Don't Like Your Netbook? Try the Jolicloud OS

Last Updated Aug 11, 2010 8:47 PM EDT

I'm not going to come right out and say Windows and netbooks don't mix, but there's something inherently off about trying to run that OS on a low-powered PC with a compact screen and keyboard. It just wasn't built for it.

Enter Jolicloud, a Linux-based OS built expressly for netbooks. Don't let the "Linux" part scare you off, though -- Jolicloud is a slick, intuitive, well-rounded operating system that might just earn a permanent home on your mini PC.

The app-centric Jolicloud interface seems closer to that of a smartphone than a desktop. It comes with around a dozen apps already installed (including Facebook, Dropbox, Gmail, and Google Docs), but there's a library with hundreds more -- all of which are free to download.

You have two options for installing Jolicloud. The first creates a dual-boot configuration that co-exists with Windows. That's great because it leaves your existing Windows installation alone, allowing you to return to it as needed (and uninstall Jolicloud as easily as uninstalling any piece of software).

You can also load Jolicloud on a CD or flash drive, then boot from either one (keeping in mind that netbooks don't have CD drives, so you'll probably want to go the flash route). The Windows installer is probably the best choice for most users.

After testing the OS on an aging Acer Aspire One, I came away mighty impressed. Granted, there were a few setup glitches, and it took me a little while to learn how to navigate. But overall, I liked Jolicloud's nimble, attractive interface, and found that it never once left me longing for Windows.

If you bought a netbook but haven't found it as satisfying as you'd hoped, give Jolicloud a try. It's free, extremely functional, and even kind of fun.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.