MeeGo Review

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I loaded MeeGo, the new operating system from Intel and Nokia, on this new Asus Eee 1005P netbook purchased in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was doing a balancing act between my wife's desire for a stable Windows platform, and my desire to have a netbook that is more than the bland usual. I hoped for something fun, new, and perhaps exciting.

This netbook was for my daughter's 18th Birthday.

MeeGo met the need. I created a dual boot machine by reducing the size of the third primary partition and deleting the forth primary partition, then making an extended partition in the space created and letting the MeeGo installer make the partitions it wanted in this extended partition space. But I wasn't satisfied with this, so to be honest I reduced the size of the / partition to 4 GB and then used the remainder of the empty hard drive for a /home partition.

The machine boots in about 40 seconds, including a short wait that would allow you to select the Win 7 OS if you wanted. The MeeGo interface is very appealing. They put a nice little movie on the opening page, and playing that tells you how wonderful MeeGo is and what it can do. My daughter is going to be travelling for several months and she needs to stay in contact with friends on Facebook, do e-mail, and get set up with Skype. She likes her music, and videos are a plus. And she would like to have a word processor and something to show power point presentations.

Out of the box, MeeGo does not have Skype included, and OpenOffice is missing, so not being able to play a power point presentation is a limitation. However, I found instructions online for both of these and now have Skype, and OpenOffice 3.2 running. I expect both of these to be included eventually in the MeeGo repositories as these programs are in high demand. The Eee PC would not play mp3 files in Banshee, but I installed a free codec from Fluendo and now mp3 files play fine. We are still missing wma file support. I've jumped ahead a bit so lets go back to the Birthday morning.

That morning we gave my daughter the netbook. Wow! I wrote a nice note telling her that the more familiar Windows 7 system was there, but that this netbook was way COOL because it included MeeGo. I was disappointed when she opened the lid of the sleeping machine and the screen didn't come alive, and she eventually needed to press the power button for 5 seconds to reboot the machine. But, no worries. MeeGo was booted shortly, the movie about MeeGo was playing, and she was excited. I let her find Google Chrome, and the Facebook webpage. Wireless works out of the box, and in seconds she was looking at her Facebook page after logging in. She was one happy camper.

Next she went to look at e-mail. (I had set up her account the day before.) MeeGo uses Evolution. She looked at some new messages, and then it was time to go do some errands.

We tried to play a few MP3 files and get ready for something she'll be doing three weeks from now. But the mp3s did not play. I eventually used WinFF (GUI front end to ffmpeg) to convert the mp3 files to ogg on a different machine. Ogg is a free similar compression format, which plays fine on MeeGo. A few days later I followed some on-line instructions to get mp3 files playing.

On the brighter side, Chrome plays YouTube videos.

I downloaded OpenOffice 3.2 and loaded that. I got this from the Sun website since this is not yet available in the MeeGo repository (instructions here).

I tested the presentation program in OpenOffice with a projector. After rebooting the Eee PC, I was able to play a "power point" presentation. When I displayed the screen on the netbook and the projector screen, I could see the entire page on the projector screen, but the bottom portion was missing on the netbook. Of course the netbook is a wide screen format while the projection is a 1024 x 768 format.

The programs AbiWord (word processor) and Gnumeric (spreadsheet) are available now for anyone not needing all that is included in OpenOffice.

MeeGo has a very fast and easy to use interface. It is more like using a cell phone for speed than like using a computer. There are a few things that take a bit of time to load, but most things are very fast.

I installed Skype by following these instructions. We were sending video on Skype as soon as we connected and activated video. But the audio was not working until we plugged in an external microphone. At present, there is no switch in the pulseaudio sound settings for audio input to allow switching between the internal and external microphone, and the default mic is the external one.

But if you do want to record something, the record program does use the internal microphone by default. In fact I used the sound recorder program (included in MeeGo) to verify the internal mic was working as I tried to figure out why our internal microphone did not work with Skype.

Some other limitations include the following. On the Asus Eee 1005P the keys for controlling the volume do not work and the screen brightness does not work correctly. However, I have added acpi_osi=Linux to the boot line and this fixes both problems. I've read that other netbooks do not have this same problem. Also, on occasion the netbook screen does not come alive when the netbook lid is opened. When the screen does not wake up, I need to hold the power button for 5 seconds to reboot. The normal way to turn off the machine entirely is to press the power button and then select to shut the machine down. There is no graphical user interface (GUI) software control for shutdown.

Closing the lid will put the machine into sleep mode. But Fn+F1 also puts the machine to sleep. Open the lid and press a key to wake the machine.

Sometimes MeeGo does not wake up when the lid is opened and a key is pressed to bring the machine alive. The machine is obviously alive. I can close the lid and put the machine to sleep again, verified by the blue light starting to flash on the front of the machine. I'm still looking for a work around to this "feature".

Pressing a key to wake the machine up, MeeGo wakes up in less than 4 seconds, asking for a password. Once the password is entered, the machine is back to where it was before going to sleep about 1/4 of a second after hitting "enter".

When multiple programs are open, you can use Alt+Tab to short cut between "Zones". Each Zone contains a separate opened program. If you are working on e-mail, searching for a file, and doing Facebook at the same time, each program will have it's own zone. Switching Zones takes about a second as the screens shrink to the center of the screen and the selected Zone comes up. It looks cool when switching Zones, sort of like hitting the Exposé key on a Mac to select a different window.

If you create a bootable USB thumb drive or SD memory card, I will say that it takes about 40 seconds to boot the machine. The speed is very close to the same as when the OS is installed on the HDD. Programs do not run much slower from a USB disk, so you can give MeeGo a try without changes to your hard drive. You do, of course, need to be running MeeGo on supported hardware. MeeGo cannot work with the NVidia graphics chips, for instance.

Now, I have been a fan of Ubuntu since 2004. In comparison, Ubuntu NBR, the netbook remix edition of Ubuntu, does not perform nearly as well from a live USB disk. NBR takes a few minutes to boot from a flashdisk. Then it is very sluggish when moving around on the desktop. This is on a Toshiba Centrino Duo.

However, when installed on the hard drive (HDD) NBR is working well here on a two year old Centrino Duo machine and it switches between windows a little faster than MeeGo. But NBR starts things like the default web browser slower. NBR does a cold boot 5 seconds faster (in about 35 seconds) than MeeGo cold boots on the Eee 1005P (which is about 40 seconds). That's not much different. The Centrino Duo has more processing power than the Atom N450. Yet NBR takes more than 5 seconds to wake up from standby/sleep state, compared with MeeGo's less than 4 seconds on the Eee 1005P.

MeeGo is very nice on this netbook. My daughter leaves in a few days. I'm going to miss playing with this when she takes it with her.