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Upgrade your netbook with Ubuntu

Updated on August 22, 2012
Screenshot of Ubuntu home screen; taskbar is to the left
Screenshot of Ubuntu home screen; taskbar is to the left

Do you have a netbook that attempts to windows 7, but bogs down and glitches up? Let’s face it, netbooks were designed for portability, not performance. And Windows 7 doesn’t play nice when RAM and processor speed are limited. So what to do? Oh sure, you could go back to Windows XP, which doesn’t take much memory (or computing power) to run. But many netbooks that were designed for Windows 7 won’t work with XP. So what to do? Let me suggest you take a look at Ubuntu.

What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is an open source desktop operating system based on the Linux distribution. Let me translate for all of the non-tech guys out there…it’s a free replacement for Windows. It is available both free and with community/professional support. There is no extra fee for an enterprise or professional version, and new releases are available about every eighteen months. The current version, 12.04 LTS, is supported for the next five years, even as new versions roll out.

Working with Ubuntu couldn’t be easier. While Windows has traditionally required you to scroll through a menu to find what you want, or cover your home screen with countless icons, Ubuntu does things a bit differently. There is a Heads-Up-Display (HUD) which greatly speeds up and simplifies things. Simply tap the alt key at any time to bring up the HUD and start typing what you want to do. You will get a list of functions without ever needing to know what menu to look in. There is also a taskbar to the left-hand side of the screen. Simply pin your most commonly used applications to this bar, and they are ready and waiting for a quick launch. This feature is available in windows 7, but I think Ubuntu does it much better.

With Ubuntu, there is no need to spend hundreds of dollars on software. It come pre-installed with LibreOffice (a free alternative to MS Office, see my article Free alternatives to Microsoft Office), antivirus, firewall PDF reader, internet browser, email and instant messaging programs. And Ubuntu has access to a software center loaded with software…much like the android marketplace. And speaking of Android, if you have an android Smartphone, you can install Ubuntu on it as well.

Installing Ubuntu on my netbook

I recently purchased a Dell latitude 2100 netbook from eBay, which I planned to use as my traveling computer. This netbook came with 1GB of RAM and an Intel ATOM processor (single core)…pretty standard for a netbook. It had windows 7 installed when I purchased the netbook, which loaded slow and had a tendency to bog down. I had considered switching to Windows XP, but decided to go with Ubuntu instead.

Setting up Ubuntu was pretty easy. I simply downloaded the software from the Ubuntu site, installed it on a thumb drive, and then used the thumb drive to install the software on my netbook. Be sure that your computer has a wired (not wireless) internet connection during the install, as the wireless won’t work during the install. It does take some time for Ubuntu to set up your computer, so be patient. After the installation, the computer rebooted and Ubuntu was ready to go.

The Results

So what did I get for my effort? I have to say that I really like the operating system. I have grown to like the HUD, and I really like the left hand taskbar. Internet performs flawlessly, and wireless seems to have about the same range as with Windows. I have been using LibreOffice for my writing on the go, and the more I use LibreOffice, the more I like it. The only disappointment I had was that I expected Ubuntu to boot faster than it does; boot time seems on par with Windows XP on this machine. But once Ubuntu is up and running, there is none of the glitchyness that I experienced with Windows.

Just as a side note, I will mention that there are a few other Ubuntu-based systems that run better on low power processors and limited RAM. However, I decided to stick with Ubuntu as I really like the interface. Here are links to some of the lighter systems:




UPDATE: Since writing this article, I have switched my netbook to Lubuntu and could not be happier. Be sure to check out my article “Lubuntu: the perfect OS for a netbook or older computer”.

I hope you have enjoyed this article! I am working on a companion article as well as a video which will be posted on my blog at I will post links on this page as soon as the companions are up and running. Thanks!

Check out this Ubuntu books from Amazon!


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