Friday, May 29, 2009

Messing with Moblin

Last week, I downloaded the Moblin 2 beta and installed it on an Asus Eee. It's a pretty quick boot, the boot manager is slick, and the beta is reasonably bug free.

But I don't get it.

The interface is willfully different. Navigation requires clicking on utterly uncommunicative icons whose labels only show up with a mouseover. Here's one: oOo. That says it all, eh? Even the mouseover just tells you it is the icon for "zones". Whuh? In fact, it's where active applications are displayed.

I feel the same way about Chrome, the Google browser. Using it, I miss my Firefox tabs and addons, and I sort of resent being told that I have to learn a whole bunch of new conventions with no promise that the system will actually work better. Of course, the interface is more austere and Applish and aesthetically satisfying, so I guess we're supposed to sit down and shut up. It's Design, and Design has only a limited interest in the hoi polloi.

I'm also having trouble figuring out where the repository is for apps like open office. (Contacts and calendar programs come with the install, but not a word processor.)

Oh, and somehow it doesn't seem possible to display websites on the whole screen. There's always a good half-inch of black space at the top of the screen that I can't get rid of. Not sure whether to blame Moblin or Chrome, but it's a good 10% of the screen on a netbook, and I can't afford to lose it.

Ok, I suppose there are some advantages to Linux here, but frankly, I'm using the XP partition on the same machine a lot more than I'm using the Moblin partition. XP is almost as fast to boot, and Firefox over XP is as speedy as Chrome. It finds my Wifi connection automatically as soon as the netbook is turned on. Moblin in contrast just sits there and waits for me to remember to go turn wireless on, usually after I've said, "Hey, how come none of my websites are coming up?" I bet all this is fixable if I tweaked a few settings. But Moblin is too new to have a bunch of support sites to mine for advice.

All in all, an argument for being conservative about computer interfaces. (Of course, for a 20% discount off the price, lots of people would learn a new interface, so the real question is whether netbook makers will pass on Linux's low initial cost to buyers, who will then see a reason to try new interfaces.

No comments: