Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moblin Netbook Remix Reviewed

One of the best things to come out of the competition between the many netbook operating systems is the innovation in interface design to accommodate the small screen and the new computing niche netbooks occupy. Netbooks, for me at least, are predominately used for "on the couch" computing and a hardy computer to take backpacking. This new style of computing calls for a different kind of user experience and each netbook OS has its own way of trying to do this. Moblin certainly changes things up, with its sleek clean UI, minimalist icons and tabbed layout it offers an interesting take on netbook interface design.

Now with Ubuntu 9.10 Moblin Remix you can have a pretty Moblin interface running on top of Ubuntu 9.10. I decided to take the latest release for a spin to see how well the Moblin Remix interface works.

The main Moblin screen combines a bunch of widget like components. On the top left you can see your calendar entries for the day and below it your shortcuts to commonly used applications. The center column contains a list of recently opened files and websites. On the right is your Twitter feed which is cool but could be made way cooler by integrating your Facebook feed as well, something like the way Gwibber does it would be sweet.

There is lots of potential here for tighter integration with social networking services, for example on the "Status" tab you can update your Twitter and Google Talk status. Integration with more networks would certainly make this a much better and more useful feature.

On the "People" tab you can view your Google Talk contacts but again no Facebook contacts.

Ubuntu Moblin Remix also includes the "Software Center" for installing common applications. It works fairly well but is pretty sparsely populated at the moment. Hopefully we'll see more apps in future releases.

The Moblin UI uses a concept of "Zones" which is an interesting spin on the traditional alt+tab way of managing windows.

I found the browser a bit cumbersome but I could see how you would get used to it(admittedly I just installed Chrome after the first day).

One of my favourite things about Ubuntu Moblin Remix is the Ubuntu bit. Being able to have a nice netbook UI but with the application and driver support of Ubuntu behind it is really nice. But in the end while the interface looks better than Jolicloud and UNR(IMHO) it seems less usable. I will definitely be trying the next version when it is released but at the moment I just don't think it is ready to be my full time OS. The main problem with Moblin Netbook Remix is that it is not quite finished. There are some glaring omissions from the current release and the whole thing just feels a bit beta-ish. Hopefully the next release will see some big improvements, in particular better use of it's potential to integrate with social networking services.


  1. Hey There,

    Any idea if/how you would install the Mobile GUI on top of a 9.10 desktop install?


  2. @Jeff91 Not sure, i think some of the packages are in the repos but as I recall I couldn't find a meta package, I am at work at the moment and using 10.04 but I'll have a look tonight and hopefully can add some instructions to the post.

    On a side note, love your blog, some really interesting reviews and ideas on there. I've enjoyed following your journey with the n900.