Moblin: Netbook OS of the future?

We bought a netbook (Samsung N310, if you must know, in blue) just before Christmas. It wasn't on the spur of the moment, because I'm not that impulsive but it was without a huge amount of preparation. I knew right from the start that I could not live with Windows. Honestly, I don't know how all you PC users don't throw your computers out of windows, into the path of trains, or snap them over your knees; thats how I feel after using Windows for 10 minutes.

I won't be using the netbook for anything fancy, but I wanted to be able to browse the internet, watch BBC iplayer, and possibly dip into the command line for  a few bits and pieces (you know its good for the soul) - but only if I absolutely had to.

So the options are:

  1. I could try to make the netbook into a Hackintosh and install Mac OS X on it. Its quite a heavy operating system and since my needs are not exhaustive probably not worth the effort of fiddling around with kernel patches and other black magic

  2. Install Linux. There are lots of trimmed down versions of linux. Remember what you see when you turn a computer on and what works behind the scenes are very different. Lots of Linux distros have made very nice graphical interfaces which are specifically tailored to the small screen of the netbook (typically about 10.5 inches)

Linux it is! You can get distros free from almost any breed of linux. Ubuntu is particularly popular. Reghardware have a really good article comparing 10 different versions.

I chose Moblin, which is based on Ubuntu. You download a 600 mb file which installs onto a USB memory stick. Boot up you netbook with the stick in it and bish, bash, bosh Moblin starts up.

Moblin is very different to Windoze or Mac OS X, which I think is a good thing. Netbooks are fun little things which you take with you when you don't want your normal heavy computer, to lug around

It has a bar across the top of the screen which auto-hides where you access your 'zones'. These zones correspond to the different ways you might use your moblin netbook. There is one for 'People' which pools together all your instant message contacts onto one tab, one for internet, networks, battery, your status updates (at the moment these are limited to Twitter and instant message), your profile page and miscellaneous applications (which there is a separate application to help you download more, without any fuss and nonsense). Each zone zips up and down like a little roller blind.

Everyone I have shown my Moblin netbook too has really like the cuteness of the interface and the compact size of the netbook. Amazingly everything worked straight from the installation. No fiddling with patches or command lines.

The only issue I have with Moblin, is battery life. A full charge (once you turn off bluetooth) will last about  1 hour 40 mins. I was really hoping that my netbook would last for about 4 hours, although it was advertised to last for 3.5 hours when we bought it. It may not be entirely Moblin's fault.  Apparently there is a BIOS update that can only be done through Windows (glad I kept a separate partition with all that junk on it), which will fix the screen brightness control (the only thing not to work straight away).

Final Word

If you are thinking about going away from Windows for your netbook, definitely give Moblin a chance. It takes 10 seconds to boot up (unlike over a minute for Windoze), takes almost no disc space (compared to the 30 Gb Windoze takes up), is continually developing at a rate that Windoze could only dream of, and its open source (and thereby rather lovely). Its perfect for my needs .... go on, you know you want to.