Tech Talk 2 by Ken Baker
Change Your Game
Taking Advantage of Netbooks and the SUSE Edition of Moblin
As one of the fastest—if not the fastest—growing segments in the computing industry, netbooks have gained significant popularity over the past year. Their small and lightweight form makes them great for commutes, quick trips or anytime you really don’t want to haul that heavier and more cumbersome laptop. Their ability to deliver more computing power and display more real estate than smart phones fuels their attractiveness as a convenient, smart Internet device that lets you stay connected wherever you are.
Even though it was originally thought that netbooks would have the largest impact in education and emerging markets, they’ve had the biggest reach in the mass-market consumer space. This creates significant new opportunities for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original device manufacturers (ODMs). (See A Profitable Opportunity.) It also means the growth and evolution of the netbook market should be of keen interest to any IT organization. (See the Netbook Paradigm.) Why? Because as facilitators for accessing the cloud, netbooks are expected to become companion devices to workers’ other computing devices. That’s why whether you’re an IT manager or OEM/ODM you need to find out more about the SUSE edition of Moblin to see how it can address your netbook concerns and interests.
Optimized for Netbooks
Moblin is an open source project focused on building an optimized platform for the next generation of mobile devices. Intel initially started the Moblin project in 2007 with the desire to create a standard technology framework for delivering a visually rich Internet and media experience on Atom processor powered netbooks, nettops, mobile Internet devices and in-vehicle infotainment systems. Intel assigned the stewardship of the project to the Linux Foundation in April 2009 to enable the joint expertise of the Linux community to further improve the development of the platform. Before that time and since, Novell has worked closely with Intel and the Moblin open source project, making substantial contributions in e-mail, media management, network connectivity optimization, boot time performance and other significant areas.
Many of these advancements to the Moblin project were announced in a joint press release between Intel and Novell in May 2009. (See Press Release.) As part of the press release, Novell also announced it was working on a Moblin-based product for netbook OEMs and ODMs. That product, the SUSE edition of Moblin, will shortly be available to netbook OEMs and ODMs.
Probably the most important aspect Moblin delivers is a rich, intuitive user interface, optimized for small screens and the way people use netbooks, including surfing the Web, checking e-mail, listening to music, watching videos, updating social networks and other in-the-cloud activities.
The myzone page of the Moblin interface is the first thing you see when a netbook boots running the SUSE edition of Moblin. (See Figure 1.) Myzone in Moblin provides you a snapshot view of recent activity on your netbook and within your social networks. Myzone can be broken down into three parts. On the left side of the screen it displays your recent activities, which include your current calendar items and tasks. With a quick click you can enter new appointments or tasks. The bottom left of the screen also provides shortcuts to your favorite applications.
The middle of the myzone screen displays two columns of thumbnails that show you the recent photos or videos you’ve viewed, music you’ve listened to, files or presentations you’ve worked on and Web sites you’ve visited. You can click any of the thumbnails to immediately open or return to the associated file or Web site. The right side of myzone displays image panels that show your friends' recent social network activity, helping you easily keep track of your Internet social life and friends from sources such as Last.fm and Twitter.
To navigate to other elements in the Moblin interface, move the cursor to the top of the screen and then the Moblin toolbar will display across the top of the screen. The toolbar will automatically hide itself once you move the cursor away. The toolbar consists of three main sections: time and date on the left, system information on the right (i.e., power status, volume control and management of network connections), and task item panels in the middle.
The task item panels portion of the toolbar is what you will primarily use to navigate through the Moblin interface, and includes icons that will take you to the following panels in the Moblin environment:
- Myzone—A snapshot view of and quick access to your Internet social life, recent videos, music, photos or files accessed, and current appointments and tasks.
- Status panel—Allows you to quickly post and broadcast your status to your social network accounts.
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- People panel—Provides a central location for all your contacts or buddies, letting you see who is online as well as enabling you to quickly launch an instant messaging (IM) session.
- Internet panel—Displays and provides access to your open, favorite or recently viewed Web sites through the integrated Moblin Web browser. (See Figure 2.) It can also open a new tab in another browser you might already be running, such as Firefox.
- Media panel—Displays quick access to and thumbnail views of your recently played and viewed media files. It also lets you scroll through and manage your playlists, as well as gives you a search bar to help you easily locate desired media content.
- Pasteboard panel—Provides a convenient area to store and manage items you copy and paste while using your netbook, including a history of your copy and paste activity.
- Applications panel—Gives easy access to launch, manage, organize or switch any of the applications on your netbook, including those applications that come standard with the SUSE edition of Moblin described in the next section. (See Figure 3.) In addition to favorites, the application panel has six main categories, which include accessories, games, Internet, media, office and settings. Any application you pin as a favorite will also automatically cause its shortcut to show up in your myzone screen.
The SUSE edition of Moblin comes standard with a wide variety of applications that further improve your netbook user experience. As open source solutions, the additional applications included with the SUSE edition of Moblin significantly enhance the user experience without increasing the cost of the netbook.
As an alternative to the integrated Moblin Web browser, the SUSE edition of Moblin includes Firefox, which delivers a rich user experience through standard plug-ins such as Java, Adobe Acrobat Reader and Adobe Flash Player. It also comes with plug-ins and extensions developed by Novell, such as Moonlight/Moonshine and Meerkat. Moonlight is part of the open source Mono Project sponsored by Novell that allows Linux users to view, access and use Silverlight and Windows Media content on Linux. It tightly integrates with Firefox and provides worldwide legal audio and video decoding.
Also in the area of rich media, the SUSE edition of Moblin includes the open source offerings of Banshee and Cubano. The Banshee video and music player syncs with iPods, G1 phones and other portable media players. It can subscribe to a variety of sources, including streamed music and podcasts. It also comes with Novell developed AAC encoders and decoders, and the Fluendo MP3 decoder. To provide users yet another multi-media option, the Cubano media player incorporates a simple, streamlined and straightforward interface for Banshee designed specifically with netbooks in mind.
For watching YouTube videos on your netbook, the SUSE edition of Moblin also includes a YouTube Player. Not only does this facilitate the playing of YouTube videos, but it illustrates how Moblin-friendly applications can be easily created to access rich online content by leveraging an application’s Web services APIs.