Last weekend I decided to test out a new operating system on my netbook (a Dell mini 9). I thought I would try out a completely free system, meaning that nothing on it would be proprietary – licensed for my use from a company that still maintains control over how I use it.

So I started by trying out gNewSense and then a few other systems – Puppy Linux, Xpud, Trisquel, ArkLinux, Damn Small Linux (dsl)

Installing Puppy Linux completely messed up my video card, it is touted as easy to install? No.
Xpud wasn’t bad – the wireless worked! Then I realized it wasn’t using free software…
DSL wasn’t bad, but certainly not intuitive, and there’s an issue with my wireless card that makes it irrelevant for my needs.
Trisquel just didn’t work, even as a live cd.
ArkLinux didn’t work at all. Couldn’t get past the boot loader. AND when I wrote to the address on their website for help I never received a response beyond the ‘we got your email you should hear from us in 24 hrs’ form letter.

gNewSense will most likely be the distribution I go for. It, like Xpud, also has wireless issues. Actually, it is my computer that has the issues – not gNewsense! The thing is, my Dell Mini 9 came with a Broadcom wireless card, it is a card that requires a proprietary driver so free systems don’t work out of the box with it. During the week, I found this article, which outlines how I may possibly get the wireless to work through gNewSense. I’m crossing my fingers it will work.

I imagine that gNewSense was so easy to install because it is created on Ubuntu. It is basically Ubuntu with no access to non-free stuff.

Here is where my love story starts. After all of the frustrations of downloading operating systems, creating an installer disk, trying to install with no success for 2 days and THEN having Puppy Linux (or my misguided attempts at installing it through their vague installation guidelines) go completely wacko, I decided to install a copy of Ubuntu Netbook Remix to try to clean up my system a bit. It installed like a charm in under 10 minutes.

I love Ubuntu.

What I may do, if gNewSense doesn’t pan out for me, is try to use Ubuntu without enabling any of the non-free repositories (the places from where you can download software, programs, drivers, and such). I’ll probably still end up with the wireless card issue. Hmmm. Any ideas on how to solve this?