As mentioned in my comment, I have just been looking for this myself (at your prompting) and the best I've come up with at this stage is a 20x2 LCD display (likely HD44780 or compatible unit) which would have some micro-controller behind it. On that page I saw that someone had already mentioned LCD Smartie (a site I frequented year ago)which could be used to control it. But it's MS Windows only, and so it got me to searching.
There doesn't seem to be too much out there aimed in our market, but this would be a relatively easy project to undertake.
Adafruit has a project on a Raspberry Pi based LCD Display version (The Raspberry Pi runs Raspian which is another Debian derivative as is Ubuntu). They have details for getting a python script up and running for it.
I also found the
man page for LCD Daemon on ubuntu.com which purports LCDproc was up and running in Natty and should be
apt-get install-able in current versions. edit: it is Ubuntu
I personally think the first one I linked above is a little pricey and it would be a fun project to do yourself, and I'm actually now thinking of doing this myself. the 16x2, 20x2 LCDs are cheap and readily available everywhere, although I'd probably go a nicer OLED screen (or screens, possibly go two!) like the 1.3" OLEDs from adafruit.
Hopefully one of the links above will whet your appetite and inspire you to create your own.