For the last couple of hours I have been playing around with MeeGo v1.0 on my EeePC 1000HE netbook. I was pleased to find that it was a breeze to get going, and that all the hardware worked without issues (wifi, sound, bluetooth).

User Experience

First impressions count, and MeeGo certainly delivers. The UI looks fantastic and is incredibly slick – it manages to maximise the precious screen real-estate whilst being highly responsive and intuitive. This certainly beats the competition, including Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Personally I’ve always disliked dock-style menus, but MeeGo has managed to blend the good looks of a dock, with unique and sensible functionality. Hardware accelerated video has been put to great use – task switching and menu transitions look great.

MeeGo Myzone & Toolbar

The MeeGo Myzone is the first screen presented to you once the OS has booted. It includes a summary of your calendar, tasks, email, popular app launchers, and very nicely presented status updates from your configured web accounts.

The main MeeGo toolbar provides quick access to: myzone, zones (workspaces), apps, status updates, people (instant messaging), internet, media, devices, bluetooth, networking, time/calendar, and the battery status.

Last.fm and Twitter web account integration is very slick, but the absence of Facebook is definitely noticed.

Applications

With all the recent QT hype and announcements, I was surprised to find almost all apps are GTK/gnome based, including:

  • Nautilus for file browsing
  • Evolution for mail/calendar/contacts
  • Banshee for a audio/video media player
  • Empathy for instant messaging
  • Cheese for taking webcam photos & video
  • Evince for document viewing

Google Chrome or Chromium is provided as the web browser.

I think this is a good choice of programs, and the GTK theming has made them all suitable for the small screen. Many applications (Evolution/Banshee/Empathy) also have parts integrated in to the main MeeGo toolbar interface.

Other Points

  • I was able to browse my network shares (sftp) using Nautilus, and was offered the opportunity to import data from the share.
  • I could not play back an XviD encoded video – when clicking the file in Nautilus, no application is associated with .avi files, and when imported in to Banshee it would not play.
  • I could not play back an MP3 file (same issues as above). I could not find the usual extra gstreamer packages in the repositories.
  • No office applications (openoffice or abiword) seem to be available.
  • There is a poor selection of applications in the repositories (I understand that it is very early days, and the repositories will grow – but it is a shame that MeeGo was not built on another distro with a wide range of existing packages).
  • The first time I ran Cheese, my Webcam did not work. However, on the second attempt there was no problem.
  • The synchronisation features show great promise. I loaded my contacts from Google, and set up a bluetooth sync to my N900 mobile (although unfortunately the actual sync failed). More work is required here, but I love the way it is presented and the potential it shows.
  • I had to input my last.fm details in to the main MeeGo toolbar as well as Banshee – which was suprising considering how integrated everything else is.
  • I had problems with the partitioner when trying to install alongside my existing Ubuntu ext4-based install.
  • Nice to see that MeeGo is using the much-talked about BTRFS for the file system – it certainly sounds like it is the future.
  • The installer needs some work on the time-zone selection screen.
  • I’d love to see Skype integrated in to Empathy the same way it has been in the telepathy client on the Nokia N900.

Conclusion

I’m going to keep MeeGo on my netbook as a second operating system (alongside Ubuntu), but I probably won’t be using it extensively yet because I need to use extra applications and development tools which are available for me in the Ubuntu repositories. I would however suggest MeeGo to friends who are only looking to use their netbook for web surfing, email, and instant messaging.

MeeGo is a fresh and welcome addition to the selection of linux-based operating systems tailored for netbooks, and shows lots of promise – certainly one to keep an eye on.

If you’ve given MeeGo a spin, let me know your thoughts!

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