Evolution of my netbook UI

I’ve used an Acer Aspire One D250 (Intel N270, 1GB RAM, 160GB hard drive) for my every-day machine, in fact basically my only machine, for over a year now. Needless to say, a productive netbook UI is important to me. I want to maximize the usable screen space while also minimizing RAM and especially CPU usage.

Here are the desktop UIs I’ve tried so far:

  1. Ubuntu Netbook Edition with the “legacy” netbook UI. I really got used to using maximus to keep most windows maximized and the window picker applet to easily switch between windows and close windows.
  2. Ubuntu Netbook Edition with the Unity interface on 10.10. I like the window management and it looks slick. The problems I’ve had are general performance, stability, and the screen real estate taken up by the launcher/side bar.
  3. Ubuntu Desktop Edition with compiz. This is my latest netbook method. I take the normal Ubuntu GNOME desktop, remove some of the applets (indicator-session for instance), and use a trick I read about to remove the window decorations on maximized windows.

I came up with the last idea after reading that Unity was moving to using compiz. I had always assumed that compiz would use more RAM and CPU than metacity or Unity. In fact, compiz is actually really snappy on my Aspire One. The only thing that I find problematic about my current setup is that due to not having any windows directions I have no button to close windows. I use the Alt-F4 keyboard shortcut, but it’s a little awkward.

So how about you? What kind of Ubuntu interface do you use on your netbook? Do you just use Unity? Something more like my setup? I’m really curious about Kubuntu, but it’s a real CPU hog at this point. I haven’t figured out how to fix that yet.


18 thoughts on “Evolution of my netbook UI

  1. I use the unity global menu applet in a one top panel gnome session, with my dock on the bottom set to intellihide. When I maximize a window, I use very few pixels for window chrome. ..and I’m on an Inspiron 1420N – 1440×900 pixel screen. I just like making good use of it.

    I’ve used maximus on this before, as well as xmonad. I’m like the scrooge of pixels.

    The main problem I have is non-native applications that don’t work with the global menu bar; they ignore gnome HIG, making them unintuitive, they ignore GTK, making them bloated, and their weird attempts at emulating native gnome theming put them on the other side of what I’d call the uncanny valley of desktop software. I’m confident that with Ubuntu’s move to a global menu default, wayland window server, and user exposure to proprietary applications in the software center, there will be a great deal more demand for quality code in the near future– combined with LibreOffice being wrested from Sun/Oracle and the advent of Chromium things are looking up.

  2. I use traditional Ubuntu Desktop Edition with maximus and window-picker-applet. Together with this gconf setting for maximus:
    gconftool-2 --set /apps/maximus/no_maximize --type BOOL true
    Windows are not maximized by default, but when you do maximize them, they maximize to fullscreen.

  3. I’m in a similar position – using a Samsung NC10 as my main system. I’ve gone through the same iterations and also find tweaking the Gnome desktop my best solution. Replacing the Ubuntu menu with the single icon Gnome menu, add a window list and remove the bottom bar. Its the vertical screen real estate I’m most interested in – I’ve tried a panel down the left of the screen but a lot of applets don’t really work with it.

  4. I don’t have a netbook. I tried the netbook interface of Kubuntu on a desktop to get an idea about how it looks. It was ok, but you’re right about CPU.

    • It’s some weirdness with wordpress category feeds and Planet. I’m switching to an atom feed to see if it helps. Thanks for pointing it out.

  5. I too have been constantly looking for the best netbook interface. In the end, I keep coming back to my own personal solution. My major gripe with Ubuntu netbook remix (legacy or unity) is that it wastes screen real estate. My netbook is a ten inch screen and every bit of space is precious. I have tried the newest KDE Plasma netbook interface and while I like it and I think it is a step in the right direction, I find it slower and still more buggy than gnome. I have both Kubuntu Plasma Netbook and Ubuntu installed on my Asus 1000HE. I find myself returning to the Ubuntu side more and more.

    My Ubuntu install on my netbook is regular desktop without top and bottom panels. I have one small auto hide panel on the left and I run Cairo-Dock with auto hide turned on. I have found that this is the best setup for me. It is easy to setup and maintain, very customizable and maximizes vertical screen space. If need be I can toggle a browser to full screen and I have the largest screen possible for this display. To me, it is the ability to infinitely customize Linux that is one of its best features!

  6. Pingback: Evolution of my netbook UINetbook | Netbook

  7. I also have an Aspire One, but instead of a hard disk I use the 8GB built-in flash for battery savings. It’s the same flash disk they use on the iPods, so it’s really slow. I went with Debian on it and everything works out of the box. I also went with a standard gnome environment with compiz, and it’s really slick. Memory usage is also great. I also need to blog about this some time 🙂

  8. Go lean —

    OpenBox configured to launch all applications full-screen and a bunch of hotkeys for an app launcher, run dialogue, terminal, desktop switcher, file manager, and so forth.

    May or may not launch tint2 depending on what I’m doing or needing.

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