Re: Need advice on minimal installation
Your privacy concerns are valid, although really things like zeitgeist are there to target your search results more to you for convenience.
Still, you could easily install Gnome on Ubuntu minimal. You wouldn't need to mess with ubuntu-desktop. Just
should do the trick. (FYI, Gnome Activity Journal uses the same zeitgeist engine Unity uses.)
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gnome
Starting with Ubuntu minimal will also remove unneeded applications, although I think you'll find they're not that difficult to remove from a default install.
As to "forced" cloud/online integration:
If you're talking about Ubuntu One, you don't have to use it, and you can easily remove the client and indicator from the system.
If you're talking about web search results in the Dash, they can be easily turned off.
If you're talking about the package management (installation and upgrades) being tied to the web, I'm afraid that's something you need with any distribution of Linux, unless you're planning to run your machine in a vacuum.
Jane, stop this crazy thing!