Blog Post

Impressions of the latest MeeGo release

So, I have been spending some time playing around with various netbook operating systems lately, trying to find that perfect one. A little bit of a background first. Last month I finally switched from a Blackberry phone to an Android phone, so for the past month I have spent quite a bit of time playing with the Android SDK, writing applications, checking out all of the available applications, in other words playing with my phone. After having done this now for the past month, one thing was clear, my phone integrates with my life damn near perfectly, whereas my netbook isn’t even close. So with that, I set out to play with every distribution or operating system out there. The following have been the releases I have tried out:

Many know me as a lover of all that is Qt and/or KDE, as well as Kubuntu. Even though these are my loves, I also enjoy using other platforms and have recently become more-and-more a fan of GNOME and other environments and distributions. Let me just say, that with all I have tried, no matter which one you choose, the likelihood of it being a failure is close to null, as everyone performed and behaved very similar for me. KDE didn’t waste any more juice than GNOME, and openSUSE wasn’t any faster or slower than Kubuntu or Ubuntu for that matter. When it came to speed, they were all damn near the same.

I have a Dell Mini 10v netbook without bluetooth and with the stock battery. Nothing fancy at all, 1GB of memory, 160GD of SATA storage. Every distribution or operating system I threw on it (Windows 7 included), all ran just under 3 hours on the battery. If I didn’t mess with power settings and used stock settings, they all did roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes with battery power. Messing with screen brightness, I got that up to 3 hours.

Now on to MeeGo! The main interface is very simple, straight forward, and very good looking. I like where they are going with it. The interface is broken into tabs, 11 in total. They are: Myzone, Zones, Applications, Status, People, Internet, Media, Devices, Bluetooth, Network, and Time.

Myzone

Myzone is the home page you could say of the MeeGo interface. It lists, in a very nice layout, appointments, tasks, unread messages, favorite or pinned application launchers, and Twitter or Last.fm status messages. I am a fan of this layout, and none of the other platforms I have tried do it quite this nice to be honest. You can do this by tweaking the KDE Plasma Netbook interface to get a very similar configuration, but out of the box, I think MeeGo is a winner.

Zones

Instead of using a task bar, system tray, or whatever the hell they are calling it these days (seems everyone wants to change the name of an item that does the same damn thing so they aren’t mimicking Windows), MeeGo uses a tab called Zones, which is an area where applications being used will show up. If no applications are running or being used, MeeGo explains what the section is, otherwise you will see something similar to the image above. They explain it as such:

Applications you’re using will show up here. You will be able to switch and organize them to your heart’s content.

Applications

I think this tab is fairly self-explanatory. This is where all applications on your system are made available for easy launching. There is two sections under this tab, Favorite applications and Your applications. Favorite applications are the apps that you have pinned by hovering over an application launcher in the Your applications section and pressed the pin icon in the top right-hand corner. This is a combination of the KDE Plasma Netbook Search and Launch workspace and the KDE Kickstart Menu. It isn’t to shabby, and in the way it is being used with MeeGo, it works, and works as it should.

Status

This tab allows you to setup your accounts for Twitter and Last.fm. If you use Twitter, you can post and read messages from others here as well as these messages show up on your Myzone tab. Last.fm is another one you can setup where you can see the music your friends are listening to. Setting this up with straight forward and very easy. One thing I noticed and disliked was when I added my Last.fm information and told it to connect, it never informed me that it did in fact connect. So I spent a minute pressing the “Login” button over-and-over, kind of like Windows users do when the application or action doesn’t happen right away.

People

This tab lists all of the people who you have in your instant messaging accounts such as Google Talk, Jabber, MSN, Yahoo!, AIM, ICQ, and more. It uses Empathy, which I have a love-hate relationship with. Actually, I do not like Empathy the least bit, except for the ability of it to locate people on your network and notify you of their existence. That’s a stellar feature, and if other clients out there do that, I just do not know about it, but Empathy does this out of the box.

Internet

Can you guess what this tab does? MeeGo has 2 download options, one using Google Chromium and one using Google Chrome as the browser. In my case, I went the open source or free software route and selected the version with Chromium. The MeeGo interface is nice, and provides you with the favorite pages like Chromium does in the browser, and you are provided with a search bar as well, which of course is Google.

Media

No, not USB flash drives or smart media cards, but instead multimedia. In MeeGo’s case, they use Banshee, which is another application I have a love-hate relationship with. No, I don’t hate it because of the whole Mono thing and no I don’t hate it because Gabriel Burt was afraid to ride in a car full of KDE people (that’s a joke, but he didn’t ride with me to Penguicon a couple of years ago). I dislike it because Daap support has always been a pain in the ass. I use a Daap server here at home to stream all of my music, so no matter which machine I am at (Windows, Mac, Linux), I can access my music. I know Banshee can do it, but it has never been stable for me, nor has it ever been easy to get working. Out of the box, Banshee in the MeeGo configuration is a failure for me, but it might not be for you. I prefer Amarok for various reasons, and not because it is a KDE application. Amarok’s ability of Internet radio, podcast stuff, and of course Daap is far more superior than any music application I have ever tried in my life.

Devices

This tab is just a simple area that shows you battery level(s), storage space used, speaker volume, folders (which opens up Nautilus when activated), as well as any external device that you plug in to the netbook.

Bluetooth

My netbook doesn’t support bluetooth, so I wasn’t able to take a look at this section. It looks fairly straight forward by listing devices on one side and settings on another.

Network

Another love-hate relationship tab for me. I really like the layout here as you can easily enable or disable a wired connection or a wireless connection, or you can even go into offline mode which disables all connections. What I hate about it, is the WiFi configuration sucks. I have a hidden connection here at home which means I need to setup my connection. Cool, this is how it is for every operating system in the world. What it doesn’t do that every other operating system in the world does is….wait for it….it doesn’t freakin’ remember my newly created connection! Yes, that means every time I want to connect to my wireless Internet, I have to manually add it every time. Not a difficult task by any means, but a tedious one at best. Hopefully as MeeGo matures this will get better.

Time

Click on the clock tab and you will be presented with what I consider my ultimate favorite layout of time and date, appointments, and tasks. It doesn’t get any better! You are presented with a section for Time where you can select your city and other clocks for other locations around the world. Another section is for appointments which is just a front for your calendar. It support Google calendar which is a huge win for me, and it displays the information very cleanly. The third section is for tasks, you know, that getting things done stuff. It uses Tasks as its backend, which is a very simple application. I couldn’t find a way to get it to integrate with services such as Google’s Tasks or Remember The Milk, so I don’t know about sharing between computers.

Conclusion
MeeGo, in its first release, is pretty damn good, and this coming from a KDE loving maniac! It used to be Maemo, all Gtk in the backend, but now it is MeeGo with Qt (v4.6) as its backend now with a really nice MeeGo API as well. With MeeGo using Qt, KDE apps and Qt apps integrate nicely. What I don’t get is this, why in the hell are all of the Apps Gtk-based then? Chromium, OK I can understand, it is an amazing browser, and my browser of choice right now. Banshee? I think Amarok would have been a better app for media. Evolution? Oh hell no! I would rather they ship Mutt. You want me to say KMail or Kontact don’t you? Well I won’t, just yet. If I used POP3 for email, then yes, KMail/Kontact for the win! But seeing as I am lazy and use GMail’s IMAP settings, KMail needs help here. Thunderbird seems like a good choice, but for what I am guessing to be as a netbook operating system for those who aren’t hardcore mostly, I would think KMail/Kontact would be perfect. You can’t beat Kontact’s tight integration, you can’t, so don’t even try to argue that. Empathy is nice and light, so I understand it, even though I do not like it. I would have loved to have seen Kopete here, especially with its Skype plugin.

Overall though, I am still impressed with MeeGo, though I don’t think it is my replacement for the KDE Plasma Netbook Workspace. I think it is a perfectly fine solution for many though, and I am excited to see the ongoing work that is going into it. I know a few of the developers and I know they will be doing an amazing job on it in the future, especially as it starts getting on the more mobile devices out there. It uses Yum/RPM, which took me a few minutes to get used to again, but package management was as fast as I am used to when using APT or some other Debian package manager.

Good job MeeGo devs, and keep up the good work! I am fairly certain my review here sucked, so if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask them in the comments section, or email me at nixternal AT gmail DOT com, or even hit me up on IRC (freenode) as nixternal.

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  • madmed

    I tried to install it next to ubuntu but it removed grub. I restored ubuntu’s grub and it didn’t recognize the btrfs file system if meego pfff. And meego does’nt support ext4 and I couldn’t mount my ext4 partitions into it!!

  • http://www.decriptor.com Stephen Shaw

    I’d assume that things like banshee, evolution, and empathy came from the moblin side.

    Also, evolution is seeing a lot of love lately and their imap support is *tons* better. Makes it actually usable. Not sure what version is actually in MeeGo v1.

  • http://blog.nixternal.com nixternal

    @madmed – yeah, I had an issue with my first install as well with MeeGo. I did the encrypted home setup, and wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t decrpyt my home directory. I had to reinstall. I do think btrfs is nice though, and in the future it will be even better. Part of the reason that Ubuntu is looking at making it default for Maverick. Oh, and you are trying to be a bit to advanced right now for MeeGo maybe. I think it is a good option if you want to run MeeGo only. Sounds like it is definitely using the old Grub and not Grub2 (yet?).

    @Stephen – Evolution has been a love-hate for me for a while. My last job they used an Exchange server, so I ran Evolution in Kubuntu. It ran awesome in Kubuntu and never crashed. Everything worked like a charm for me. People running it in GNOME were always complaining about it. As for the version in MeeGo, it is 2.30.1 (20100423). I heard from others it still sucks for GMail and IMAP, and everyone keeps telling me that Thunderbird is the new email champ for the time being.

  • http://samat.org/ Samat

    I have a hard time believing they actually ported Bansee, Exchange, etc to Qt… MeeGo has to be yet another unholy mix of GTK+ and Qt. From the screenshots given, everything looks more Moblin-derived and is probably GTK+-based. Can you verify that there are any Qt apps in MeeGo?

    I also have a hard time believing that Intel/Nokia also pulled off making GTK+ and Qt look the same, because the Linux DE community hasn’t been able to in almost a decade.

  • http://blog.nixternal.com nixternal

    Nothing was ported to Qt, I am fairly certain everything is still Gtk+. The nice thing with Qt, is that Gtk+ apps look better in Qt, than Qt apps look in Gtk+ environments.

    Update: I just went through all of the apps installed, none are Qt-based, however Qt is installed, and not a single thing depends on it that I can see.

    $ rpm -q --whatrequires qt
    qt-sqlite-4.6.2-2.2.i586
    qt-x11-4.6.2-2.2.i586
  • http://blog.nixternal.com nixternal

    Shit, I just ‘yum search’d for amarok and other qt-based apps, not a single one in the repos. Need to figure out why this is and why they aren’t doing anything Qt/KDE and everything Gtk+/GNOME. A bit disappointing for me, as the apps I use and love aren’t there :/

  • Tom

    Well, what did you expect? The netbook version of Meego is still Moblin, they just added Qt and now tell people to use Qtcreator and Qt to build apps. Intel is not going to change everything from one day to the other. They changed the infrastructure and the organisation. There is only so much you can do in a few month (Do I really have to remind a KDE dev of that fact? ;-P
    Expect a lot more Qt apps in the Meego handset version, which is mostly build by Nokia.

  • http://blog.nixternal.com nixternal

    @Tom – oh I know. I wish they would have released with Qt 4.7 beta to be honest :) That is going to be much more fun to develop with :)

  • KenP

    Since i don’t have a netbook, i tried running Meego 1.0 in Virtualbox. I got it to boot off the USB key etc but no desktop yet, even after installation.

    All i get is the default background during boot up and then it just waits and waits.

    I also managed to boot into single-user mode from grub and got a # prompt. However, running startx took me to a TWM interface (seriously).

    Any idea what i could be doing wrong?

  • oskude
  • Michael King

    Good review I will try it out myself, So far out of the Linux netbook Distros I have had most success with Jolicloud, which gets more polished with each release.

  • http://www.manda.com.ba Miloš Mandarić

    Current Gtk apps will be replaced with Qt apps in future.

  • Jimbo

    Amarok on a netbook sounds like a HORRIBLE idea. The whole point of a netbook OS is to tailor everything for a stripped down quick to use interface. Sticking Amarok onto a tiny screen like that flies in the face of everything a netbook OS should be doing.

  • http://gnuski.blogspot.com/ lefty.crupps

    So, how was the battery life, anything different?

  • Zoran Dimovski

    @Jimbo
    No, Amarok on MeeGo is WONDERFULL idea :) it a matter of opinion.
    Plus, Amarok is starting Amarok Mobile so this would be the one that gets integrated into MeeGo.
    And Amarok is by far the best application in its filed. Not Bunshee or anything else. It’s simply the best.

  • http://dylanmccall.blogspot.com Dylan McCall

    Evolution has been extensively modified to fit in here. (And if you’re used to Ubuntu’s Evolution, this one is version 2.30 which is lightyears ahead of what’s in Ubuntu 10.04). The Tasks / Appointments all use Evolution as a back-end.

    This isn’t meant to have a trace of Qt; Meego for netbooks is using Gtk and MX, getting its front-end stuff straight from Moblin 2. Nokia’s Meego for phones is Qt. Unfortunately, that fragmentation will be its downfall.

  • http://blog.nixternal.com nixternal

    Wow, great responses!

    Battery life was exactly the same as every other distro I threw on it including Windows 7. 2.5 hours w/o adjusting the contrast and using the Internet the entire time. If I cranked down the contrast and still used WiFi I can get 3 hours. Speaking of Jolicloud, I downloaded the image and tried to install it last night unsuccessfully. The partitioner crashed on me.

    @Dylan, I think I would have to agree with you in respect to 2 different front-ends for different platforms, and that possibly being a downfall.

    @oskude, I was actually reading that blog post right when you posted the comment here last night.

    Just goes to show how ignorant I was going into trying out MeeGo. I remember reading Qt and Nokia, and was whicked excited. I am still impressed with MeeGo even though it won’t be Qt on the netbook.

  • geert

    @madmed:

    I tried to install it next to jolicloud but it removed grub.
    Can you tell me (or direct me) how you restored grub (or is it grub2)?

  • geert

    when booting Meego I don’t get any selection option for which OS to boot (dual boot system jolicloud/ubuntu) neither am I asked for username/password: where did I go wrong? what did I overlook?

  • http://www.neopeek.com neopeek

    @KenP:

    it is possible to run MeeGo – without the hardware restrictions which make trouble for virtualizers – in qemu:

    Meego 1.0 (kernel 2.6.33.3-11.1-netbook), image size: 787 MB (extracted: 2.5 GB)

    http://www.neopeek.com/en/stories/meego/85-meego-10-gui-qemu

    MeeGo 0.9 (kernel 2.6.33.3-8.1-iv), image size: 282.3 MB (extracted: 1.2 GB)

    http://www.neopeek.com/en/stories/meego/67-meego-with-ui

  • tim

    @KenP

    MeeGo laptop in VirtualBox fails probably because of missing framebuffer device. If I understood correctly from discussions elsewhere that is “missing” because there is no proper driver included. So, one way to fix it could be to take kernel sources and compile that driver, then configure the device and Xorg(?) to use it instead of (attempting) the default one.

    Haven’t found out how to do that yet…

    br,

    tim

  • http://www.ericbt.com Eric Bergman-Terrell

    Hi Richard,

    I too had the problem you had with Meego not remembering the connection for a non-broadcasting SSID. I reported the bug to Meego. Recently the status of the bug changed to “released”. I’ve not downloaded and reinstalled, but it might be fixed.

    Sincerely,

    Eric Bergman-Terrell

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