Thoughts on Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04

Since about Christmas my primary machine for day-to-day computing has been an Acer Aspire One D250. Netbooks are not really designed to be full laptop replacements, but I decided to go netbook-only for a few reasons. So of course the first thing I wanted to do is replace the stock Windows 7 (I can’t believe they put that on netbooks) with Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Being a (mostly former) Ubuntu developer I decided to go with Lucid and see how the netbook was shaping up for the upcoming LTS release.

I really like the UNE interface with netbook-launcher providing an easy to use launcher and maximus/window-picker-applet providing a great way to make the most of the limited screen real estate (1024×600). However, not everybody prefers this UI so one of the interesting new things in the 10.04 release is that you can choose between a normal GNOME UI and the UNE-customized UI at login.

For netbooks that do not have 3D accelerated graphics hardware UNE 10.04 has a pretty decent fallback mechanism for netbook-launcher that uses Enlightenment libraries instead of the usual Clutter library. This means, in theory, that you should be able to get a nice launcher no matter what graphics hardware you have.

As one might expect with a Long Term Support release, UNE 10.04 has quite a number of bug fixes. As an “contributor” I was able to submit a few patches but a huge amount of the real heavy lifting for UNE was done by Didier Roche (didrocks), Canonical employee and all-around cool dude. One of the things that got fixed for UNE 10.04 is that webfav, the Firefox extension that allows you to easily add links to your launcher Favorites, which was not working right in Karmic got fixed.

Another significant advancement, in my opinion, for netbooks is that Chromium has made it into the official Ubuntu archives. As much as I love Firefox, Chromium really shines on notebooks due to its speed and screen optimization. I’m hoping maybe for Maverick Chromium can become the default web browser for netbooks.

I started collecting and cleaning up some of the wiki pages that were floating around and created a centralized UNE page on the Ubuntu help wiki. It would be really great for people to help in the effort there.

Overall, I think Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04 is going to be amazing. The developer team has really done some amazing work. I’ve long been a (hopefully constructive) Canonical skeptic but I have to say that the Canonical Desktop Team really impressed me this cycle. Rick Spencer and Martin Pitt did an superb job of focusing effort and making sure things didn’t fall through the cracks where possible.

I’ve been involved with Ubuntu development since 2006 and this seems to me to be the best Ubuntu release yet.

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