Moblin: a First Look at Intel's Open-Source OS


Urmas

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Moblin is an Intel-created open-source operating system for netbooks and, specifically, the kind of people who use them. On a technical level this means Moblin is built for the Atom x86 chip found in many netbooks, while on a practical level it means Moblin is an Internet- and multimedia-focused operating system. Moblin is less about knocking-up spreadsheets on the move and more about twittering, updating your Facebook account, and watching movies on the go.

Fundamentally, Moblin is just another distribution of Linux (based on Fedora), although it's one that benefits from some unique tweaks and a radical user-interface. However, traditional apps take a back seat, and some you might expect are missing (there's no GIMP or OpenOffice.org, for example). Moblin is based on the familiar GNOME/GTK desktop, like distros such as Ubuntu, but this is largely invisible because of the UI improvements.
Put simply, Moblin looks and feels terrific. We're talking Apple-like levels of attractiveness. Similarly, intuition is the name of the game with the user-interface, and it invites an Apple-like sensibility of following your nose to work out how things work.

Across the top of the screen is a range of icons representing various activities you can do. This is effectively a floating toolbar, because it disappears when you don't need it. When the mouse runs over the toolbar, its icons jiggle about in a neat way, a feature provided by the Clutter OpenGL graphics and animation toolkit that underpins the whole OS. This gives everything a fun feel, and reminds you that this is not a business-oriented OS. Moblin is for things you want to do, not things you have to do.
The beta status of this release is extremely evident and, sad to say, this release felt more like an alpha. A beta should be functional, if buggy. This release was flat-out unusable for its intended purpose. It's nowhere near ready for the real-world. However, the UI components worked perfectly, and this might indicate where all the hard work has gone. I can't disagree with this decision, to be honest. A netbook OS has to look and feel good, especially in our modern world of iPhones and Android. Moblin really is up there in terms of good-looks and intuitiveness.
I like Moblin. I like it a lot. That it's open source and freely available is the icing on the cake. This is one of the few examples of open source taking the lead, and pushing the concept of social computing further than it's ever been before.

What I like more, though, is what Moblin is trying to do. It might be that Moblin doesn't reach its destination but, as often happens with computing, Moblin's gift to the world may turn out to be a proof of concept.

Microsoft products just don't come close. It's laughable to even think they might. Microsoft is just too tied to the old-fashioned metaphors and ways of working, and could never have produced Moblin. Not in a million years. Technologies like Moblin are just one more nail in the coffin of the Redmond giant.

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/167762/moblin_a_first_look_at_intels_opensource_os.html

 
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