While I was trying different OS options on the Eee PC 901, I spent some time with Ubuntu Eee. It's not an official Ubuntu/Canonical project, but rather a community driven custom distribution with some Eee-specific features and tweaks. It's quite nice, and very functional.
While I was playing with it testing it, Jon Ramvi, Ubuntu Eee's maintainer/organizer, noticed a few of my notes on Twitter, and contacted me. I asked if he'd be willing to do an email interview, and he graciously responded. So, here is the result. Many thanks to Jon for the interview!
Me: Tell us a little about yourself: where do you live, what do you do for a living, any other personal interests you want to share/promote, etc. Help us get to know you! :-)
Jon: My girlfriend, Marie, and I live in Oslo, Norway where I'm studying computer science and technology at the university :)
What is the Ubuntu Eee project?
It's three things.
First of all, it's an alternative operating system for the Asus Eee.
And it's an OS which isn't putting strict laws upon itself, like Ubuntu who only deliver open source software drivers. This initative from Ubuntu is great for the open source community, but not that great for new users and non-geeks who just wants something to work. Ubuntu Eee is delivered with the best applications and drivers available, open or not.
And last of all, Ubuntu Eee is an organization which is striving to be as open as possible. Our accounts is available to everyone. Updated continuously. Discussions are moved from closed emails to open foras like forums and so on.
How does Ubuntu Eee differ from the "standard" Ubuntu Linux distribution?
From the last answer, Ubuntu Eee doesn't bind itself to only using open source applications, but always uses the best applications and drivers available. For example, if we were to deliver ATI support for a machine we would without a doubt deliver the closed driver from ATI. Ubuntu delivers the open source alternative: radeonhd.
It's hard to join in on the development of Ubuntu. This is probably because it's a fairly big organization. We don't have this problem. We have some contribuors who work on Ubuntu Eee every day and some who only fix a little thing for us and we never see again.
Ubuntu Eee is completely community driven. There's no company behind us who's selling support.
What netbooks does Ubuntu Eee work (and not work) with? Any plans to expand to other models?
With the latest release we support every Asus Eee out there.
Our plan now is to re-brand and deliver this great operating system to all netbook owners.
We're now working on support for the most used once like Acer Aspire One, Cloudbook, Dell Mini 9 and so on.
Why did you feel the need to create a specific modified distribution for the Eee PC, rather than a list of instructions on how to make the "standard" Ubuntu install work?
The whole project started out just like that, making a tutorial on how to fix the regular Ubuntu install. Then I made a script which did it automatically and then I started a whole new distribution.
It's a whole lot of fun trying to get a distribution up and standing :) And the whole "we use the best software available"-thing seems to be working out for our users. Lots of people are downloading. We now have 80 000 users!
What are the coolest, best things about Ubuntu Eee?
The open organization.
If you want to contribute, there's room for you. Even if you need some help along the way, need help getting started and don't really know how to do anything. Maybe you know a language other than English or you know your way around Gimp or Photoshop.
Describe the Ubuntu Eee community. How many people are active contributors?
How many depends on how you count. Hardcore-working people on Ubuntu Eee itself is only 3. Well two really. Ferry and Adam. Adam is compiling the kernel and modules to support the different Asus Eee models and Ferry is making the scripts that automate the process for the user: Different hacks for different Eee models. And there's me, who just puts it all together.
If you count how many contribute with stuff like translating, writing articles, helping people, design wallpapers, webpages and so on - well then you're good at counting.
Convince me why I should use Ubuntu Eee on my Eee PC instead of the default Xandros Linux, or Windows XP. :-)
It's way easier to get you not to use Xandros (the distribution that ships on Linux versions of the Eee PC - Josh) than not to use Windows XP.
If you're not up for the change from Windows to Linux, maybe you shouldn't do it yet. I think the transaction should come naturally.
Xandros on the other hand is so old that you can't run Firefox 3 on it. If you try to install you will be informed that your libraries aren't up to date. If you try to compile a new library or on the road to dependency hell.
Installing Ubuntu Eee is a lot easier :) The Xandros interface also feels unresponsive and just connecting to a wireless network is hard and slow. The boot time with Xandros is amazing though.
What are your thoughts on the Intel Atom processor? How is it different from other mobile processors in the past? (be honest here - I'm not trying to get you to shill for Intel, I promise!)
I have to say I don't know too much about the atom cpu or how it's different from other mobile cpus. It's smaller, generates less heath and uses less power, so my conclusion is that I like it :)
What do you think about the netbook phenomena in general? Why do you think people are buying netbooks, and how do you see them being used?
It must have something to do with the price. Sub-notebooks have been available for some time. For example Vaio from Sony - but you had to pay a whole lot for it. When OLPC started the whole cheep netbook thing, that's when netbooks started to sell.
I think it's really great for consumers. I think size and price is more important to end users than amazing specifications. Most consumers are fooled into thinking they need several gb of ram and that surfing the web with 2 ghz will be a whole lot faster than 1.6 ghz. The netbooks are a real win for the consumers. And for Linux, which is the obvious OS for low end computers.
Describe your perfect netbook - hardware, features, OS, software, etc.
Full / almost full size keyboard (this should the maximum size of the notebook. The screen shouldn't be larger than the keyboard), LED screen to save power, >1024px resolution would be great, bluetooth, wifi n-draft, cheap low end cpu, 512 mb of ram. And a sexy case - like a mac. Oh, and turnable screen to make it into a small tablet pc - that's cool.
Any update on the Ubuntu Eee naming issue?
We're trying to figure out how long time we've got and won't re-brand untill we have to.
What's the biggest problem/challenge you think the Ubuntu Eee project and community are facing? How can we fellow netbook geeks help?
One of the problems is supporting the netbooks that none of us have. The community can help by sending us data and reporting back what doesn't work. (Since the interview, it looks like all Eee PC models are working, so here's a link to the general "Contribute" page on the Ubuntu Eee Wiki.)
Another problem is staying friends with the open source community even though our distrobution comes with Skype instead of Ekiga.
What does the future of the Ubuntu Eee project look like?
I was approached by the founder of Netvibes, Tariq Krim, who wanted to start a new project and use Ubuntu Eee as a fundament. Ubuntu Eee, however, will stay community driven.
Thanks again to Jon for the interview! If you have an Eee PC (any flavor), and want to check out Ubuntu Eee, you can learn more, download the latest version, and join the community at http://www.ubuntu-eee.com/. Also, don't miss Jon's blog at http://www.jonramvi.com/. And you can follow Ubuntu Eee on Twitter.
Got thoughts or questions about Ubuntu Eee, or Linux on netbooks in general? Post a comment below, and I'll do my best to find you an answer. If there are follow up questions for Jon, he might even be nice enough to answer them for us. :-)