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ubuntu netbook edition optimized

I was just reading our Ubuntu Netbook Remix Optimization Guide and realized there are some things I'd do differently right now so I decided to share this with you.

I'll skip the parts in the initial post, so make sure you check out that post too - some things such as Guake are incredibly useful on a netbook (and not only).

Mega post ahead, read on!

Before we start, please note that the GNOME panel is locked in Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04 so you need to unlock it. As far as I know, this will only work if you installed Ubuntu Netbook Edition, not if you installed Ubuntu desktop and then installed the netbook interface! To unlock it, paste this in a terminal:

A) Ubuntu Netbook Edition for Netbooks with 3D acceleration support
sudo ln -s /etc/xdg/xdg-une/autostart/maximus-autostart.desktop /etc/xdg/autostart/ #this makes Maximus run at login
sudo ln -s /etc/xdg/xdg-une/autostart/netbook-launcher.desktop /etc/xdg/autostart/ #this launches the UNE interface at login
sudo ln -s /usr/share/gconf/une/default/20_une-gconf-default /usr/share/gconf/defaults/
sudo ln -s /usr/share/gconf/une/mandatory/20_une-gconf-mandatory /usr/share/gconf/defaults/
sudo update-gconf-defaults

B) Ubuntu Netbook Edition 2D (for non 3D acceleration capable netbooks)
sudo ln -s /etc/xdg/xdg-une/autostart/maximus-autostart.desktop /etc/xdg/autostart/ #this makes Maximus run at login
sudo ln -s /etc/xdg/xdg-une-efl/autostart/netbook-launcher-efl.desktop /etc/xdg/autostart/ #this launches the UNE interface at login
sudo ln -s /usr/share/gconf/une/default/20_une-gconf-default /usr/share/gconf/defaults/
sudo ln -s /usr/share/gconf/une/mandatory/20_une-gconf-mandatory /usr/share/gconf/defaults/
sudo update-gconf-defaults

Then log out and in the the GDM login screen, chose "GNOME" as the session instead of "Ubuntu Netbook Edition" or "Ubuntu Netbook Edition 2D".

Now let's get started!

1. Global Menu

gnome global menu ubuntu netbook edition

Ubuntu 10.10 will bring a new global menu, but until then we can use the already existing one to gain a lot of vertical space:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:globalmenu-team/ppa && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gnome-globalmenu

Then right click the panel, select "Add to panel" and add Gnome Global Menu. The menu will only be functional after you log out and log back in!

Global Menu doesn't work with every application out there but you'll feel the difference once you try it out!

2. Window Applets and DockBarX

If in our Ubuntu Netbook Remix optimization guide we talked about replacing Window-picker-applet with Namebar, this time we're going to use Window Applets. Why? Well, because you can place the minimize-maximize-close buttons wherever you want on the panel, without the window title. We don't need a window title because that's included into Global Menu (step 1). For the window switcher we're going to stick with DockBarX but you can use Talika instead if you want.

To install Window Applets, download the .deb from HERE, then install it, right click on the panel and select "Add to panel" and add "Window buttons", then place it wherever you want in the panel - I set mine to the left but you can of course place it on the right, next to the Session Indicator.

Then, to install DockBarX, use the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8 && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install dockbarx

DockBarX is great because besides a window switcher, it can also be used as a launcher (simply right click an application and select "Pin application").

If you're not satisfied with the default themes, you can download about a douzen extra DockBarX themes from HERE.

Since we're going to use the upper panel for the Global Menu, close buttons and notification area, it's a good idea to create a vertical panel and place DockBarX on it. If the theme you're using doesn't support vertical panels (vertical panels look ugly), you can use THIS script to fix it.

You can see both DockBarX and Window Applets (just the Window Buttons part of it) throughout all the screenshots in this post.

3. Battery Status

battery status

Battery Status is an amazingly useful applet which can replace fully replace the power icon - and comes with some extra new features such as:

  • Battery Status dialog
  • Power Statistics (provided by GNOME Power Manager)
  • "Show" setting
  • CPU frequency scaling (provided by gnome-applets/cpufreq-applet)
  • Power Management preferences (provided by GNOME Power Manager)

To install it:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:iaz/battery-status && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install battery-status

Once installed, right click your Gnome panel, select "Add to panel" and then add the "Battery applet". When you first add it, it will ask you if you want to remove the power icon since it's no longer needed - select "Remove" (so it will remove it).

4. Browser

Firefox requires A LOT of customization to be truly efficient on a netbook so it would be a good idea to replace it with Chromium - a lot of saved space.

Since Chromium dev builds added WebM support, you may prefer it to the stable build. Install it using the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chromium-daily/ppa && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install chromium-browser

chromium ubuntu netbook edition

Chromium is a great vertical space saver. But to save some more (actually we'll save about 1 inch of horizontal space in the tab bar), in the options set it to "Use system title bar and borders", then restart it. Ubuntu Netbook Edition automatically removes the title bar for maximized windows so using this you won't have a title bar in Chromium but now you'll also have 1 inch of extra space where the close-minimize-maximize buttons used to be - we don't need those since these buttons are already available on the panel. You can see the result of this small tweak in the screenshot above - no window buttons on Chromium.

youtube html5 webm
(Youtube in HTML5 + WebM)

Since Flash uses so many system resources, it's a nightmare to use it on a low-equipped netbook, not to mention the fact that because it uses a lot of CPU, the battery life decreases a lot when viewing flash content. For this reason you may want to enable HTML5 in YouTube.

5. Nautilus Elementary

nautilus elementary ubuntu netbook

Because it's so customizable, Nautilus Elementary is an indispensable application for a netbook running Ubuntu - you can customize the toolbar, hide the statusbar, sidebar, use a vertical toolbar and much more!

Install Nautilus Elementary:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:am-monkeyd/nautilus-elementary-ppa && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade && nautilus -q

Once installed, customize it to suit your needs.

6. Music and video player

Ubuntu default applications are usually enough (and great choices most of the times) however for a netbook, I find DeadBeef and Gnome Media Player to be a lot better.

deadbeef screenshot

DeadBeef is a fully-featured music player which uses very few system resources (around 9 mb of RAM on my system) and comes with an user interface great for netbooks: minimalistic and with tabs support. You can read some more about DeadBeef, HERE.

Install DeadBeef by pasting the following commands in a terminal:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexey-smirnov/deadbeef && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install deadbeef

gnome media player

Gnome Media Player doesn't come with many features but is amazing under-the-hood as it supports the VLC, Xine and Gstreamer engines for playing media - you can either choose the engine manually or allow Gnome Media Player to automatically select the best one for the video you're trying to view.

Install Gnome Media Player:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome-media-player-development/development && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gnome-media-player

7. Office suite

OpenOffice requires a lot of system resources and it's not exactly suited for a netbook. You could use Zoho Webservice instead - a new project Canonical is working on to integrate Zoho into the Ubuntu desktop.

Install Zoho Webservice using the following command:

sudo apt-get install webservice-office-zoho

Then you'll be able to access the normal document writer, presentations and so on via the Office menu in Ubuntu Netbook Edition:

zoho webservice office

8. Email

desktop webmail

Desktop Webmail, just like Zoho Webservice is a new package in Ubuntu 10.04. Desktop Webmail lets you set your default email client as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or Zoho instead of regular email clients such as Evolution or Thunderbird.

Install Desktop Webmail:

sudo apt-get install desktop-webmail

Once you install it, set Desktop Webmail as your default email application under Preferred Applications.

For increased battery lifetime, check out Less Watts which we just posted about. Also, don't forget to check out our initial Ubuntu Netbook Remix Optimization Guide!

Have a suggestion? Let us know in the comments!