Friday, July 24, 2009

Moblin 2.0 Beta Impressions

  • Boot is insanely quick. BIOS appears to take longer to come up.
  • Alpha software, not Beta. Crashes a lot. Functionality doesn't consistently work.
  • Reworked UI hints at amazing amount of promise. So many interesting new possibilities. So many of which are yet unrealized.
  • Pop-up activity menu: central means of task management. Saves a lot of screen real estate compared to windows/GNOME task bars. Can pop up unexpectedly when interacting with menus of your individual tasks. Not a lot of room for growth.
  • MyZone: aggregates what you've been doing with the netbook recently. Kind of like a local facebook feed page. Privacy concerns: don't surf porn unless you want a thumbnail of the site in question on the first page you see after boot.
  • Status: sets your presence info on IM and any web services. Interesting, but is this really a top-level task?
  • People: add IM accounts and display their presence status. Can't IM directly from this screen. Doesn't feel finished design-wise.
  • Internet: shows thumbnails of recently visited websites, and allows searching for or directly opening new sites. Nice and simple UI for the built-in WebKit-based browser.
  • Media: searches and plays local video, sound, and image files. Nice and simple UI for known libraries, but missing features for importing new media or complex library management. No MP3 or other "non-free" codecs (see previous bog).
  • Pasteboard: a simple copy-n-paste UI? I think it's a shame that no previous OS had a clipboard management UI, but at this point we really need this as a top-level task? If it was integrated with pastebin.com however, it might be a different story.
  • Applications: simple application finder. Non-Moblin apps, like Firefox and Terminal; and GNOME settings here. I changed my CAPS LOCK to a Ctrl key. :)
  • Zones: Moblin concept for window management. Seems like each application gets it's own virtual desktop. Interesting idea given such limited screen real estate, but the execution doesn't feel very comfortable.
  • Applets: one for screen/power, sound, and wireless. Wireless applet doesn't show signal strength.
  • Calender: Seems to be local, underpowered thingy. It's 2009 FFS, if you can't integrate with a web-based calender, don't bother! Very very unimpressed, as calender is integrated with MyZone, which could have made it a very smart feature.
  • Web Services: only integrates with twitter and last.fm, and as I don't use those, hard to say what this does. No Facebook integration is very disappointing.
  • Web browser: flash built in. Simple and fast. UI similar to Safari. Opening links in tabs doesn't seem to work yet, and entering URLs manually works spottily, making it basically unusable for serious work. Did this blog in it, so it's just a matter of time before bugs are cleaned out.
  • Media player: as expected clutter UI really shines here. Lots of thumbnails and animated progressions. Lacks complex importing such as from digital camera.
  • Email: appeared to understand my gmail account well enough to set up IMAP for it, but wasn't actually able to show me any of my emails.

Conclusions
  • This is Alpha software. Lots of basic functionality is missing or spotty. Lots of foundational work yet needed. UI specifically needs much testing, as the technology under the surface is mostly proven.
  • Clearly shows the results of such an ambitious effort to redesign and rewrite so much of the basic desktop software stack. I just hope the team has the balls to continue forward, and not let it die because of the tough road it has chosen, because there is *so* much potential to do something truly new and make a substatial improvement over what is available today.
  • As a *netbook* OS, one hopes for much better integration with existing web APIs. Specifically neither Google nor Facebook have any integration what so ever. Specifically I'd like to have the calendar and email applications handle web calendars and email as the primary use case.

4 comments:

Pat Jensen said...

I liked the review and your impressions. Any way you can post some screenshots that correlate to some of the features? Would definitely make your review top notch!

windmonger said...

Why do some Linux developers assume that people do the same things on their respective netbooks? Can't Moblin see that there are many like me who want to do normal computing activity on their netbook netbook and not fritter away their time social-networking?

Andrioid said...

Tried it on my EEE 1000HE and I think I pretty much agree with everything you wrote here. I reverted to EEEbuntu (Ubuntu Remix, Remix) after trying Moblin Beta for 2 days. I still miss the extremely fast boot up times, although I don't miss the UI.

R. McDougall said...

@windmonger

I think the idea is that there should be new UIs for different uses. If you're pleased with a traditional UI, why not just use a traditional UI? Clearly you're not served by anything new.

I recommend the netbook remix for Ubuntu.

If you want to go the other way entirely, try Jolicloud: http://www.linux-magazine.com/Online/Blogs/Productivity-Sauce-Dmitri-s-open-source-blend-of-productive-computing/First-Look-at-Jolicloud