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Moblin, Ubuntu Moblin Remix and Ubuntu Netbook Remix

I’ve had my Samsung NC10 for almost 2 weeks now and am loving it.  I’ve been using it for taking notes at meetings and seminars, as well as at home for simple online tasks.  I thought I’d put up a few notes about the different operating systems I’ve tried so far, because I couldn’t find a whole lot when I was starting out.

The first OS I tried was Moblin, which I was very excited about initially.  I love the innovation of the UI and the fact that the developers are starting from scratch to really do something new with the netbook form factor.  I probably would’ve kept it if it had any sort of presentation software, which is important for me when I’m traveling and need to work on presentations.  There’ll probably be a port of OpenOffice Presenter in the Moblin Garage soon, but I just couldn’t wait.  So, even though I really, really, really wanted to use Moblin, I had to ditch it.

My next project was to try the Ubuntu Moblin Remix, an attempt to integrate the new Moblin UI on top of the development release of Ubuntu’s Karmic Koala, which has been getting decent reviews.  I thought this would be what I needed.  The stability of a Debian-based distribution with the cool new interface from Moblin (and it came with OpenOffice installed).  Unfortunately, I had issues with both Firefox and OpenOffice, the two main reasons that I decided to move from Moblin.  Far from the stability I was looking for, UMR was buggy to the point of being unusable, so unfortunately I had to move on (I did manage to get OpenOffice installed after changing the filesystem from ext4 to ext3, but it would freeze for up to 20 seconds at a time).

I finally tried the Ubuntu Netbook Remix and I have to say that it is beautiful.  I’m running the Karmic daily build, rather than the Jaunty release, so there are lots of usability / design improvements that go along with that.  Besides looking amazing (I’ll add some screenshots soon), everything just works straight out the box, from the webcam, to the sound, to the wireless.  At this early stage, I just can’t fault it on anything (Disclaimer: I’m a hopeless Ubuntu fanboy).

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Open source alternatives to proprietary applications

I thought I’d take a moment to briefly mention a few open source alternatives to popular computer applications. The following programmes are all:
  • Open source – the source code is freely available, which usually means more stable and more secure.
  • Free – as in no cost and free from restriction.
  • Cross-platform – they run on multiple operating systems, including Linux and Windows.
  • As good as, if not better than, their proprietary counterparts.

So, here goes (by the way, this list is by no means complete):

Firefox – A very popular web browser that offers a more secure, more intuitive and faster alternative to Internet Explorer.

OpenOffice.org – An entire office suite of applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and drawing. It uses the OpenDocument format by default and as such, it’s use is encouraged, especially in academia and governments.

Thunderbird – An email client that is a fast, secure and stable replacement for Outlook and Outlook Express, especially if you just need something light to manage your email.

Pidgin – An single instant messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once, including IRC, MSN, Groupwise, AIM and ICQ.

Miro – An Internet TV application to subscribe to RSS feeds of free content from a host of providers, including TED, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

GIMP – The Gnu Image Manipulation Program. A free alternative to Photoshop that, while lacking some high end, professional features, does more than enough for most of us.

Flock – Social web browser…if you use Facebook, Flickr, Digg, or any other social networking service, this is for you.

Ubuntu – Not a software application but an entire operating system, Ubuntu is a Linux distribution based on Debian. Click here for the Wikipedia article.

Another great application to run, although once it’s set up you’ll hardly ever notice it, is BOINC (click here for the Wikipedia article). After installing the software, register with various projects and join millions of other users who donate their computer’s idle time to solving complex medical, scientific and mathematical problems. I can suggest the World Community Grid to begin with.

And while I’m at it, here’s a link to a post that discusses some of the problems with using Microsoft Word. I personally don’t mind receiving Word documents and understand that many institutions don’t give their employees a choice, but the first step is realising that you actually have a choice.