Review: Acer Aspire One with Moblin 2, Ubuntu 8.10, Windows

Moblin 2

I was most excited to review Moblin 2 as it’s a fairly new and unseen system. I wanted to be one of the first, and I was psyched to see what Intel had coughed up. Let’s just say that Intel should have coughed a little harder because Moblin 2 was quite a letdown. Yes, it’s an alpha release so it’s very understandable, but it’s a letdown nevertheless.

The Moblin 2 ISO image thankfully works superbly with Unetbootin (as mentioned in the Ubuntu section), and I had it installed literally in minutes after putting the image to my USB drive. The method suggested by Intel to put it on a USB drive was too ridiculous for me, one fairly new (one year and counting) to Linux and other open source, let alone your average netbooker. Thank heavens for Unetbootin!

Startup is the fastest that I have ever witnessed on any machine utilizing any system, and login doesn’t exist. I even tried to establish login credentials, but there weren’t any options that I could find to make it so. At any rate, this system boots up ridiculously fast and shuts down even faster.

The look of the system, which utilizes Xfce, I quite like. It looks native to the 1024×600 resolution and uses colors that are easy on the eyes. There is a plethora of appearance configurations, most of which are of the same nature. It also makes windows transparent when they’re not in focus. This transparency is a good feature, but sometimes gets in the way in that it’s confusing to tell which window is in the front and which is behind when you want to switch between maximized windows. The menu is similar to many Linux distributions, but it’s the most consolidated one I’ve seen; there’s only one menu button where the Start button would be on Windows, and several submenus containing all of the system’s programs, and basically only two menus containing system administration applications and system customizing options.
There aren’t many applications that come installed with Moblin 2, and the Add/Remove Software feature doesn’t offer anything else of value. Basically, there is a form of Firefox called Minefield, a video/music player, a simple calendar, address book, and task pad, and a terminal. There are no office editors like OpenOffice at all. Also, the Add/Remove Software feature suddenly broke giving me an error that it should have updated itself but didn’t, so now I can’t look up any additional applications regardless.

The touchpad seems a little too sensitive, sometimes dragging items instantly to the edge of the screen when I click on them or moving in the wrong directions when I click and try to drag, which is utterly frustrating when it happens perpetually.
Minefield, the web browser, works well enough when used simply. It renders pages fast enough for my taste, though I did notice it went slower than Chrome and Firefox on previous systems. It also seems to have a very annoying glitch that makes the page scroll onwards to nearly infinity when you use the arrow keys to scroll. It doesn’t automatically download plugins, and trying to download and install generic Linux packages also doesn’t seem to work when installing plugins, such as with Flash.
I specifically tested the movie player application since Intel plans to have Moblin 2 as a system for smaller devices; it would be wise if they had capabilities to play music and video aside from being able to connect to the Internet. In a nutshell: the player is useless. I tried varied types of video and audio files including MP3, MPG, MPA, WMA, and WMV, but the player did not have any suitable codecs to play anything except for WAV files and also doesn’t download the codecs automatically. A quick search in the package manager also showed that there were currently seemingly no codecs available. JPEGS and GIFs are recognizable by the system, though. Perhaps users could make digital flipbooks instead.

The wireless works wondrously as does the LAN, but the applications dealing with customizing the network really are too simple. There are more features on my old PPC’s networking options than Moblin has. I can’t view or change the host name, the IP address, whether it’s automatic DHCP or manual, and etcetera. Of course, thinking MID, one probably won’t need these features. However, I think I’d still prefer to have them there in case, especially while still using a netbook instead of an MID. I’m sure these features can be accessed through Terminal, but I think I speak for many others aside from myself who’d prefer to have them in the GUI.

The audio and display works perfectly fine. The audio meter is always set to zero, however, and has to be turned back up every time you turn on the computer. While there aren’t any system sounds to hear such as startup or shut down, this should be worked out to remember the audio level so as to prevent further frustrations from those who would listen to music or watch videos, whether from the Internet or ones saved in memory.

Overall, Moblin 2 was a good start but definitely has an immense load to work through before it’s a worthy system. I give it a 4/10 on the One. I find it a little too simple for my liking, lacking many necessary applications as well as the ability to install more, and having many annoying kinks and bugs to work out. I wouldn’t say it’s much more than a glorified calculator with Internet access. We must remember, of course, that it’s an alpha release. After all this, I still have high hopes for future generations of Moblin.


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