MeeGo 1.1 for Netbook Review

1 05 2011

Update: (20/05/11) MeeGo just release the 1.2 core and seems to have changed the numbering of the Netbook edition. Updates took me to 1.4, apparently that is no longer the case as those updates are included with the new 1.2 release. Lets call this a 1.1 review with bugfixes.

MeeGo 1.4 for Netbooks has been out for almost a month now and I wanted to give it a spin. For anyone who is unsure about what MeeGo is, it is a GNU/Linux based OS that is blending of Intel’s Moblin OS and Nokia’s Maemo. Of course, Nokia’s investment in MeeGo is going to be less as they’ve decided to focus on Windows Phone 7 for their devices. Intel seems to be doing enough to lead MeeGo for optimisation on their hardware, at least for Netbooks. I have a pimp’d out Acer Aspire One 532H netbook for this test.

MeeGo has a short list of hardware they’ve tested that should work well out of the box. Unfortunately, you’re going to need some hacking skills to really enjoy this OS. The install is really the only thing simple and easy. Install took about 8 minutes and is straight forward.After installing, I needed to update. The version they supply end-users is 1.1, and the current is 1.4. The first update was a change to the Updater Program itself. After it was done however, it asks to log out. Which was fine. When I reboot however, there would be a disk problem. I would have to run fsck and fix the error. I did tried installing and updating as a normal user would, three  times. First, installing, doing all updates and then rebooting but hit this error each time. For someone who is unfamiliar with fsck, this would be a deal breaker. MeeGo is not marketed as a Beta product, and something as simple as this would stop novice users in their tracks.

After the disk fix, the system did load without much trouble. If you’re interested in the look, the MeeGo site has the best example of screen-shots.

MeeGo is built around social networking. In the netbook edition, you’re presented with a menu bar that navigates to different tabs. The desktop has a main page built around the sites you have linked to your MeeGo device. In this case, I was able to set up facebook, twitter and Last.FM accounts. This is all they offer at this point. If you’re like me and don’t need much more than that, you’re set.

The interface is broken down into buttons and tabs. After booting up, we start in MyZone. You get an instant feed of the latest Facebook and Twitter updates and recently surfed web pages. MeeGo comes with two flavors, one with Firefox and one with Chrome. Since Google is central to my life, I had the Chrome version and had no problem getting integration with contacts, GMail, and Chrome Apps. There were some hiccups getting Chat services up and running (MSN), and Twitter feeds seem to stop working occasionally. Over all, it is nice to have Facebook and Twitter feeds posted on this page. Basically it gives you a quick summery of what’s going on, and is probably my favorite part of MeeGo netbook. Google doesn’t allow 3rd party Notes intergration but the Appointments and Task box is a nice feature as well: MyZone

It is obvious that the MeeGo team knows they are dealing with only a little bit of screen real-estate, and I am really happy with the layout of the system. The tabs or ‘panels’ take you into a series of screens: MyZone, Zones, Applications, Status, People, Internet, Media, Devices, Bluetooth, and Networking. All of them are straight forward. Zones, is similar to Exposé on OSX, in that you are shown all instances of Chrome or Applications that are running. The Applications panel is just a way to view all installed Applications. Status is used for Twitter and Facebook updates; Internet to launch the browser; Devices show hard drives and other devices attached through USB, as does Bluetooth, and Networking sets up your wired or wireless connection. There is really not much else to say about these panel. They offer a basic function and they do it well enough. The menu bar hides when surfing or emailing, and I appreciate that as it means I get the maximum view of the internet. When compared to Ubuntu’s netbook edition, Unity gets in the way with system bars that take up so much space that you’re left with little room for the browser. MeeGo has done a good job at keeping useful things hidden until asked for.

I left out Media because it is where I had the most trouble. I suppose it is because so many media formats require plug-ins that are not GPL. Banshee will run OGG out of the box, and it does well enough with a few video formats. For whatever reason, it crashes though. A lot. Even before I attempted to install MP3 support I had problems with it locking up. I am not sure why. When something goes wrong, the menu is still accessible, but if you click the Media button, the screen will default to your background picture. It was frustrating and I had to kill Banshee manually to get around it every time. On top of that there are no databases of Pod-casts, Radio stations or media and I was not able to find a good way to add feeds in bulk. In other words, my media experience outside the browser is crap. It is really a deal breaker for me. I suppose a good OS for my netbook should do three things well: manage my hardware, let me surf the Internet, and let me play music.

As for a breakdown to of the system itself: Applications are basic. A few games, the Browser, and settings. There is text editing, but MeeGo is meant to be used online. Google Docs more than makes up for the lack of a native Office suite. Hardware support is also basic. It has been tested on a few laptops, but if you have older hardware or a non-Intel chipset, it is going to require some additional hacking. Getting support was somewhat of a headache, users seem to be using a few different package management systems in MeeGo, and a lot of the forums posts were outdated.

After having tested both KDE Plasma and Ubuntu’s Unity for netbook, MeeGo has a lot of good interface features too. The basic theme isn’t the prettiest, but it is practical. The layout works well with a 10” screen. MeeGo’s hardware support requires some hacking, and the community isn’t nearly as large as the Ubuntu crowd. The experience isn’t very safe for a novice. Chrome has issues on all platforms with Flash, and Banshee’s crashing really put a bitter taste in my mouth, even after I got MP3 support working.

In the end, I cannot really recommend using MeeGo in its current state. Certainly, manufactures who tune the OS to their hardware will offer a better experience. Those of you looking for an alternative to Windows 7 Starter are best left to Ubuntu. MeeGo needs a few years or at least a few good devices to get a community behind it.





Dear HTC:

15 04 2011

Sense has some really great features, but I’m really unhappy with your Widgets. There is so much border and large fonts telling me which widget I am on I loose interest in content.

Not to mention I have two implementations of Gmail, Facebook and Twitter alerting me and screwing with my contact. I have to go back an unlink, remove sign in information. It is kind of frustrating.

I wasn’t able to root and install stock, but I’m going to have to push harder. Sense is just pissing me off today.

[J]





What’s the plan? Starting something new — How to become a professional Blogger?

5 04 2011

http://xkcd.com/874/

Certainly there is something really appealing to being able to sit at home and just write all day long (like my friend Lisa). If I could make money doing it that would be even better.

So where to start? Degree? No. Internet Connection? Check. Twitter? Check. WordPress? Sorta.

You need to be interesting and write about semi-interesting things. How do you translate all that information that flows into your brain, pin-point cultural and social references and then talk about cool things like Technology?

So as a nerd in the sea of wordpress bloggers, what kind of things do you random visiters feel keep you coming back to your favorite blogs? I am really interested in hearing the opinions of all 6 of you who will visit today.

Should I do a better review of my Desire Z? Yes.

[J]





Good-bye Engadget

13 03 2011

Certainly I have noticed a change in the way content is pushed.

Now, within two month the top three faces of Engadget have left. How come? Seems to have something to do with AOL. What will happen now? I’m sure Engadget will survive, the fan-base isn’t as smart as Josh’s farewell dictates. It’s really more of a place of buzz than actually interesting geeky news.

Back to /. I guess.

Be well Engadget.





HTC Desire Z — My first impressions

8 01 2011

My Story

For the last new months I have been itching for a new phone. As much as I appreciate new tech, I have been holding back from stepping into the Smartphone realm for a personal phone for a couple of years. The reason being the cost of Data and tethering and the lack of competition just have not been worth the investment. The last year however has seen the release of the iPhone 4, Blackberry 9800 (Torch), and a fistful of high-end Android phones. The latter group tends to run the mature Android 2.2 Froyo OS.

My preferences are simple: a hardware keyboard and a large screen. I enjoy blackberry for work, but don’t like their screens and applications. I own an iPod Touch, and never enjoyed Apple’s interface and lack of customization. Although Apple has made it very easy for me to find applications and download music, the lack of features and customization of their products make them boring. My connected life runs through Google’s products, I use Calendar and Docs for school and my email is handled through Gmail, naturally I am going to head towards Google’s own mobile system.

So what Hardware should I use? I’ve been asking myself this for months. The Motorola Droid has stood out for me. It reminds me of the 70′s with its lines and colours, the downside is that the only provider here in Canada has it locked into 2.1 and full of crap-ware. Paying 65$ for a gig of bandwidth and only 200 minutes didn’t appeal to me either. Holiday season rolls around and prices go up, I hold out longer, almost setting for a Nexus One. When looking over HTC online I discover the Desire Z, or G2 in the US. Is it here? Yes. So I goto Best buy and try it out…

My Impressions

This is my first HTC phone. Holding it feels solid but it is a little heavy. Certainly with the additional keyboard there is some bulk there, but there is some security in that. It is also sexy, curvy, and with its grey matte finish it does not show where it has been touched. In the store I fell in love. It is not a slider, but it swings open supported by 3 metal hinges with plastic covering. The keyboard is okay. It is back-lit, has knobs on the F and J keys to help you find your way around the keyboard, it is a little cramped if you have big fingers but all smart-phone keyboards are like this. Unfortunately for me, my hands cannot find a comfortable position to type quickly and I find myself swinging around the bottom and sides of the keyboard to reach some keys. Another draw back is that if you are laying down or holding the phone vertically with the keyboard open a light tap will lift the screen from its secured position and will swing towards the keyboard. It isn’t a huge concern and with some adjustments you never have it happen to you except the first few times using it.

Software wise, Android 2.2 with Sense is very fast and animations are very smooth. The screen may not be as nice as the Galaxy S but colours and text are smooth and vibrant on its WVGA screen. Performance only suffered when watching Flash movies or animations in the Webkit browser, otherwise Youtube functioned well.

Battery life is okay. I can use it regularly to check emails and surf during a 12 hour day and not have it sit below 15%. This really depends on your habits. A lot of video will cut that pretty quickly. If you’re like me and text a lot, listen to music and do the occasional surfing on the road then you’ll be fine for a the day.

I want to get into Froyo and Sense but I honestly need more time with the phone and exploring features. Right now, it syncs well with my Google Account and plays very nicely with Facebook and Twitter. If I have some more time I ll explore the phone’s features and take some pictures to accompany a better review.

As an Overview:

Pros:

  • Solid Aluminum design
  • Android 2.2 with Flash 10.1
  • Backlit keyboard
  • 5.0 MP Camera with LED Flash
  • Fast Software

Cons:

  • Thick, especially with a case. Heavy.
  • Flipping keyboard is too easy, and sometimes gets in the way
  • Battery life could be longer
  • Included earphones seem cheap.

Overall I have been impressed with this phone. It isn’t as sleek as the iPhone 4 but I am happy with the design. A lot of people find the hinges troubling, but the design seems sound and it doesn’t wiggle or feel too loose, it is easy to flip but that is seems like a design issue. Only time will tell how reliable they are. Android 2.2 is fantastic and has everything a Smartphone OS should have. I will update this entry as I find issues and take a few pictures.

[J]





No news is good news: Why talking about CR-48 is not real-tech-journalism

14 12 2010

Hello,

Some of you may have heard that Google is beta-testing their release of Chrome OS on a piece of hardware dubbed the CR-48.

Shortly after it’s release, we saw many of the attendees flood the blog-sphere with impressions and excitement that they were going to be taking home a new laptop to review.

HOWEVER

There are hundreds of reviews pointing to a piece of software and hardware that will never make it into the consumers hands.

Chrome OS as a project is available to everybody in an unsupported form. There are a few groups out there pushing their own builds so you can try it on your existing laptop and experience what Google is trying to do with this OS.

The problem I have is that Engadget and PCworld are running reviews negatively as if this were a product we will be seeing, when it is not. What Google is offering us is a beta-test, that’s it. The hardware is not fully functional, the software is still in the works and there is nothing that is worth noting TODAY because it will be different tomorrow.

Similarly, the leaked versions of Windows 7 a few years ago had people in an up-roar about the lack of changes. Bloggers where filling comment pages with opinions that it was a terrible project that left much to be desired, when in fact those builds simply did not have all the native software.

What I desire is some integrity. Chrome OS is a game changer in a lot of ways, some ways in which people will not be able to talk about until more people are under its influence. Just like the iPhone made a difference in how we interact with applications and use our smart-phones, google’s design for this OS and it’s ties to cloud computing could be a major step in cutting back the tons of media garbage (in forms of USBs, CDs, and bandwidth), and a focus on offering content through a refined medium.

Right now Installing, saving, loosing, hardware dying, people forgetting to press save are manageable in a different way. Google’s attempt is to show us that way because right now people are still stuck in a very limited and wasteful form of computing.





Dear Engadget

24 10 2010

Your current comment system is terrible. Please change it.

 

Sincerely,

Another disgruntled Engadget Viewer.








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