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Custom Netbook Ubuntu Interfaces

With the popularity of netbooks almost cemented into computing history as unrivalled fact, Ubuntu has been a very popular choice for OEMs to slap on to their tiny laptops.

Ubuntu’s backers, Canonical, positioned Ubuntu as a viable netbook OS very early on with the release of Ubuntu Netbook Remix ” a custom interface designed for smaller screens.

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Dell and HP are two of the most prominent Ubuntu-on-netbook pre-installers. What makes their usage of Ubuntu extra special is the time and effort that they have put into providing a custom User interface for potential Linux newbies. Whether or not they succeed is another matter…

HP MIE

HP delivered many version of their XXXX with their ‘HP MIE’ interface ” consisting of a large desktop-replacing ‘launcher’ and custum GTK, firefox and thunderbird themes.

The result was an elegant, if not entirely well thought out, look.

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The ‘Mi’ launcher HP slap over Ubuntu 8.04 provides the user with quick and easy access to frequented websites, media and music on the hard drive and an e-mail pane.

Whilst these sound like great additions for a mobile computing experience, in reality they seem odd.

The Ubuntu boasting netbooks from HP sport 8GB SSD’s, of which only 2GB is actually free. Media centre integration on such a tiny hard drive is an over sight.

Secondly, the left hand pane is reserved for e-mail notification, reading and sending. However it replies on Thunderbird which isn’t the most suitable application for a web-based device. Support for GMail or another web-based mail service would’ve been preferred by most users.

The launcher also serves as a window switcher, via clunky yet surprisingly usable ‘thumbnail’ sized buttons.

Dell’s Clutter Launcher

Dell added a custom launch bar to their netbooks shipping with Ubuntu. called the ‘clutter launcher’ it’s been widely panned by most users who describe it has clunky and badly integrated with the rest of the Gnome desktop.

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The Future

With the Moblin V2 interface on the way, most of these ‘interfaces’ will largely disappear. Moblin addresses all the same issues as the above tried to, but does it far more successfully and naturally.

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Ubuntu ‘Moblin’ Netbook Remix will be launched in October.