back to article The best netbook-friendly Linux distros

We loved the Xandros based OS the Asus put on the original Eee PC for its simplicity and direct access to applications. Likewise Acer's version of Linpus, installed on the Linux versions of its Aspire One netbook. For 90 per cent of the tasks anyone's likely to perform on a netbook, they're spot on and allow the machines to boot …


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... is my Linux distro of choice.

I have an MSI Wind and Mandriva runs like a dream.

Ok, batery time is now where near the numbers quoted int he glossies, but they never are : three hours is about as much as I get with the WIFI off.

XP ? Pah, who needs it.


KDE with xandros

It's worth remembering that getting KDE running on the Eee PC is somewhat trivial using the original Linux installation.

And you can switch between the so-called "full desktop" and the "easy" GUI without difficulty.

Everything works without any tweaking and I haven't felt tempted to bother trying different distros.


Jaunty Intel Graphics Issues

I wasn't aware of this, there's a thread here:


ou est le Jolicloud?

That new things just out from those nice French folk. Be nice to see an objective review of that too soon please. Thanks


Missed Distro's

I've personally found Fedora to be clunky and bulky.

Surprised there're two missed Distro's but I suppose they're more for the 'hands on' user, ArchLinux and Slackware. Highly customisable and light weight for any laptop user.

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mandriva for me

Mandriva works out of the box (almost) on my Samsung NC10, also on my desktop systems.

minor mod required to the default xorg setup to fix the intel graphics issues, detailed on there forums.

otherwise best desktop for me, netbook or otherwise

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Re: Jaunty Intel Graphics Issues

I believe that's one thing they've fixed for eeebuntu 3.0. I've been running Ubuntu 9.04 NBR on my eeePc 901 and more recently eeebuntu 3.0 NBR, and I'd say both seem to work fine, but eeebuntu is just a little better. I haven't booted into windows since installing them either - Win XP really struggles being installed on the 4GB (fast) internal flash drive - ubuntu runs great from a 4GB SDHC card.

Since the eee can be set to boot from the SD card, trying out distros to see how they work for you is incredibly easy and won't touch the pre-installed OS - just remove the SD card to revert...



I installed Debian Lenny on both wifeys and my own AAO. (512MB/8GB models) Installed XFCE4 and off we go...

It did require some geekery to make the Wi-Fi work (custom kernel compile) and make it snappier in general, but we're both happy with it. (Wifey is very non-geek!)


Jolicloud is hard to come by

Jolicloud is in a closed alpha at the moment, and no more invites are going out. A shame, I thought, because I was going to try it... so I went for Eeebuntu 3.0 instead, and I'm glad I did. Eeebuntu 2.0 was good but had some rough spots - 3.0 has sanded them back, polished them up and applied a beautiful layer of lacquer.

I tried CrunchEee but didn't get on with it. I've also been through eeeXubuntu, generic Ubuntu, Fedora and Mandriva to get to where I am. 10 years of Linux experience has deposited me where I am.


Re: Debian

Lenny works out of the box on Lenovo netbooks except WiFi. WiFi needs downloading a driver off Broadcom website after that it works flawlessly. I have been running it for a few months now and it JUST WORKS (TM)

Anonymous Coward


I've got fed10 on my AA1, the wireless worked out of the box, once I'd realised that the driver didn't support channel 13 (that one took ages to work out). It took me a fair ammount of time and poking about on the web to get the system running smoothly (well, smoothish) but it runs ok now. I couldn't say how fast it is compmared to XP though, every so-often I get apps greying out for a few seconds.



Mandriva is what I have on my desktop, so I gave it a try on an Eee 901 a few days ago (mostly due to exasperation at the original OS's difficulty with updates and retaining its UK keyboard setting).

Download the "all.img" file from the 2009.1 section of any mirror, dd it to a USB drive, and boot from it.

Once all updates were applied, everything worked - wireless and webcam included.

A bit of searching in the repositories, and things like battery monitors and underclocking apps are easily located and installed.

Remember to set it up for dhcp (i.e. install the .rpms) *before* trying it at a public access point...



Works pretty well too, as a "full" type desktop - I set it up on my brother's Aspire One a while back and he doesn't seem to be having any issues so far.

I had to install a support daemon to stop the fan running at full tilt and a couple of other minor tweaks, but it's all on the website with instructions and install links - very simple.


Puppy Linux

Not netbook-specific, but a very compact distribution. Maybe a little spartan. One design goal is to minimise disk writes, and even load into RAM and run, which makes it useful.

Not derived from other distributions, and maybe a bit more for people comfortable with going under the hood.


Rat Poison WM.

As a fairly long-time [K][X]Ubuntu user I was impressed by Rat Poison on the Eee -- the keyboard-driven interface fits well with a small screen and a small touchpad. It lacks a Wireless configuration utility though so if you can't get it working on the command line it can be a pain.

Anonymous Coward

Kubuntu 9.04 + tweaks

Kubuntu 9.04 is perfect on my AAO. With a karmic kernel (2.6.30-rc8 + ubuntu patches) built with a config derived from sickboy's kernel (, it takes about 20 seconds to launch, and intel graphics are usable with the xorg-edgers ppa. Of course, these tweaks aren't for everyone, but aren't that hard either. Kde 4.2.4 is great, and the only slow thing on my AAO is firefox with more than 10 tabs open...


Kuki Linux

Kuki seems to work very well on my base model Acer Aspire One - it's based on Ubuntu but optimised for the AA1... boots up very quickly indeed, and seems to run small too. I even got my T-Mobile 3G dongle dialled in after a bit of googling/persuasion.

I tried Ubuntu netbook remix on it, but the streaming video performance from YouTube was pretty awful.


Good review

Your article is a good survey of the main alternatives that have ready-made netbook-specific flavours available (Slackware et al don't qualify).

As you point out, just like the Eee PC native Xandros can easily switch between Basic and Advanced, Ubuntu can easily switch between the NBR and its regular desktop, in Preferences > Switch Desktop Mode. If you don't like all apps to automatically go full-screen, just kill the 'maximus' process.

CrunchEEE looks promising, so I'll be on the lookout for their Jaunty release.

I'm dual-booting WinXP and Ubuntu Jaunty on an Eee PC 900HA, and I like having a virus-free OS for most work, falling back to WinXP only when necessary.

Anonymous Coward


NetBSD 5.0 on a Samsung NC10. Performs as good as or better than Linux ( and has lower resource requirements. Needs a little bit more knowledge to get going than something like Ubuntu, but less than that abortion called Gentoo.


Fedora 10 XCFE

I'm running Fedora 10 XCFE on my AAO. Plenty of guides there how to tune it up and get everything working. I'm liking it so far.



runs anywhere, on anything, but not for n00bz. Actually I am kinda disappointed that I don't see more slackware supporters or references.

Anonymous Coward

Another debian user here

" I installed Debian Lenny on both wifeys and my own AAO. (512MB/8GB models) Installed XFCE4 and off we go...

It did require some geekery to make the Wi-Fi work (custom kernel compile) and make it snappier in general, but we're both happy with it. (Wifey is very non-geek!)"

I had some problems with the wifi too, in the end a compilation of madwifi from source got it working:

I was fed up with ubuntu doing things i didn't want it to do, plus it was full of rubbish i'd never use.



If Lenny goes anywhere near my wifey, then I want him to let me near his wifey.

I don't care what OS he runs, fair is fair!

Anonymous Coward


Have you got the wifi LEDs working? I can't work that one out - it must be doable though because if worked with linpus...

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Netbooks and OpenSolaris


I've been testing OpenSolaris for the last few months on as many Netbooks as I can get my hands on for the last few months.

Our official website is

Our latest release 09.06 available from works really well on everything but the HP 1000, that needs the Broadcom ndiswrapper that stops suspend working.

Both the Acer Aspire One 8.9" and 10" work very well, plus the MSI, Asus Eee and Dell.

I still have not really worked out if I like the 8" or 10" better

You can check out my latest adventures with OpenSolaris and Netbooks at




on my Samsung NC10. Tried Kubuntu first, but I guess I really have become very hooked on Gentoo. With 2 other machines as distcc hosts, compiling is fast enough it's no biggy, and I get a system that contains only what I *need*.

And is omg-optimised, of course ;)


"Advanced Desktop" Xandros and Puppy 4.2.1

I've been using the advanced desktop Xandros on my Eee for over a year now. Things work as they should, but I'm about to give Debian Lenny a spin. Since they've got a version customized for the Eee, I have high hopes for this one.

I haven't installed it to the SSD, but can confirm that Puppy 4.2.1 works beautifully on the ASUS 701 and 901 when booting from USB. My next experiment is to use Q and get it to boot on my Mac.

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IT Angle

@Mike Tahylor

"(Slackware) runs anywhere, on anything, but not for n00bz. Actually I am kinda disappointed that I don't see more slackware supporters or references."

I put Slackware on everything, including my techno-phobe Mom & techno-can't GreatAunt's computers (72 years old & 98 years young, respectively). Both happily surf the Web, do email, use a word processor, print documents, scan old photos, retrieve pictures from their cameras, etc.

The only real issue with any given Linux distribution is whether or not the installer understands the needs and issues of the intended end-user, followed by whether or not the installer understands the hardware the distribution is intended to be installed upon.

Said installer might be software, but in most cases it should include a wetware vector ... This includes any OS distribution, not just GNU/Linux.

Unless you are happy with shovelware. If so, be happy.

Me, I target software for the intended user. My users are happy. 'nuff said.



Yes, I installed madwifi and LED works and blinks with traffic. Consensus seems to be that madwifi is faster than the supplied drivers too. Have a look here -


Linux Mint

Downloaded the latest version an put onto USB drive courtesy of info at

Simple installation. Worked first time and it just so classy as well ;-)

Still has no right hand SD card (think this is an Ubuntu thing as LM based on Ubuntu, I think). Doesn't automagically add the LH SD slot to HDD like Linpus but that'll come eventually.

Wifi worked straight away (not the switch though but again this might be an Ubuntu thing).

Also impressed the my Orange Broadband dongle worked straight away.

Running this on an Aspire One 16GB HDD 1GB RAM. An 8GB SD in the LH slot as my downloads location.

I'd previously tried UNR but always liked LinuxMint on a 'fullsize' laptop - thought I'd give it a try here and was pleasantly surprised.

Of course it's not as fast as Linpus but that was just too cheesy for me. I tried the Reg's guide to customising it but cocked that up and had to start from scratch.

Well worth a look if you want a nice clean and classy distro.




How come you give EEEBuntu a review but not EasyPeasy? I assume it is because EasyPeasy is a tidied up and optimised version of UNR for netbooks whereas EEEBuntu is a bit more radical in its look/feel.

At the moment I've got EasyPeasy 1.0 (aka 9.04) on my 701 and it's fine (the odd bit of wifi and function key dodginess aside). I know that 1.1 is out, but at the moment I just can't face rebuilding yet again.

Meanwhile that UNR front end is just horrible. I have to tweak things back to Gnome to keep my sanity. Interesting comments above, it never really occured to me to try and throw on Puppy Linux or (Open) Solaris. I suppose if I'm going to rebuild at some point that I can give one of them a quick try first.

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Debian, all the way

...just install what you need and thats it. Need to save as much of my precious 4G Drive as possible. I use ratpoison and iceweasel with the vimperator plugin. Works pretty well.


Booting those distro on EeePc

Myself, I had problems to test all those distributions, because my EeePc only boots "superfloppy" images from USB thumb drive or SD card, and I do not have an external USB CD/DVD drive.

What I did was downloading the CD/DVD image for each distributions (let's call it distribution_image.iso) and download this utility:

Then, just modify the iso file on Linux by:

./gujin distribution_image.iso

You get a bi-format (ISO9660 and superfloppy) bootable image that you can write on a CDROM, but also write on a USB thumb drive or a SD-card like:

umount /dev/sdg* && cat distribution_image.iso > /dev/sdg && sync

(you should check that the USB thumb drive / SD-card is /dev/sdg and you should backup it because all files are destroyed).

Then, my EeePc booted every distributions I tried.

Anonymous Coward


Thanks, I'll give it a go...

Bronze badge


I have just upgraded from EasyPeasy 1.0 to 1.1, and both of them are, without a doubt, Ubuntu 8.10. I can't see any sign of a 9.04 version on the horizon, either. Still pretty good, but as I type I am downloading EeeUbuntu for the full 9.04 experience.


You've missed out one that needs to be covered

Linux Mint, Ver 7.

Loaded up on the Dell Mini 9 here, and everything works.

Linux Mint is based upon Ubuntu, but is very polished and its for the user design sets it apart from most distributions. Thus far in testing, I found no issues with it, and it has replaced the Ubuntu 8.04 that Dell shipped with the unit.

IMHO, most Linux distributions need to look at Linux Mint to realise where they need to go in user/desktop Linux builds.


@Paul Nolan

openSUSE 11. 1 was the first thing I went to (well, I already had it to hand) having decided that the Aspire One's Linpus was a bit too simplistic for my uses. The project website gives a bundle of suggestions for optimising a flash driven Aspire One, and I usually get over 2 hours out of my three cell battery (which I stretch quite adequately by suspending to RAM when I don't need it on).

I tend to use it mostly for office type duties when trackside, but I have also used it to run video files via mPlayer from an external DVD unit (powered, of course!) which gives a good result despite its size.


Just in! To be manufactured in Yorkshire, UK!

The newest model sporting a snappy 256 colour display in a 9" screen with resolution 380 x 420 to be made in Yorkshire, UK and sold as Eee BaGoom


AAO - great value hardware, sucky Linux support

I bought an Acer Aspire One as soon as they were available in the UK for £200. In general I am very pleased with it. It looks cool, has the hardware I want and is small and apparently fairly robust.

Unfortunately, the software support is not good. Linpus supports all the hardware but it sucks. No Linux distro of which I am aware currently supports the SD card readers properly which is getting frustrating after 11 months.

I envy the Dell Mini 9 users who have a fully functional Ubuntu for their machine.


Netbooks with 3D translucent Compiz desktop

It is very unproductive to be using anything less than 3D translucent compiz desktop on something like the EEE. With Ubuntu it works so well, its almost a new class of devices just enabling all the features.

Since the EEE 1000 hasn't got an optical drive, I installed with

from the SD Card formatted to EXT2 (Micoshaft FAT format is a disaster

for an SD Card and won't work at these speeds)

Here below some pointers to how it all got done...

Using extlinux to convert a liveCD iso to bootable SD card


Converting an ISO file to a bootable USB stick or a bootable

SD Card for EEE is easy.

Without being able to convert a distro into a bootable USB flash /SD Card,

that distro can't be easily loaded into netbook like EEE

and stand to miss out on users installing it into netbooks.

So I would recommend all distro mainters look at their netbook

boot strategy and offer something to boot their distros

from USB flash and SD cards or miss out on users installing it into


Having done a few conversions, a pattern emerges that works well for

most syslinux / isolinux / extlinux based distros.

1. Put your SD card or USB flash drive into your desktop Linux PC and

then open a console and type dmesg

You should see some line indicating your flash drive as

being picked up and allocated with a comment like sdc / sdc1 etc..

Remember both names - the first is /dev/sdc which is your

device name, and the second is /dev/sdc1 which is your partition name.

(Don't get confused between drive /dev/sdc and partition /dev/sdc1

or your drive could become scrambled eggs later on. Also remember

it may be called sdg or sdh etc depending what you see when you

plug in device and type dmesg)

2. Install gparted on your machine using synaptic.

To run it you can type

sudo gparted

in a console window and select on the right side the drive name allocated

in step 1. Right click on the bar that represents the partition

and click on manage flags.

Enable the boot flag and click OK. This makes the SD Card / USB

stick bootable.

3. Format the partition /dev/sdc1 to ext2 linux format.

This format is not directly readable under WINDUMMY Osen, but there

are free drivers for it - try for example

The ext2 format is many times faster than windummy FAT so

ditching WINDUMMY file formats is advised.

4. Identify that you have syslinux or isolinux in your liveCD by

opening the .ISO file in archive manager and checking that it has

isolinux or syslinux directory somewhere in the liveCD.

In ubuntu, the root directory of /dev/sdc1 will not be writeable

unless you are in super user mode.

You can run

sudo file-roller

to open iso files like xubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso in super user

mode and extract all the files in the iso file

to the /dev/sdc1 partition.

5. Go to the flash drive and locate the syslinux (or isolinux) directory.

rename it to extlinux. Inside the now renamed extlinux directory will

a file such as syslinux.cfg or isolinux.cfg. Rename that to


6. Get syslinux - this is a boot loader and menu system for FAT based

file systems. Download the latest version from here...

Unzip it and go to the extlinux directory.

On my machine path is something like this....../syslinux/extlinux

Run the program there by typing this - (note this command is updating

the partition /dev/sdc1)

./extlinux --install /dev/sdc1/extlinux

This puts a new file into your SD card / USB flash disk

7. from the extlinux directory change to the mbr directory

cd ../mbr

and then run this - again note this time its updating the device by

writing data to the first sector as opposed to the first partition.

sudo cat mbr.bin > /dev/sdc

(Note at this stage you may need to do some of the sudo commands after

entering super user mode to make it work properly.

So the above command would have been done as follows in Ubuntu.

sudo -s

cat mbr.bin > /dev/sdc


This makes the card bootable and useable in an Asus EEE and many other

PCs with SD card or USB flash disk boot facility.

This method tested and works for

1. Ubuntu

2. Slax

3. Knoppix

4. Puppy

5. DSL

6. GParted

7. gOS

8. Dynabolic

9. MoonOS Kachana

10. Xubuntu

11. TinyOS (incredible distro!)

(Note the method does not work for .ISO files built with grub bootloader -

need a different install method with grub boot loader instead of syslinux.)

Try installing something powerful like Ubuntu on to a netbook

and see it take netbooks to new heights.

3D Translucent Cube Desktop


The latest EEE1000 has fast enough graphics for translucent

3D desktops. An easy way to do all this with Ubuntu is:

Install Ubuntu on EEE (compiz itself

appears to be installed by default in the default install),

then install compiz settings manager using Synaptic

which allows compiz to be fully 'exercised'.

And then do the following to get the 3D cube desktop


Go to General > Display Settings > Lighting and turned it off

Enable Desktop Cube and then Desktop Cube > Transparent Cube and set the

two opacity settings to 30%

then Desktop Cube > Skydome and check the skydome check mark

Enable Rotate Cube

Enable Enhanced Zoom Desktop

Right click the virtual workspaces panel and increase the number

of colums to 8.

And hey presto - 100% 3D translucent desktop with 8 screens!!!!!!!!!!

[Some shortcuts for the 3D screen

ctrl + alt + left or right arrow to spin cube

ctrl + alt + down arrow and then left or right arrow for a ring switcher

super + E for yet another switcher

super + mouse wheel scroll to zoom in and out of the 3D desktop.


Reducing Font Sizes And Turning ON Sub Pixel Rendering


The EEE can be astonishingly good to look at once the

font size is reduced to about 8 and sub pixel rendering

is turned ON. It is still absolutely

readable and everything appeared like a 'full screen' miniature

desktop equivalent of a big desktop PC.

System > Appearance > Fonts get to the font settings

in Ubuntu. On software like firefox and some other applications,

need to also to set local use of fonts ( Edit > Preferences > Content

will have font settings for firefox that also need to be changed).



Yes! VirtualBox can run on Ubutu set up with 3D translucent desktop.

Install virtual box and then install programs like windopws XP and run

it pretty much at it would run on a normal netbook. Its hard to tell

if the netbook is running Linux or the WINDUMMY OSen when the software

is run full screen becaue the speed and responsiveness is about

the same between a real windummy OSen install and a virtual box

virtual machine running it all in Linux.


Some Spot on Reviews

Tried Moblin on my HP2140HD, hated it. The auto-hide tool bar drove me batty, as it popped up every time I tried to close an application. Firefox is buggy beta ware. The supplied browser sucks to kingdom come. Wifi took some effort to get going, but the instructions to get it working on a Dell Mini9 worked. Wifi refused to stay on, had to keep re-enabling.

Fedora 11... wouldn't install. Tried the live CD for a bit, got wifi working the same way I did on the Moblin, but Fedora required an ext3 partition for /boot and an ext4 partition for root. Since it wouldn't allow me to have a fifth partition and still install, no go on the HD. (1 partition for 7, one for Ubuntu, one for swap, one for /boot and one for /.) Dum de dum dum dum.

Netbook remix 9.04 didn't play well with my GPU, was kind of laggy, but desktop 9.04 works quite nicely when it boots. Half the time, I get a failed boot, have to hard reset, then reboot and it will boot right up. Wireless worked out of the box, which is a plus.

I know it isn't "Li"nux, but I would have liked to see one more Unix derivative reviewed on Netbooks... OSX.

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quite happy with Ubuntu 9

Got a dreadful old IBM laptop - 1.3GHz Centrino, 1Gig RAM, 40Gig drive. Used to have XP Pro on it and would take 5 minutes to boot and longer to do anything useful. I only ever used Linux on servers and know how to use terminal a little bit (as in man and the --help tag really) and Google is good for everything else. Having given up on the laptop and promised to buy myself a new one I thought I'd try Ubuntu.

There are few things in computing that I find pleasurable computers are a tool to do a job. But I can honestly say that I find Ubuntu 9 an absolute pleasure to use not least because it boots in seconds into an OS where I can do useful stuff (browser stuff, working in a word processor or a spreadsheet, connecting to other machines, use wi-fi, use my T-Mobile Datacard for 3G access better than Windows ever did). And the support - it doesn't matter what goes wrong, google it and the answer is there, the community is simply wonderful and way more informed and less full of crap than the MS community. Even the trolls and flamers can spell and use grammar (mostly).

It has saved me from having to buy another laptop and I'm more than happy with this crappy old piece of sh!t laptop as it does the things I need it to do while looking completely unnickable. The other distros look pretty as well. I'm just blown away. I was never much of an MS fan boy and now that Ubuntu is where it is, I look forward to using it for the foreseeable future.

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Toshiba NB100 running encrypted XP, Ubuntu 8, Encrypted Debian 5

Folks, allow me to contribute with my experience that others may benefit from:

I used BootIt to partition the Toshiba NB100 netbook 120Gb hard drive, used the free open source multiplatform Truecrypt to password encrypt the entire system partition withpre-installed Windows XP.

I've installed Debian 5 and encrypted the main filesystem and the swap partition.

I've installed Ubuntu 8 (will go up to 9 soon) and will encrypt this and the swap using Truecrypt.

I've also put on a NTFS shared partition (encrypted) that will configure so that all OSs can see it.

It has/will be a great learning exercise - I wanted Debian for work skills reasons and Ubuntu because it is supposed to be the easier to use Linux and would be good alternative to Windows now and again.

Encrypted because it's another good skill to learn in this day and age, with laptops being left on trains with sensitive info for example.

Read more about what I did in the thread I've started at:

Pretty cool having 3 OSs on such a dinky and nippy little machine!

Boot up menu choice is via standard Truecrypt password screen with option to go into GRUB

BTW in case not already seen, is perhaps the most friendly guide to Linux.


OpenBSD works

According to Wikipedia, OpenBSD is the first *BSD to support everything on the original 700-series EEE. I am experimenting with it now, and so far it is very difficult, but not impossible to get most things to work.

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Linux Mint on EeePC 1000HE

Linux Mint works great on an EeePC 1000HE. No functionality is compromised or lost, and the OS as well as the apps that run on it are snappy. I can't see any need for a hobbled or specially modified version of an existing distro just because the machine is a "netbook". Mint is based on Ubuntu, which is about as full-featured as any Linux distro extant, so why mess around?


Wires Cut Linux

Designed for network-less environments, Wires Cut Linux comes with several developer tools including GCC, Java, and Ruby on Rails. It runs straight off the LiveCD and requires only 3GB of space to install. It's based on the lightweight Xubuntu Linux. Completely free of course.

Brought to you by the geniuses at YelloSoft.

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Kuki linux

Yet another Ubuntu respin to consider. It's optimized for for for Acer One. Found on boots within 20 sec. and works great. It comes with xfce and I got very responsive support at the #kukilinux at freenode. Used it for several months now.

Only issue was that the optimized kuki kernel did not support my Huawai usb 3G modem so I changed to use the more heavy generic Ubuntu kernel.


Nice article

I've been experimenting with a couple of distros recently on my eeepc so this article is quite useful to round up what's available and if they're worth trying.


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