Canonical optimizes Linux distribution for netbooks

The Ubuntu Linux 9.04 Netbook Remix is designed to run Web and office applications typically used on netbooks

Canonical on Thursday released a Linux distribution optimized for netbooks with features to improve battery life and rapidly access programs.

The Ubuntu Linux 9.04 Netbook Remix is designed to run basic Web and office applications typically used on netbooks. Netbooks are lightweight laptops characterized by limited computing resources and small screen sizes.

The OS boots faster than other Ubuntu distributions and has better power-management features to boost battery life, Canonical said. It also centralizes applications and bookmarks under one interface to rapidly access programs and Web sites. Numerous design changes have resulted in a better visual experience, the company said.

It comes with the Firefox Web browser, the OpenOffice office suite and multimedia tools. Minimum hardware requirements for the OS are 4GB of storage, 384MB of RAM and an Intel Atom processor. The install file can be downloaded from Canonical's Web site.

The Remix edition works on netbooks including the Acer Aspire One, Asus Eee PC 1000 and Dell Mini 9. It can be downloaded directly to a USB stick, from which it can be used to boot a netbook. Typically, netbooks do not include CD or DVD drives, so USB sticks are used as an alternative to launch an OS.

In an early review, Scott Gilbertson of Webmonkey wrote that configuring Netbook Remix to work on an Asus EeePC 1000H took a while, but its interface was impressive.

"The result is a powerful but simple interface that's far snappier than competing options like Windows XP," Gilbertson wrote.

Netbook makers typically recommend not changing the preloaded Linux OS because of hardware issues. For example, switching to another Linux distribution could render a Wi-Fi card unusable because drivers are unavailable. However, one blogger was impressed with the range of drivers provided in Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

Testing a beta version of the OS on an Acer Aspire One 110 a day before its official launch, blogger Neil Ashley wrote the OS booted quickly off a USB stick. It also effectively loaded a Bluetooth software stack and drivers for a network printer from Samsung.

The OS was a welcome change from Linpus Lite Linux, which typically comes preloaded on the Acer Aspire One. "The amount of hassle getting those [drivers] ... working on Linpus Lite is not believable," Ashley wrote. Linpus Lite has been criticized in the past for its unfriendly interface and lack of drivers for external hardware.

Canonical on Thursday also released Ubuntu 9.04 Desktop Edition and Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition. Ubuntu 9.04 is referred to as "Jaunty Jackalope" in the Linux community.

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