How to Make Your Crappy Netbook Awesome with Jolicloud

I have bought some stupid gear in my time.  Really stupid.

Now I’m never going to top this, which was undoubtedly the stupidest thing I’ve ever wasted my hard earned money on.

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Yes, I actually bought a Samsung Q1

Honestly, I can’t believe that someone who can get through grade school, much less college and grad school, would be dumb enough to buy one of those.  But this isn’t about that.  Thankfully.

This is about what could be the second stupidest thing I’ve ever bought.  An HP 2133 netbook.  After I was overcome by its itty bitty screen and general lameness (and that was before the iPad rendered all netbooks null), I quickly hid it in a cabinet in my study, hoping that no one would know.  As luck would have it, Cassidy found it the other day and asked me if she could have it.

I previously tried to install Ubuntu on it, specifically the Netbook Edition (which looks really, really cool), but was once again foiled by the Broadcom wireless card incompatibility, which kills Ubuntu buzzes the way sledgehammers kill gnats.  So I reinstalled Windows (let me say again how much I love TechNet).  And handed it to Cassidy, telling her she could have it as long as she told people she found it in a dumpster, and not in her daddy’s study.

It took about 3 minutes for her to declare it unusable.  With any version of Windows, the screen is just too small to do anything other than, maybe, read an email.  Opening programs is a crap shoot, with the success rate at actually opening the program you’re aiming for with the touchpad and tiny screen at around one in three.  Cassidy tried to work on a short story she is writing, and quickly gave up.  Just about anything drove the netbook to a screeching, time draining, hour glass spinning halt.

So she gave it back.  Emphatically.

Since it’s been sitting on the counter in my study, taunting me, I decided to try and save it.  And I decided to use Jolicloud to do so.  Jolicloud is described as “a super-optimized Linux that makes the most of your netbook hardware, battery, graphics and connectivity with a cool interface that will make your life easier.”

Let’s see how it goes.

Before

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I’d turn it on, but I’d die of old age before it booted into Windows.

Getting Jolicloud (Harder than it Should Be, But Worth It)

I almost abandoned this experiment, and turned this post into an anti-Jolicloud rant when I found out you can only get Jolicloud via a BitTorrent client.  I don’t know anything about torrents, and I don’t want to know anything about them.  This pissed me off, but I was invested so…

I went to download uTorrent.  And look at this little gem:

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Really?  Are you serious?  How completely bush league is this?  I must have been right to avoid all this torrent business.  How desperate must Ask.Com be to sneak onto computers to have to resort to semi-trojan status?

I was getting madder by the minute, but nothing is as bad as seeing that useless netbook on the counter, so I unchecked the boxes and proceeded. 

Torrent movies must be really fun, it’s telling me I have 11 hours to go to download a 689 MB file.  This is almost as fun as typing on a netbook.  At the end of the day, it took something less than 11 hours, but a long time nonetheless.  At a screaming 1.x kBs a second.

Creating a USB Installer

Next you download the USB Creator, thankfully without uTorrent.  Hopefully, now that I have the iso file things will be back to sane.

To create the USB installer, you install and run the USB Creator, and point the application to the downloaded iso file and an inserted USB stick.  The approach is identical to other USB installations I have done, including the lamentable Windows>Ubuntu>Windows installations on this netbook.

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Other than Microsoft Security Essentials asking about the Jolicloud files and whether I wanted to send them for a risk assessment, things went smoothly.  It took about 3 minutes to create the USB installer.  After uTorrent, this seemed like warp speed times infinity.

Installing Jolicloud

This is where things took a turn for the good.

I stuck the USB stick in the netbook and fired it up.  Well, maybe not fired.  I turned it on and it slowly chugged to life.

Jolicloud recognized and connected via the wireless card.  A+ for that!  Ubuntu still hasn’t gotten that part right.

Full installation is a 7-step, easy process, during which you choose your language, set your local time, pick your keyboard layout, decide if you want to delete any existing partitions (yes, in my case, as I want the netbook to be Jolicloud-only), decide if you want a single or side by side installation (single in my case, for the same reason), and pick a user and computer name.  This process seems really well implemented and takes just a few minutes.

You then create an account.  I used Facebook Connect, and was connected with my Facebook account instantly.  Then you create a Jolicloud name and password.  Easy peasy.

You are given the opportunity to connect with any of your Facebook friends who are already using Jolicloud.  My pal Rick was already using Jolicloud, and I was prompted to connect with him.  I’m not yet sure what happens after you connect, but it’s a cool feature.

Did I mention that I’m happy about the wireless card thing?

After the installation process is over, you restart and you’re ready to go.  And go you can.  Jolicloud boots up quickly and has the chops to perform all the usual tasks- only this time without pulling your hair out.

There are a ton of apps available, with more to come.  You can even see what your Facebook friends like.

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After

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Very nice.  Now if I can just keep Cassidy from taking it back.

2 responses to “How to Make Your Crappy Netbook Awesome with Jolicloud

  1. Hmm. I just installed Ubuntu 10.04 on my father's brand new laptop and it dealt with the broadcom wifi card just fine. I've been thinking about Jolicloud for my daughter's netbook (Dell 10″) but she seems to be happy enough with UNE for now. Now as for the iPad, you've just gone and shown that it in fact hasn't rendered all netbooks null. :)ps. The comment as guest feature seems to be broken. Kept giving me an error. Decided to register with Disqus for the time being to post this but you may want to check into it.

  2. I got the regular version installed on a laptop, but when I tried to get the netbook edition onto this netbook, it wouldn't work with the Broadcom card. There seemed to be some sort of third party driver installation prompt and installation process, but it didn't work.Thanks for the heads up on the comment thing. I posted a guest comment on another post, and it seemed to work. Hopefully Disqus got that fixed. Now if they'd just get their Reactions feature to work. I have tons of them, and about 10% get counted.