Netbook screen too small? Not for this Linux software

UBUNTU FOR NETBOOKS sizes all program windows as large as possible. This is Evolution, a clone of Microsoft Outlook.

By Al Fasoldt


I love my little “netbook” laptop, barely the size of a small hardcover book. But running programs on it turned out to be more frustrating than I had imagined.

The problem? Programs written for standard computers often come with toolbars at the top, status bars at the bottom, and a dozen other gimmicks that take up valuable space on a netbook’s screen.

Take Microsoft Word, for example. PLEASE take Microsoft Word! It has so many toolbars that my netbook screen can barely display documents. And I know I can reposition or disable any of these toolbars, but why should I?

And what about all the other one-size-fits-all Windows programs I was running? I started to feel like no one really understood the needs of netbook users.

But I found the solution while typing on the old Windows laptop that I saved last month by installing a lite version of the Linux operating system on it. (Read about it at I had a flash of inspiration:

Why not remove Windows from my netbook and replace it with Linux, like I did with the old laptop?

I searched for a suitable Linux version (called “distro”) for a netbook and found the right one, Ubuntu Netbook Remix. It is a distribution of Ubuntu, the most popular version of Linux, specially designed for netbooks. It forces all program windows to fill the screen, banishes toolbars, and leaves only one program on the screen at a time. You can download it for free from

If you’re not sure what Linux is, I’ll give you the explanation in 25 words: Linux is software that runs a computer, like Windows does, but safer. Linux is almost always free and has thousands of great (and free) programs.

Best of all, Linux isn’t porcine like Windows, so it’s great for computers that don’t have a lot of disk space or memory. An added benefit – a huge added benefit, if you’re as tired of spyware and viruses as I am – is that Linux is free of these threats. And its overall security is outstanding.

What differentiates UNR from regular Ubuntu is the way all program windows are handled. Each is made to fill almost the entire screen, automatically. At the top left, in the space that remains, is a small taskbar that displays icons for all running programs.

Clicking an icon hides its window or brings it back to the screen, which makes switching programs very easy. Large buttons on a full-fledged screen launch any of NUR’s many programs.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix can be installed in addition to Windows (allowing you to choose which to run on startup) or instead of Windows. I chose to have UNR completely replace Windows.
UNR comes with all the software a Windows user is likely to need – an office suite (a good word processor, spreadsheet, etc.), an excellent web browser, a professional-grade email program, reading software music and an excellent deal more. And all at no cost.

The file you download is an ISO file, which you then turn into a CD using a CD burner. If you prefer not to, Canonical will send you a free installation CD. Details are on the website.

Al Fasoldt’s technology column appears here weekly and is available online at Email him at [email protected] or c/o Stars, PO Box 4915, Syracuse, NY 13221.

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