In Sept. 2008, my 2003 laptop called it quits. I needed a portable for school so I picked up an ASUS Eee PC 900 16G for $349. It came with Xandros Linux. It could handle web video, internet, and Open Office. Pretty basic, small, and effective for my uses. The folks at Mozilla and Adobe updated their software so soon I needed to update my Firefox & Flash. Being a newbie, I could only use the built in update tool and not terminal.
Having heard good things about Ubuntu, I tried their distros for netbooks. At first I tried Easy Peasy 1.4. I couldn't get it to complete the installation. I didn't bother to check the MD5 sum. I abandoned it & tried the Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Being a newbie, I had a hell of a time figuring out making a bootable USB install drive using the downloaded iso image.
It was too complicated for me without an optical USB drive. I gave up trying to make a bootable USB flash drive using OS X terminal. A cheap OWC Value Line FireWire/USB2 SuperDrive was within budget so I got one. Now I could install distros using iso's burned to CD's or DVD's.
Kubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix mostly worked out of the box. Wireless LAN worked after researching the user forums and following instructions. The camera was recognized but it wasn't a priority. I needed Open Office, Firefox, and wireless LAN. All these worked flawlessly. After 8 months though, my noob skills did me in. The Firefox stopped working. I felt I had a good enough time using KDE. K Suite is alright.
I tried Amarok, Dolphin, and Konsole. These all worked pretty well. The Firefox stopped working though. It was just the getting stuck with Konqueror instead of Firefox that persuaded me to try Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook remix. Back in 1998, GNOME looked like the interface for Fisher Price toys. It just looked too unsophisticated compared to KDE. Anyway it's all about usability, and this is why I like Debian packages and Mac OS X.
Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix installed really easily. I have Open Office, Firefox, wireless LAN out of the box. The built in camera didn't work with Cheese! at first but my noob instincts told me there had to be some software dependencies somewhere with my 3 year old hardware. I installed an older web cam software using the software install manager (Debian makes it easy) and automagically the package somehow did something. Now Cheese! works.
I would like to try another browser. I can't get Facebook or Chatroulette webcam functionality. I also want to load it up with some music & see how Rhythmbox compares with Amarok. With this old hardware, I don't think it's practical to video edit but Ubuntu has a media editing distro that looks interesting. Linux continues to deliver useful, stable, and free software.