I am a tinkerer.
I can’t leave well enough alone, especially where technology is involved.
I’m the guy who just had to spend a week getting the wireless sharing working on the TiVos (TiVoes?) only to discover I’d broken the ability to upload DivX from PC.
I’m also the guy who just had to show the whole family how to get their iPhones to auto-download photos pre-synch.
And lastly, I’m the guy who has to try and run Linux at every opportunity. As true in 2009 (Jolicloud Pre-Beta) as it was in 1998 (Suse).
So it was that with a light heart and a devilish grin that I decided to take my perfectly functioning Dell Mini 9 (running a Dell-specific Ubuntu 8.0.4) and try to install Jolicloud. I say “perfectly” but honestly part of my desire to try something new came from the slowness of Firefox when running more than 3 tabs. And seeing as the machine only has a 4GB hard drive, the only use case I have for the thing is surfing while watching TV, so being limited to Gmail, CoTweet and one “” tab is pretty limiting.
My father-in-law had been pushing Kubuntu on me, but I found the USB creation a little wonky and I wasn’t sold on the interface. I wanted to move away from KDE (and GNOME) and focus on something truly unique for the Netbook form factor. I looked at Moblin, but the track record for supporting my Dell Mini 9 just didn’t seem quite there. I even briefly considered Ubuntu Netbook Remix but couldn’t justify staying with a Canonical project given the bugginess of Dell’s default Ubuntu distro.
Then Drew Olanoff tweeted this:
finally installing @jolicloud on my dell mini! oh im so geekily happy right now!
And I knew I had to check it out.
For those of you who don’t know @drew, he’s the Philadelphia blogger (I know him from my previous Metroblogs days) who has been very publicly battling cancer, working with LiveStrong, Lance Armstrong and using the Twitter hashtag #blamedrewscancer. He’s a hell of a guy and an avowed Mimobot fan to boot. I had no choice but to follow him down the Dell/Jolicloud rabbit hole.
I know enough shell commands from my regional ISP stint to be really dangerous, so it took me about 2 hours of fiddling to make the install USB using the Python script. I’m an idiot and a poor typist (especially on a tiny keyboard), hence the need for a distro that didn’t require me to know how to use a Terminal app or Synaptic. I don’t do dependencies: software, chemical or interpersonal.
After my brief wrestling match with install USB creation I rebooted and went through about 30 minutes of blissfully non-technical screens to install an operating system. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before. Easier and breezier than any Windows or Mac OS install I can remember (though, to be fair, I’ve only upgraded Mac OS’s on work laptops).
I jettisoned the old OS and filled up the hard drive with Jolicloud and got a sizable space savings (around 700 MB on a 4 GB disk) and was greeted with happy sounds, floating heart clouds and full screen optimization (through Mozilla, I believe) for all the “apps”. Plus, it’ll install & run Linux apps (like Boxee or Seesmic Desktop [which is Adobe Air]) as well.
I’m no (true) technical guy (obviously) but the one-click install of web apps and utilization of the full 9-inch screen are home runs. The user experience – which doesn’t look like Windows through a fishbowl anymore – is more touchscreen smart phone than laptop and I love it.
I’m confident that if I were sneaky enough I could get it on my in-laws’ Acer Aspire to run alongside Windows and they’d have no trouble accessing their files OR using the internet – checking email/Facebook and uploading their pictures.
I’m certainly not pushing the boundaries of computing with my own netbook usage, I just wanted to feel happier about having a barebones computing device on my lap most evenings. I wanted faster performance, I wanted easier (installs, updates & mousing around) and I wanted something a little tinier (since my HD space is *so* limited).
Christmas came early. I got everything I wanted.
The only remaining issue is that Jolicloud keeps reminding me that the driver for wireless on the Dell Mini 9 is proprietary, but I guess that was the sticking point for Moblin users too. I honestly don’t care about open source or not so long as I didn’t have to jump through hoops on installation, which I didn’t.
Anyhow, I’m a much happier netbooker today.
Hey and if you don’t believe me, listen to Engadget.
Enjoy your Thursday!