Trying Out Ubuntu's Netbook Remix
Last week at Computex Taipei the Canonical OEM team had unveiled Netbook Remix. Netbook Remix is based upon the stock package selection found in Ubuntu but with specific optimizations for Mobile Internet Devices and Ultra Mobile PCs. These optimizations include user-interface improvements for potentially new Linux users as well as making the desktop easier to work when running off a small screen. Netbook Remix also has optimizations lower on the Linux stack for power efficiency and performance when using Intel Atom hardware. If you are unfamiliar with this next-generation class of mobile devices, check out our photos of Intel Menlow UMPCs from CES 2008 this past January.
Canonical's Netbook Remix won't be appearing on mobile devices until later this year -- and these software changes are still very much under development -- but interested parties can already check out the source-code and Debian packages for this work. Canonical is publishing this work under the GNU GPLv3 license. For now this work isn't available through any of the Ubuntu repositories, but the packages are hosted within a Launchpad PPA (Personal Package Archive). The Debian repository for Netbook Remix is here for the time being.
The packages that make up Ubuntu Netbook Remix are (currently) go-home-applet, window-picker-applet, maximus, human-netbook-theme, ume-config-notebook, and ume-launcher.
The window-picker-applet resides within the top or bottom panel and shows the title of the current window along with icons for other open but non-focused windows. The window-picker-applet is a nice improvement if you are running Ubuntu on a mobile device, but there are still a few areas for improvement. The human-netbook-theme is based off of the common Human interface (Ubuntu's default theme), but most noticeably presents a new face for the GNOME panels.
The main part for end-users with Netbook Remix is the ume-launcher. When the user isn't within an application, this launcher spans the entire desktop. Ume-launcher isn't based upon any of the existing Linux launchers but has been designed by Canonical. Along the left hand side is the menus found within GNOME's Applications portal, such as Accessories, Games, and Internet. When selecting one of these items, the center area of the Ubuntu Netbook Remix launcher will show the various icons. We would really like to see all of these icons be SVG-based for scaling nicely depending upon the resolution, but unfortunately, that isn't the case now. However, SVG icons aren't an Ubuntu-specific problem but something that needs to be better addressed within GNOME.