will keep running until it produces smoke. Tablets are indeed faster and great for media consumption, but netbooks, even with their flaws, are still better for writing documents, managing photos and all the other things that aren’t so pleasant on a tablet.
I did update my BIOS prior to distro-hopping and that didn’t present any problems.
Here’s a screenshot: