Test driving Moblin on a netbook

I came across Moblin earlier this week online and so I decided to impose myself against my buddy Jamie and try to run this on his Acer netbook.  So, we downloaded and prepped the live USB stick and booted the thing up to see what the distribution looked like.

I guess I should back up.  When I came across Moblin, it initially looks really promising from the screenshots.  The interface was intuitive and looked more like a large mobile phone type interface than anything I’d seen on a miniature desktop.  To me, it looked pretty well suited for the tween size of a laptop.

On first boot, the interface was much better than I had initially expected.  The 3D transitions and effects were pretty well integrated and someone has spent a lot of time working out the intricacies of this Linux desktop.

You can’t do alot from the live USB – its mostly an installer method, but you do get a good sense of what this software can do, and it looks good.  You have to change your thinking a bit (not hard for a thinking different Mac person to do) and understand that there is no desktop and that your applications live in zones.  Beyond that, the launcher bar (for lack of a better term) is your central location for switching contexts and zones to move between your applications and settings.  Its pretty efficient and has an autohide feature (a la OS X’s Dock) which saves the screen real estate.  Jamie wasn’t interested in installing, so some features weren’t easy to test.

Moblin features a status channel – with integrated Twitter and Last.fm support.  It also includes instant messaging for Jabber clients and a couple options I didn’t recognize.  The Jabber support has a dedicated Google Talk option, but didn’t see AIM, Yahoo or Microsoft chat – which would be nice additions.   The browsing experience is nice and nicely skinned to match the rest of the experience.

Beyond Internet, Moblin includes the ability to play media files – something good for road trips for movies and tv shows (too bad its not iTunes) as well as music.  These features aren’t fully integrated, but you can see that the interface will be nice once completed.

There is also a “pinning” mechanism integrated throughout the OS.  Think favorites for the whole OS.  You can pin things that like – whether its a website, media file, etc. for easy retrieval later.  That is a pretty nice feature.

We tried to update the OS using the integrated update and it ran through the motions (although it didn’t update anything – the Live USB stick must be a read-only image).  That feature makes for a full featured and always patched experience.

This is still an early beta, but it shows a lot of promise.  Its something I hope to test again in a later form… it might even convince me to plunk down the dollars for a netbook in the future – just won’t be a Windows netbook… {big grin}

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Philip is a IT solutions engineer working for AmWINS Group, Inc., an insurance brokerage firm in Charlotte, NC. With a focus on data center technologies, he has built a career helping his customers and his employers deploy better IT solutions to solve their problems. Philip holds certifications in VMware and Microsoft technologies and he is a technical jack of all trades that is passionate about IT infrastructure and all things Apple. He's a part-time blogger and author here at Techazine.com.

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