Jim was decided to buy a netbook. One friend recommended him the Asus Eee PC. Jim does not know much about computers, but his brother-in-law Greg is one of these geeks that knows everything about the latest toys.
Jim: Which Eee should I buy? Linux or XP?
Greg: First, among the Eee models, I would recommend you go for the Eee PC 901, with a solid-state disk (SSD). You have less storage than with a hard-drive but the SSD is lighter, faster and has no mechanical parts, so it is shock-proven. The Linux version brings 20GB (split into 4GB+16GB) SSD and the Windows XP version 12GB (4GB+8GB) at the same price. In both cases the 4GB drive is faster and stores the OS. The second drive, although double the size in the Linux version, should not be a key deciding factor. If 8GB is not enough you can add a 16GB SD card today, and next year 32GB SD cards will be available. So in the long run the storage is not the key factor in the decision. The key is, what do you want to do with your Eee PC?
Jim: Well, I guess typical stuff: email, web browsing, deal with documents, communicate with Skype…
Greg: For that both Linux and XP will do. Both have a browser, both come with OpenOffice and access to Google Docs and Skype. Anything more sophisticated you want to do?
Jim: Let me think… well… yes, multimedia. I want to see pictures, music and video.
Greg: For video, download VLC player. It plays any format in the world, including YouTube flash. You can download it free and install it easily in XP or in the Xandros Linux distribution that comes with the Eee. Just be aware that if you want to add a VLC icon to Xandros you will need to edit a few configuration files.
Jim: What about adding an USB TV Tuner? I think that would be cool to watch TV while on the go…
Greg: Most tuners come only with Windows drivers, but you can make Windows drivers run on Linux with ndiswrapper. You might need to recompile the Kernel, but it should work.
Jim: One more thing, I want to access my desktop PC from the netbook to watch all movies stored in its 500GB hard-drive. You know, I want to use the desktop PC as a server.
Greg: That is easy with XP. With Linux you just need a program called Samba. It is then straight forward, but just note that if your server/desktop is Vista, there are some flaws in Vista implementation of Samba protocol and you will need some workaround to connect from Linux.
Jim: I almost forgot, but being so portable I want to connect to the 3G wireless network using my Nokia phone as a modem connected via bluetooth.
Greg: I do not think Nokia will provide you their phone suite in other than Windows, but if you investigate in Linux forums there might be a way to do it.
Jim: And what about the access to my company VPN. I currently access from XP, will that work in Linux?
Greg: With a little investigation you might find the way … hopefully.
Jim: Mm, Greg, all these things about editing config files, installing ndiswrapper, and all the investigations to connect to Vista, to a phone built-in 3G modem and to the VPN… are not a bit too much for someone like me who does not have a clue about Linux or any Unix?
Greg: Look Jim, if you want to learn Linux, and you want to use your computer for Internet in Wifi hotspots, go for the Linux/Xandros version. If you must connect to your company VPN, use 3G through your phone, connect easily to Vista computers and add TV tuners and other USB toys, go for Windows XP. It is not so cool as Linux, but you are more likely to get sophisticated things working without spending hours in Linux forums getting deep into it.
Jim: But Greg… weren’t you a fanatic of Linux?
Greg: And I am Jim. Linux is great for servers, for embedded systems and soon for mobile handsets. But today we still live in a Windows world for the desktop. Pragmatics still choose Windows. If you want to be part of those changing the wold to make the desktop free from Windows, go and buy the Linux netbook and enjoy making it work and helping others get a free OS.
And by the way, if anybody has a hint on how to easily fix these issues for Xandros, please post a comment below and share your experience.