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Karmic Netbook Remixes: Kubuntu 1, Ubuntu 0

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Karmic Koala will see the release of TWO official Netbook Remixes – Ubuntu NBR and Kubuntu NBR. LEt’s take a look at both as of Alpha 5…

Ubuntu Karmic Koala Netbook Remix

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Refined, Stylish and, most importantly, far more usable.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix is the official ‘Netbook’ version of Ubuntu, release by Canonical. It comes with many of the same applications as Ubuntu Proper as well as a custom Interface and navigation.

Interface

The UI has undergone a slight overhaul since the previous release, and is looking much better for it!

Condensing the dual side-bar layout of the first version into a single sidebar frees up valuable space on smaller screens. The sidebar section ‘titles’ are now bigger, clearer and easier to navigate to; no more choosing the wrong category in error. Menu’s now dynamically resize to fit in all available options.

UNR also has a new theme (Human in a dark grey colour) and a new icon set (Humanity).

aaaaa aqwwww

Applications

App wise UNR comes with most of the same applications it’s predecessor did along with the “new” features that Karmic itself brings – such as UbuntuOne integration and XSplash.

Evolution, Firefox and Empathy are the default Mail, Web and IM clients. Rhythmbox is still installed as default – leaning to the thought that Banshee may well not be either a) best suited for netbooks or b) not replacing RB at this point.

Bugs, Frell ups and OHNOES!!1

If there’s one thing you may notice using UNR Alpha 5 – it’s crash after crash.

  • During my time using it, the Window Picker Applet crashed about once every 5 minutes – even when nothing was using it.
  • I’m not sure if it was UNR + my netbook, but the entire system felt sluggish and tired and not as snappy as either UNR Ibex or Kubuntu NBR (Below).
  • The new ‘Selection’ effect is really nice, but does take a while to show… and to fade, which can make passing the mouse over several applications a bit drawn out.
  • XSplash displays a bizarre boot “effect” in which the “throbber” goes upwards instead of along.

Kubuntu Karmic Koala Netbook Remix

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If first impressions count then Kubuntu wins hand down.

Kubuntu Netbook Remix is the first official Kubuntu Netbook variant to be released and see’s a greater emphasis on the social and online activities a netbook may be used for.

Interface

Like UNR it also sports a custom “desktop” interface. Comprising of a “widget” home screen called ‘Newspaper’ and a separate “Application” screen for launchers and shortcuts.

The default set of widgets leaves something to be desired – a comic book reader, a RSS feed reader set to KDE.News and an un-configured weather widget. A smarter choice would’ve been to have had it’s Microblogging Widget out as default, as well as perhaps the Facebook or Goole calendar widget, too.

The ‘Air’ interface of it’s most recent release is worked to full effect throughout the entire desktop, and the whole thing feels snappy and flush on my EeePC 701 – so on newer netbooks it will likely ‘feel’ even better.

Applications

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Thankfully Kubuntu NBR comes with OpenOffice instead of the slightly bizarre KOffice. The rest of the default set of applications is, like the default widgets in the Newspaper screen, a some-what eclectic choice.

KMail, Konquerer and Kopete replace Evolution, Firefox and Empathy respectably and all do a fine job. Elsewhere ‘Netbook’ type Applications are noticeably absent from the line-up. No “Cheese webcam booth” or “UbuntuOne”.

It comes with no games pre-installed either.

Bugs, Weirdouts and Frakk ups.

Although this is still only Alpha 5 of Karmic Koala, Kubuntu NBR feels very, very stable. Unlike the constant crashes of ‘Window Picker Applet’ that the netbook proper version seem to dish out on schedule, Kubuntu feels like a finely tuned release already.

That said, there are some quirks that either annoyed or just plain confused me!

  • Sometimes the entire screen would go black with no discernable way to navigate your way home to the ‘Newspaper’ or ‘Application’ screens.

errm

  • New widgets don’t always display correctly.

fraakk (Google Calendar, Facebook and battery widget all displaying incorrectly)

  • Navigating between open applications is virtually impossible until you add the ‘Task Manager’ widget.