Ubermix for netbooks

I'm in my second year teaching English in a classroom with a cart of ten netbooks running Windows XP. I am so grateful to have them, and my students use them at least every other day. However, as an aging operating system, XP runs slowly and is much more complex than we need. The start time is long and we have varied success connecting to the wireless network. On the recommendation of Colin Matheson, an IT specialist at Carmel Unified School District, I installed Ubermix.
Ubermix is an all-free, specially built, Linux-based operating system designed from the ground up with the needs of education in mind. 
I downloaded the image file onto a separate machine and formated the image onto a USB stick following these instructions. The process wasn't as easy as I expected. I noticed that the install would hang after it said it would take about five minutes to install. So, I did what any sane person would do in this situation. I asked a teenager. In this case, Nils, who is launching his own web design business as a part of my class's 20% project. Check it out at www.liveculturesweb.com. He recommended that I give it more time to install. My problem is that when installing something at a root level like an operating system, you're given no feedback that anything is happening. After an hour of nothing, I noticed the red light on the usb stick flashing. Something was happening! Nils was right. After about eight hours, the OS started to boot. I felt like a 15-year-old in line for The Hunger Games.

Start time
This thing goes from shut down to browsing the web in 65 seconds. That's slower than a MacBook Air with a solid state drive, but it's much faster than my windows machine. Once booted, it immediately connects to a wifi access point and is ready to surf.

User Interface
I love the simplicity of the UI. With its large icons, it is designed to look more like a mobile operating system than a desktop operating system. There is no "start menu" like Windows, or "dock" like OSX. Rather the left column are app categories including internet, games, education, accessories, and system. Click on the category and your given the apps that could be Android or iOS app icons.
Software
Ubermix comes bundled with a bunch of freely available software including the entire Open Office suite, Skype, Gimp for photo editing, and other math and science apps I haven't had time to explore. I'm most interested in this as a web machine, and for running apps like Moodle, quizlet, Poll Everywhere and Google Docs, this thing is perfect. Both Chrome and Firefox can handle any website you throw at it.
Quick Restore
One of the must-have features of Ubermix is the easy system recovery feature. Students tend to mess with settings, change background images, and download garbage that slows everything down. By pressing esc on the boot, you are given the option to restore the operating system to its original state.
One Hitch
So far I cannot get the thing to wake up once it is in sleep mode. I've tried a couple bug fixes recommended on the web, but still no luck. If anyone out there knows a fix, please send it along. As it is now, I just have to restart the system after the lid closes.
1:1 / BYOD Solution?
Anyone looking to adopt a 1:1 program or Bring Your Own Device program at a school will want to consider this as an option. The world has tolled the death of the netbook to the tablet and ultrabook.
Not so fast. Compared to the iPad, a netbook running Ubermix could be half the price with a keyboard and a fully functional web browser that could easily handle editing complex web apps like Moodle or Google Docs. What do you think? 

Comments

  1. Hey Kevin, thanks for trying ubermix, and sorry to hear that you had a few problems. Some things to try:

    1. It really should only take about 5 mins to install, so there clearly is something going goofy there. Might be a bad USB install key. I've heard from a 2 people that they experienced similar issues with the install process that were caused by flaky keys from Verbatim and Lexar. In both cases, switching to a different brand solved the problem. We've always been happy with Sandisk keys. Another possible solution might be to change a parameter on the install key, as per these instructions: http://wiki.ubermix.org/page/Input_Output_Error

    2. The suspend issues will likely be fixed with a newer ubermix version. From what I can see in your screenshots, it looks like you are using stable. Stable is code for "old and doesn't change much" so I'd encourage you to try the latest 0.9x version. Hardware drivers are significantly newer in that release.

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  2. Hi Jim,

    I love Ubermix! We've been using it for months now. I'm still having the same issues (slow install and not waking up from suspend) even with the newer version. I don't know if there is a newer one still since I installed in March. That said, the many benefits of Ubermix outweigh the minor issues.

    Great product!!!

    Kevin

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