The change is more symbolic than anything, but it is a sign that netbooks are starting to get more dedicated attention. This may also be a move by Canonical to contrast the specificity of its products with Microsoft’s. Microsoft offers OEMs a crippled version of Windows 7 in newer netbooks, and if netbook users get the hint that Canonical gives a damn about them, they may be more willing to make the switch.
Netbook Remix is mostly distinguished from ordinary Ubuntu Linux by using a series of categories (Accessories, Games, Internet, Office, etc.) rather than dropdown menus in the interface.
If you just can’t wait, you can get Ubuntu Netbook Remix from Canonical here.
The Moblin Linux project has finally announced a release version of Moblin 2.1 for Intel Atom machines. The new edition promises to include the “broadest feature additions, customer requested improvements, and overall polish to date”. I’m already a fan.
Specifics include improved 3G support, Bluetooth supprt, an app installer, localization improvements, a better browser, sexier UI, and naturally bug fixes and performance upgrades.
The release is a mere 745MB, so you might be able to sneak it onto a CD. Otherwise, just use a USB stick, you cheap bastard.
Moblin 2.1 is supported on both Intel Atom and Intel Core 2 machines, but GMA-500, Nvidia and ATI graphics aren’t supported yet. Let’s cross our fingers for version 2.2.
Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, says some interesting things are in store for netbooks in the future if mobile internet providers follow his advice and give away netbooks for free.
Why? Providers can profit through multi-year subscriptions and application stores. By passing out netbooks like candy and depending on the fact that users will want to spice up their computing with applications and bonus features, the business plan could work.
Zemlin made a confident prediction that some vendors with stakes in Microsoft won’t be too happy about:
“In less than a year, I predict that the new cost of a netbook will be zero.”
Naturally, Linux fits into the formula by acting as a software cost cutter. Netbooks could be a whole new ball game if Zemlin has his way, but it depends on consumers dealing with monthly subscriptions. Will it be worth it in the long run?
While it may not have the mainstream appeal as Windows XP or such Linux distributions as Ubuntu Netbook Remix, the newly released Sugar on a Stick OS is worth a good look as a novel take on the stripped-down Linux OS.
Sugar on a Stick was originally designed for the OLPC project and uses the Sugar Linux desktop environment. It’s designed to boot, and run from a USB drive for true portability and minimalism. Give it a try!
Netbook users have grown fonder of Linux recently, following the releases of such netbook-specific operating systems as Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 and the beta of Moblin 2.0. Quick-boot has always been an attraction of Linux, and according to developer Scott James Remnant we’re going to see Linux netbook boot times fall to a mere 10 seconds by Ubuntu 10.04.
At the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Barcelona, Remnant explaine that boot times in Ubuntu 8.10 (65 seconds) dropped to 25 seconds by 9.04. He thinks that by next year’s version 10.04, which is to follow 9.10 (Karmic Koala), the number could be even smaller.
He used the Dell Mini 9 netbook, which comes with Ubuntu pre-installed, to benchmark the OS. Though the Mini 9 was chosen to achieve consistent data, the 10 second goal is in fact for desktop Ubuntu. However, in Remnant’s view, that will allow netbook boot times to be even faster.
“10 [seconds] is a good number, especially for a generic, hardware agnostic, non-stripped down Linux distribution. From that starting point, development teams will be able to customise and tailor Ubuntu for specific hardware—and the OEM team will be able to produce custom Remixes of Ubuntu that boot even faster,” he wrote. “I think it likely that we’ll match Moblin‘s 5 [second] benchmark on similar hardware, with a device-tailored Moblin-based remix of Ubuntu.”
It sounds promising. If Netbook Remix 10.04 could boot a netbook in under 10 seconds, I’d certainly be a convert. Who else is with me?
- Installation took about 25 minutes, but didn’t recognize existing Windows partitions. That means no dual booting.
- The touchscreen didn’t work, which is a major selling point of the Classmate PC, but Dawson thinks a bit of tweaking could fix that problem. Some feedback from Moblin users will likely fix that problem as well as the non-functioning wireless.
- The Moblin UI proved as interesting as advertised, featuring “stackable spaces for various functional groups and automatically hiding toolbars,” which “[made] much better use of the minimal screen real estate than Windows does.”
- Moblin was responsive and quick, and acting as a prime example of the efficiency Linux users are so proud of.
The Clutter Interface in particular sounds amazing on a touchscreen, so I’d be interested to hear more about Moblin 2.0 on touchscreen-enabled netbooks.
The alpha version of Moblin 2.0 has been out for a while, but the open-source Linux stack is stepping it up by releasing the beta. We’ve discovered some screenshots and other delectable details, and I can say with complete objectivity that they look fantastic.
Below is an example of some of the extensive upgrades made to Moblin, including a flashier user interface, toolbar, and “m-zone” home page that rounds up social networking content. This isn’t your father’s Linux.
Linux vendors are hoping that the new stack will revitalize meager Linux sales in the netbook category. Moblin is calling this new version Moblin v2.0 for Netbooks and Nettops, so it’s clear what industry their cross-hairs are aimed at. This may also up the stakes for Google’s Android, whose recent appearance in the netbook industry has made the prospect of Windows alternatives more viable.
Novell announced earlier that it has been working closely with computer giant Intel in preparing a Moblin v2.0 version of SUSE Linux for market. Windows 7 is on the horizon, and as the behemoth approaches more and more members of the Linux community will be looking to exploit holes in its marketing plan. It seems like there’s never been a better time to try to jump ahead of Microsoft.
Below is Novell’s OpenSUSE beta, based on Moblin v2.0 and showing the m-zone home page:
The new UI is certainly pretty, and is optimized for netbooks and nettops. Moblin v2.0 uses the Clutter animation framework and depends on (according to Moblin.org) “GL and the physics engine.” We’ve got a video of the Clutter interface here, and it looks like it’s making exceptionally effective use of multi-touch – perhaps more than Windows 7.
Imad Sousou, director of Intel’s Open Source Technology Center, praised Moblin’s accessability in a blog announcement:
“We feel the code has reached a level where both developers and enthusiasts can play with it… While fine tuning, bug fixing, and polishing is ongoing, so is performance improvement, all of which you should start seeing rolled into the weekly builds.”
The new toolbar (above) shows up when you hover over the top of the screen, saving precious netbook screen space. The icon panels are pleasantly minimalist and “include features such as status, people (contacts), Internet, media, pasteboard, applications, and zones.”
Below is the m-zone appointment screen, acting as a home for at-a-glance access to your daily activities. Calendars with tasks, appointments, recently accessed files and live updates from your favorite sites can be synchronized for instant access and improved efficiency.
DesktopLinux has noted a host of other highlights of the new Moblin 2.0 Linux stack:
- Optimized web browser — Based on new Mozilla browser technology revised into a Clutter shell, the Moblin browser includes features such as video embedding and the latest Flash plug-in.
- Zoomable media player — Users can zoom from viewing all media down to focusing on an individual picture, movie, or audio track. The media player can detect and index media on external USB devices, as well as networked UPnP devices, says Moblin.org.
- UI for connection management — The updated connection manager (ConnMan) now offers improved UI.
- Support for Linux desktop applications — Support for desktop applications is provided via GNOME Mobile technologies.
Furthermore, the creators of Moblin have tested the OS on several new netbooks including the Acer Aspire One, ASUS Eee PC 901, ASUS Eee PC 1000H, Dell Mini 9, MSI Wind, Lenovo Ideapad S10, Samsung NC10, and the HP Mini 1010 and 1120NR.
Linux was the first OS seen on netbooks, but Microsoft took the market with XP. Does Linux have a chance of stealing customers back?
According to one blogger at DigiHub, the answer is no. While early Eee PCs worked with Linux, today’s netbooks have “more grunt than your average desktop did only a few years ago.” Windows 7 works well on netbooks with a 1.6 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM, and Linux is nowhere near as crowd-pleasing.
However, there may be some problems with these simplifications. The aforementioned article mentions that Linux feels “cumbersome” compared to Windows 7, but most Linux users choose the OS because it’s known to be more efficient than Windows. Sure, the new OS has a “learning curve,” but a number of adjustments to Ubuntu Netbook Remix, for example, are making the OS more user-friendly than ever.
Furthermore, any claim that Windows 7 is “the final nail in the coffin for Linux” disregards the unhappy fact that Microsoft plans to cripple Windows 7 for netbook use. The move to defend its profit margins has left Microsoft in a more precarious position, with longtime partners Acer and Intel both signaling their doubt that Windows 7 will see any kind of success.
My final criticism of the DigiHub article is of this assertion:
Here’s the big test. Find a Windows user and give them a netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Remix for a week. Now give them Windows 7 for a week and then see if they want to switch back to Ubuntu. I can assure you the vast majority of people will stick with Windows. Given long enough they might warm to Linux, given the right distro, but they probably don’t want to invest the time.
Simply put, that isn’t true. Chris Kenyon of Canonical noted that “when customers are offered choice on equally well-engineered computers around a third will select Ubuntu over XP.” Two thirds is a lot, but hardly a vast majority.
Regardless, talk is only worth so much – sales numbers talk loudest. Linux is definitely behind, but if Microsoft continues its antics the door may open to Linux dominance.
The new edition of the netbook OS boots faster and comes with a simple and ergonomic interface for quick access to your favorite sites and netbook applications.
Linux is giving netbookers the netbook-specific OS that Windows won’t, and Ubuntu 9.04 is going to exploit that extra attention to the niche market. Jane Silber, COO of Canonical, is confident that the new update deserves that focus:
“The latest feature enhancements in Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix are particularly well suited to the requirements of netbook fans. Faster boot speeds, enhanced power-management features and easier switching between networks delivers the best netbook end-user experience available for download today.”
You can download Ubuntu Netbook Remix straight from Ubuntu.com and onto your flash drive, allowing you to install and run it on all kinds of popular netbooks including the Acer Aspire One, Dell Mini 9, and a variety of Eee PCs.
The additions of more intuitive icons, better “notifications across applications” and some design updates make Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 an extremely viable choice for future consumers.
When Brandon LeBlanc of Microsoft started getting a bit smug about news that 96% of netbooks run Windows, it became almost certain that sparks would fly. We’ve seen big companies throw mud before, most notably NVIDIA about the Ion platform and, of course, during the ongoing battle with Psion for ownership of the netbook trademark.
So it came as no surprise when Chris Kenyon of Canonical rebuked LeBlanc’s assertions about the invalidity of Linux as a netbook platform. His response, while not exactly scathing, certainly shows that he values the high ground and doesn’t think much of Microsoft’s choice of words.
His rebuttal focuses on Ubuntu and other Linux platforms’ “plug and play” ease of use with external technology, the fact that now “Dell, HP, and Toshiba are all shipping Ubuntu,” and research showing that “when customers are offered choice on equally well-engineered computers around a third will select Ubuntu over XP.”
Kenyon wasn’t a perfect white knight, however, being unable to refrain from taking a shot at the fact that Microsoft has taken some losses over XP:
“Of course there is a significant benefit for users who do not select Ubuntu or another Linux distribution. The price of XP crashed last year due to competition. So even if you bought a netbook last year with XP – feel free to smile when you see an Ubuntu PC. It’s amazing what an open market can achieve.”
And who can blame him, anyway? Assertions that Windows 7 will be too expensive for popular use have upped the stakes for Linux to take its share of the market, so all signs are pointing to a marked increase in cattiness between the major manufacturers.
Take a look at Kenyon’s response here, and be sure to let us know what you think.
While quickboot this fast may have been a mere dream in the past, the Linux platform will be getting a better look as time goes on. At a Linux summit in San Francisco Imhad Sousou of Intel announced plans to make the two-second booting netbook a reality, and we couldn’t be more pumped.
The project will definitely take a bit of work to make happen, but if it does, this could make netbooks’ role in consumers lives a very different one. Near-instant access from anywhere at any time is the ideal, and the reality’s hot on its tail.
Data from analyst firm NDP is casting a dubious eye on the trend Linux netbooks are following in comparison to rival Windows, with “96% of netbooks” running the latter OS.
While Linux reigned king in the first half of 2008 Microsoft Windows only took 10% of the market. That world has changed, according to the new research.
Brandon LeBlanc of Microsoft took it upon himself to rephrase the findings:
“Not only are people overwhelmingly buying Windows, but those that try Linux are often returning it… Both MSI – a leading netbook PC OEM – and Canonical – the vendor supporting the commercial distribution of Ubuntu Linux – stated publicly they saw Linux return rates four times higher than Windows.”
Furthermore, LeBlanc believes his company’s OS has succeeded in the netbook world because “it’s easier to use, just works out of the box with people’s stuff, and ultimately offers more choice”. Linux loyalists will fervently repudiate his claim, but the numbers have spoken.
The recent influx of new Android netbook options will further muddy the waters, but it will be interesting to see what Google’s platform does for the industry.
TechRadar recently published a step-by-step guide on how to transform the interface of any Acer Aspire One netbook running Linux. The guide involves a few simple changes to the theme and layout that make your netbooking easier and maximize space, and concludes by guiding you through some more complicated changes involving Xfce to ease up access to programs.
Customizeability is a big pull from Linux, and guides like this one show how simple and useful the exploitation of a few features can be for netbooks. Be sure to check out the guide here.
Xandros recently announced at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress that it would be offering a new turnkey software solution running on a unique processor: the Freescale i.MX515 featuring ARM Cortex-A8 technology. Freescale has been involved in netbook technology before, most notably when it assisted in the development of the Pegatron netbook.
The new release will focus on “fast boot, long battery life, and reliable 3G connectivity.” It will come with a bundle of assorted Xandros software, as well as resources to help OEMs develop netbook products.
The ‘Xandros solution’ will also include an App Store with acess to all kinds of media, including “access to software, games, multimedia and web applications.” And that’s not all:
“Full-featured user applications include a browser, push-based email, PIM, instant messaging, a photo viewer, a media player, and an office suite to create and edit Microsoft Office documents.”
Wow. All the features will work with both keyboards and touchscreen, meaning the Xandros concept will be portable to pretty much any netbook you’d like.
Freescale Marketing Director Glen Burchers mentioned Freescale’s delight in being able to display Xandros on the advanced i.MX515 processor.
“Consumers demand low costs, high performance and long battery life, and the combination of Freescale’s hardware and Xandros’ rich feature set is expected to enable compelling netbook products that succeed in the marketplace.”
Andreas Typaldos, Xandros CEO, added his viewpoint as well:
“The advanced Freescale platform enables us to quickly bring the powerful netbook experience that Xandros created for the Eee PC to ultra-low powered netbooks with always-on 3G networking and media support… This will blaze a trail for OEMs and carriers bringing full-featured, cost-effective devices with long battery life to new markets, and create recurring revenue streams.”
The Mobile World Congress runs from February 16-19 this year in Barcelona, Spain. We’re anticipating a great deal of new releases from Europe, though not nearly as many as during CES 2009.
We wrote about the Sylvania G netbook back in January, mentioning that it was a moderately equipped machine with decent battery life (3.5 hours) and a cramped keyboard. The combination didn’t sound terrible though, and the Sylvania G was tucked away from publicity for a while.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story. In a recent article at Oreilly.com called “Netbook Nightmare”, Linux netbooker Caitlyn Martin found that the Sylvania G netbook was troublesome at best.
She discovered several hardware problems with the machine she reviewed, though it’s of course possible that she just got unlucky. The Sylvania G didn’t include the right drivers for gOS Linux implementation, “leaving the system effectively crippled.” She says this might be a death sentence for users new to Linux, for whom the problem “probably can’t be fixed.”
Patching the OS or adding additional software were both difficult. Martin offered some advice for Linux users looking to mess with the G netbook:
“A knowledgeable Linux user will find it best to wipe the hard drive and start over, doing a new installation from external media. I can’t imagine that very many people would be satisfied with the g Netbook as shipped.”
She says that Sylvania was definitely capable of providing “a first class out of box experience” on the G netbook, but seriously failed to do so. She blames Linux’s image as difficult to use on this kind of “half-baked implementation.”
In the end, the solution for prospective Linux netbookers was clear: spend $299 and get the G Netbook Meso preloaded with Ubuntu Netbook Remix instead.
The Moblin Project is a project by Intel, designed to produce a Linux-based toolkit for mobile devices. The projuct recently released an alpha version of its second-generation “Moblin V2”, and it’s targetting not MIDs but – you guessed it – netbooks.
Moblin.org says the Moblin V2 Core Alpha for Netbooks is available for testing now, and we’re as excited as ever. While the MID version of the Moblin toolkit will take until 2010 for release, the netbook plan will move into beta in April.
The focus of the Linux-based mobile stack isn’t MIDs, as before. Intel wants to put Moblin in a netbook, demonstrating the growing role of the mobile devices.
LinuxDevices.com mentioned multiple-level testing of several new and awesome features in the alpha version of Moblin 2.0, which we lifted right from their page:
- Core Linux OS, boot process, inter-process, and package interactions
- New “Fastboot” feature of Moblin, which fundamentally improves boot time
- Connectivity and networking, using the new ConnMan connectivity manager.
- Kernel 2.6.29-rc2.
- Moblin Core Components (first look), including Clutter and all other UI development tools (see video below)
- Xserver 1.6 (with DRI2)
- New Moblin Image Creator (MIC2) and installation tool
Linux has had a huge role in netbook technology since the beginning, being the first OS to be featured on netbooks such as the Acer Aspire One and MSI Wind. Moblin should augment netbooks in the future, and be an excellent tool for netbook users everywhere.
Be sure to check out this video we found ot Moblin’s ‘Clutter’ UI, a touch-capable feature that could mean big things for netbooks:
Why are sales of Windows netbooks so much higher than their Linux counterparts? While many assume a simple market preference, the answer may be more elusive. According to an article on bMighty, the problem is that there just aren’t enough Linux netbooks around.
The article describes the trek of Jay Lyman, a 451 Group analyst who blogged about the immense difficulty he found looking for an Acer Aspire One with a pre-loaded Linux OS. Apparently, all the Linux models were in many cases simply sold out.
“The message for Acer and other manufacturers: up your ratio of Linux netbooks. While North America seems to be the main market for these machines, about 30% of which run Linux by most accounts, among my dwindling options for obtaining the right Linux netbook were in Canada and the UK. However, the shipping costs added onto my minimal netbook expense of ~$350. While there were a number of online outlets that were sold out of the Linpus version, most of these same places had hundreds, sometimes thousands of XP netbooks in stock.”
A number of reader responses have questioned Lyman’s simple answer. Nobody knows what deals hardware OEMs are making with Microsoft, which may very well have an affect on the number of Linux machines they stock. If Microsoft is beginning to fear Linux is taking its sales, it will try to bump up the incentives it offers the OEMs to keep them away from Linux.
But are these secretive OEM-Microsoft deals really the cause? To tell the truth, everything is probably playing a role here.
While the situation may tick off Linux netbook buyers, it may not necessarily hurt the Linux netbook market. Just the fact that Microsoft is getting nervous about Linux shows its growing power, and as Lyman mentions, “the dearth of Linux netbooks available in the face of many XP netbooks available further confirms the idea that going forward, Linux will be increasingly prominent and important in this explosive new market.”
The G Netbook Meso by Sylvania is an interesting new addition to the netbook family. It has a nice screen and lots of ports – three USBs (rather than the ususal two) as well as a VGA.
The keyboard has been reported to be somewhat cramped, which is unfortunate. However the Ubuntu Netbook Remix OS can give you the option to make an easy switch between two GUI styles.
It has a 4-cell battery with juice for 3.5 hours, lots of color options (black, yellow, pink, and white), and the Intel 945 Express Graphics chipset.
You can see a review of the Sylvania netbook here.