Ubuntu Netbook Remix
Although it's not being offered pre-installed on very many new netbooks, Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) has struck a chord with developers. Netbook distributions with growing user bases such as EasyPeasy, Eeebuntu, and the upcoming JoliCloud all use the interface from UNR.
For version 9.10, UNR ditches the three-paned home screen from 9.04 and instead goes for a much more logical (and better-looking) two-paned approach.
Other than the extremely minor beef about the small band of opacity in the home screen's sidebar, UNR seems to have dodged every bullet that hit the Desktop Edition of Ubuntu 9.10. This second iteration of UNR is faster to boot, wake, and resume than the 9.04 version. Menus also have a much snappier feel, rounding out a generally more responsive user interface. Even the awful all-in-one trackpad of the Dell Mini 10v works better on a fresh installation, though disabling the tap-to-click option is still probably the first thing Mini 10v owners should do after installing any Linux distro. Simply click on System in the left pane on the home screen, then select the Mouse option and un-check the box for Enable mouse clicks with touchpad.
WiFi did not work out-of-the-box, which isn't unusual for Linux. However, Karmic quickly found the proper Broadcom drivers and alerted me to their availability via a system tray icon and pop-up notification. Just click the notification icon and choose one of the drivers (there is an open source and a proprietary option). This is about the most hassle-free way to install a WiFi driver yet.
With the 64-bit Desktop Edition being completely unusable and the 32-bit version marred by bugs and poor choices, UNR becomes the real winner for the Karmic release. Despite what I say in the Conclusion regarding Karmic, UNR 9.10 is definitely worth a download. Because JoliCloud, Moblin, and Chrome are still not quite ready for prime-time, I have to give UNR 9.10 the Tom's Hardware recommendation for this round of Linux netbook OSes.