There was a time in our life when our complete tech arsenal consisted of an iPhone 3G (communication), a Sony PSP (entertainment), and a HP Mini Netbook (work). That poor little Mini was used into the ground as our primary machine, a surprising reliable little number. However, as time passed and upgrades were made, the little book that could took a major backseat. We recently rediscovered and dusted off the Mini, setting out to see if we could revitalize the once beloved portable for occasional use duty using some free options...
Netbooks these days aren't worth reselling due to their initial low price and low market demand. If you've got one sitting around, we believe it's better to use it rather than lose it, serving as a simple reader, music player, keyboard or as a secondary screen. With alternative operating systems supporting heavy Cloud based features, it'd even make a fantastic data access hub to free up processing power for your main computer. With a fresh, new and free OS, there can be significant performance upgrade to old tech. Here's how we took a new lease on life with our very own netbook.
The HP Mini went through several transformations until now. Originally, it came equipped with Windows 7 Starter, but was quickly hackintoshed several months later. Now we're exploring a different niche: Ubuntu Netbook Edition.
Ubuntu could be best described as the distant cousin of Windows and OS X, gathering elements of both, but optimized into a simpler OS that requires less brute hardware. This means less battery power required, snappy performance and integrated cloud based features, all perfect for a netbook user (or any laptop).
What you need:
- 4GB Thumb Drive (or an external DVD drive for a disc installation)
- 4 GBs of free hard drive space
- Compatible netbook
Installing Ubuntu onto our netbook proved to be straightforward and fairly easy. One option we particularly liked was the ability to sample the OS by booting up using an install key with a thumb drive. This permits users to explore how the machine will look, feel and operate with the update without permanently updating; all that is required is either a USB Thumb Drive with at least 4 GBs of space. If doubt still exists and hard drive space allows, we recommend setting up a dual boot system (similar to how some users have both Windows and OS X installed onto the same machine).
EasyPeasy is a beginner friendly version of Ubuntu which features readily installed plug-ins and codecs. In layman's terms, this means Flash files will play without setup and the machine can handle a wide variety of media formats. It does everything that Ubuntu does, but easier and in a friendlier manner.
As it's name implies Jolicloud relies heavily on cloud based computing, much like Google Chrome. It has evolved beyond an OS and into a service that can be accessed via Firefox 4, Safari 5 and Google Chrome as well as viewable on iPads. JoliCloud's appeal lies in its iOS-like interface, simplicity and seamless access. The UI won't blow people away, but the OS offers a considerable amount of useful tools for devices like netbooks, including social networking via Stream (think your Twitter and Facebook feed) and an App Center marrying the browser add-ons and app store downloads. And everything is easily accessible via a Launcher, giving Jolicloud the feel of a smartphone experience for netbooks and lower spec laptops.
Of course if you're in the market for a new netbook, that makes the project all the more exciting as well. There are numerous guides to help with any netbook available as a fresh install or a dual boot. Before setting out on such a project it's best to see if your netbook is up to the task. However, since netbooks have been out in the market for so long, we've noted most issues we've run into have solutions available online with a little Google footwork.