Hewlett Packard has released a custom version of Ubuntu Linux designed for Netbooks -- specifically for the HP Mini 1000 Mi Edition.
(HP Mini Mi Edition home screen, via DownloadSquad)
The operating system is based on Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron, and can run pretty much any application that normally runs on Ubuntu, including OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin and so forth -- with which the OS conveniently comes preloaded. (You'll have to install GIMP, though.)
On the other hand, the GUI hardly resembles Ubuntu, according to DownloadSquad's Brad Linder. When you first boot up the custom OS, you are greeted with a screen with a web search engine, a list of favorite web sites and shortcuts to your music and photos, he says:
If you click the Start New Program button, a program launcher will open that separates your applications into Internet, Media, Utilities, Work, Play, and All tabs. The settings manager shows you everything you'd find in the typical Ubuntu settings screens, but it's arranged in a new way that makes it easier to find what you're looking for with fewer clicks.
HP has also added a custom media player called HP MediaStyle that resembles Apple's FrontRow.
Is this the best Linux interface for Netbooks to date? Linder says the software is designed for making basic tasks basic, but "experienced Linux users can always fire up a terminal window by hitting Alt+F2 and entering 'gnome-terminal.' "
The software will come preloaded on some of the company's Netbooks.
HP also plans to post a utility on its web site in the next few days that will allow you to create a system restore USB flash disk from Windows:
You can already create one if you're running Linux. You can use this utility to either restore a Mi Edition netbook to factory default settings or to turn a Windows XP HP Mini 1000 into a Mi Edition device. I would not advise anyone to try using this install disk on unsupported hardware as you'll probably end up with an operating system that doesn't support your WiFi card or other hardware.
It's not clear whether HP plans to offer the software for non-netbooks. But if you want to try adding installing the user interface over a normal Ubuntu installation, you can try adding the HP repositories and using the Synaptic package manager to install a package called glassy-bleu-theme.
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