June 22, 2009

Ubuntu netbook remix on a Lenovo T61

In order to check if the Ubuntu Netbook remix would be suitable for my wife parents I set myself to test it on a Virtual Machine or on laptop (which is running Karmic since Alpha one).

I started at http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download-netbook. There isn't an iso available to download, but an img file. This isn't surprising as the targeted hardwares (in many cases) have flash memory instead of hard drives. The image file is designed for Atom processors as they dominate the market (damn it).

So I turned on my Karmic laptop and set to search for the Ubuntu Netbook remix in one of the standard repo using apt-get and I found it, or them:  ubuntu-netbook-remix and ubuntu-netbook-remix-default-settings.

Before I installed the remix I decided to add Chinese language support in order to see what it will be like for my in-laws, if we ever get it installed for them.

I first installed ubuntu-netbook-remix-default-settings, rebooted but nothing had changed on my Gnome desktop (it must be default configuration files only). So I install the ubuntu-netbook-remix package and there I had it.

So, what about it? Well, not so much, but what did I expect ;).The main element of the netbook remix is the desktop applet which puts the Gnome menu on the desktop. And has a picture is better than a 1000 words, here's a set of screen shots:


You probably noticed that I elected to get all the default folder renamed to their Chinese translation. It looks okay with a screen definition of 1440x900 on a large screen or on 1024x768 VM but I'm not sure if it'd be the same on a 12" screen (the Chinese characters are a tad small for my liking on the 1024x768 resolution).

There are a few glitches or surprising elements for seasoned computer user: screen decoration are stripped off by the launcher, so there's no minimize, maximize (fine so far) or close button. And this is where it's a little weird to me. Do netbook have a hard button for closing windows, or do we expected users to go through the application provided standard menu?

Here's Firefox with the windows decoration off:

The next issue is with the netbook-launcher desktop application. It fades the menu icons when you move from one menu folder to the next, however on the VM as well as the T61 this doesn't always happen in a timely manner (it can take up to 5~6 seconds and sometime you need to click on the launcher to have the central pane refreshing the icons so you have the overlaid icons messing up before that).

Now I wasn't expecting everything to be 100% fine, or to suit my needs. At least I have seen it running and I think it could be a good option for my in-laws. And given this is just an add-in to a standard Ubuntu desktop this is pretty much risk free.

So let give the thumbs up to Ubuntu!

Note: The screen shots are taken from a fresh VM running Jaunty.