Netbooks have been selling like hot cakes for more than a year, and operating systems are becoming better tuned for the small-screen, relatively low-spec mobile platform. The days when you had to accept Windows Vista being shoehorned onto a netbook are, thankfully, behind us.
The latest netbook OS contender is an Intel-instigated Linux distribution called Moblin, which is now hosted by the Linux Foundation. The beta of version 2.0, which adds a new graphical user interface, was released for public testing on May 19. We downloaded the Moblin V2 image and tried it out on a Samsung N120 netbook, which normally ships with Windows XP.
Moblin's 'home page' is called the 'm_zone', which is accessed via the left-most of a row of icons at the top of the screen. There are three vertically arranged zones: PIM items such as appointments and to-do tasks to the left (with favourite applications at the bottom); recently used files in the middle; and updates from your social networking contacts (currently Twitter and Last.fm) to the right. Hovering the mouse over an item in this zone shows you the contact who sent it.
Moblin's Status pane (seen at the top of the page) lets you update your Twitter status.
We weren't able to set up any IM contacts in the People pane (this is an early beta after all). When it's working, you'll see your contacts listed and be able to click on them to strike up a conversation.
The Internet pane shows an address bar and any open browser tabs as thumbnails. The browser is based on Mozilla's Gecko layout engine.
The browser has a familiar tabbed interface by default...
...but you can also display the tabs as thumbnails if you want.
The Media pane lets you search for audio, video and still image content (eventually on networked devices via UPnP too).
The media player has a (initially confusing) zoom feature (top left) that lets you zoom out from a single item, through groups of similar items, to all items.
It's a Pasteboard. Where you paste things that you've copied.
A number of applications are bundled with Moblin — and the platform's GNOME Mobile basis means it will support a wide range of existing Linux apps.
Zones in Moblin allow you to collect similar groups of open applications together. You can drag application thumbnails between zones.