Ubuntu on the Dell Mini 10 (3)
A few people have asked if the psb X driver is stable running under jaunty. It is indeed… rock stable. So now that’s established, let’s move on to something else.
I really want the Dell to be a “mini-laptop” so I originally installed the ubuntu-desktop package. But I’ve felt that the response was a bit sluggish. The menus were just a few fractions of a second to appear, they kind of “rolled” on instead of just appearing etc. Not much, but enough to make it annoying.
So a few days ago, I installed Xubuntu, and it’s brilliant! It made a true, noticeable difference in response. The Mini 10 now appears really snappy! Xubuntu makes use of the XFCE4 window manager, it’s lightweight compared to the Gnome environment, but still comes with a bunch of applications like terminal, text editor, etc. etc. I am truly impressed with the amazing installation the Xubuntu team has created!
I must admit, I am a bit shameful, because I never thought of Xubuntu as a “real” distribution… just one that could be used on really old and slow hardware. Boy was I wrong!
The default setup of the Xubuntu desktop, as designed by the Xubuntu team, is almost exactly like the default Gnome desktop in Ubuntu. I bet you could exchange someones desktop and (s)he would hardly notice any difference. All the functionality is there, and it’s just as elegant. An additional bonus for those who don’t like Ubuntu’s human theme with its brown/beige colors, Xubuntu’s default color scheme is pretty bluish, very light on the eyes.
I’ve been running with Xubuntu for a few days now. One thing that I’ve noticed — also when running ubuntu-desktop — is that the way the default desktop is set up, with panels at the top and bottom of the screen is not well suited for the Mini 10’s wide 16:9 display. What you really need is screen real estate in the vertical direction, because you tend to scroll a lot, for example in Firefox. On my Kubuntu workstation, I have a 27″ Samsung SyncMaster wide screen, and there I can use the width of the screen to have two applications running side-by-side. But the Mini 10’s monitor is really too tiny to do that.
Another thing is that the desktop looks exactly like that of a workstation, with everything scaled down to a tiny size. It looks neat, but for most people — and especially netbook users who are not familiar with Linux — it’s probably not the best setup.
So, I have played a littlebit today with reorganizing the desktop layout, to make it something of an in-between of UNR and the standard desktop. Here is what I’ve come up with:
The panels now appear on the left and right edges of the screen, where there is plenty of real estate. The left panel is “controlling”. At the top is the “Applications” menu, then the snapshot applet I used to make the screenshot (really doesn’t belong there). Third and fourth from the top is “Places” and “Help”, which are also on the standard top panel. Next is the desktop switcher (you really need lots of desktops with this small screen). At the bottom is the applet to hide all the application windows, so you can get to the launcher icons on the root.
The right panel is “informational”. From the top, a clock, a weather applet, the notification window (with Ubuntu One, battery, wifi and bluetooth monitors), and finally at the bottom (not visible on the screenshot) I’ve put the icon box showing running apps on that desktop.
The root window has some applications grouped in “Network”, “Office” and “System” areas. With a customized wallpaper image with labels and squares this could be elaborated even further. I have no need for that though :-).
I am very pleased with the setup as it has developed so far. I think Xubuntu, installed with lpia architecture packages, and with a simplified desktop theme is very close to the ideal setup for a netbook. Perhaps something to consider for the Xubuntu team? An XUNRR package? (Xubuntu UNR Revisited :-))