Friday, December 30, 2011

MeeGo Netbooks : The Lilliput Army takes over

If you still havent heard of netbooks, then you must have been living in a cave for quite some time now. Over the past three years or so, the little cousin of the laptop pc has become increasingly popular. Essentially a smaller version of the laptop, with a smaller screen, lower specifications, and features such as the optical drive omitted, the netbook provides a compact and economical computing solution. 

While Windows still remains the popular OS, there have been other OSes developed specifically for low powered devices such as MeeGo, Ubuntu netbook, Splashtop and Android. While you cannot expect these devices to be able to run cutting edge games or full HD video, they are more than sufficient for one's everyday internet browsing, social networking, media playing and general office work such as word processing, spreadsheets, etc.

Since the processors are generally very power-economical, the netbook tends to run for around 4-5 hours even on a 4 cell battery. Today, netbooks make a very cheap yet effective computing solution - and amongst them the ones that ship with free OSes become even more economical as compared to Windows based netbooks.

Here I shall list two Value-for-money netbooks from Asus and Samsung, running Meego. Both of them are based on the Intel Atom and cost around Rs 12000 in India. Meego provides a simple and fresh interface that is easy to use. 

Asus X101


Operating System

10.1" LED Backlight WSVGA (1024x600) Screen

Intel GMA 3150 Onboard Graphics
CPU | Chipset
Intel® Atom™ N455 Processor 1.66Ghz    |   Intel NM10 chipset
DDR3, 1 x SO-DIMM, 1GB ( Maximum 2GB )
250 GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Disk
Wireless Data Network
WLAN 802.11 b/g/n@2.4GHz*1
Bluetooth V3.0*1
0.3 M Pixel Camera

High Quality Speaker

Internal mic
2 x USB 2.0
1 x Audio Jack (Headphone/Headset)
1 x Card Reader : Micro SD
VGA port
RJ 45 LAN port
4hrs (3cells, 28W/h) battery life
262 x 180 x 17.6 mm (WxDxH)
0.92 Kgs (w/ 3cell battery)
Texture : Black, Red, White, Brown

 Samsung N100

Operation System
Operation System
Intel® ATOM™ Processor N435 (1.33GHz, 667MHz, 512KB)
25.65cm (10.1) WSVGA LED Display (1024 x 600), Anti-Reflective
Dimension (W x D x H mm)
264.0 x 188.0 x 26.7 ~ 34.7 (10.30" x 7.40" x 1.05" ~ 1.36")
Weight (kg)
1.03 (2.27lbs)
Graphic Processor
Intel GMA3150 (Int. Graphic)
Graphic Memory
Shared with System Memory
System Memory
1GB DDR3 System Memory at 1,066MHz (1GB x 1)
Memory Slot
1 DIMM Slots
320GB S-ATA II Hard Drive (5,400RPM)
Main Chipset
Main Chipset
Intel NM10
HD Audio
Sound Effect
1.5 watts Mono Speaker (1.5 watts x 1)
Integrated Camera
Web Camera
Wired Ethernet LAN
10/100 LAN
Wireless LAN
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 100, 1 x 1 802.11bg/n (up to 150Mbps)
I/O Port
2 x USB 2.0
Multi Card Slot
4-in-1 (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC)
RJ45 (LAN)
DC-In (Power Port)
Keyboard Type
83 Key
84 Key
Touch Pad, Touch Screen
Touch Pad (Scroll Scope)
BIOS Boot Up Password
HDD Password
Kensington Lock Slot
Samsung Recovery Solution
AC Adapter
60 watts
Standard Battery
6 Cell (upto around 10hrs backup)

Asus X101
Samsung N100
N455 1.6 Ghz single core
N435 1.33 Ghz single core
Hard drive
250GB 5400rpm
320 GB 5400rpm
No bluetooth
3 cell, 4-5 hours
6 cell, 8-10 hours
(flipkart, Dec 2011)
Rs 11962
Rs 12983

What to buy?
Depends on what you want, finally. While the Samsung seems to have almost double the battery backup of the Asus and an extra 70 GB hard disk space, the Asus has bluetooth and a slightly faster processor. Also, the Samsung costs around Rs 1000 more.

If you are travel a lot, the Samsung's battery life may be a great advantage, although it lacks bluetooth. If one needs to connect devices such as phones using bluetooth, it could be added using a usb dongle usually available for around Rs 200-300.

The Asus on the other hand is slightly cheaper and has a faster processor which may perform slightly better playing videos and the like.

Samsung N100 - Older models have 250GB hard drive; No internal mic on older models

Some other cheap netbooks are listed here.


Samsung N100

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


MeeGo is a project born out of the coming together of two separate projects Moblin and Maemo, from the world’s largest chip manufacturer, Intel and the world’s largest handset manufacturer, Nokia, respectively. This partnership was announced in February 2010. 

MeeGo is a Linux- based platform intended to be used with a plethora of devices such as Netbooks, light desktops, Phones, Tablets and In-vehicle entertainment systems. The ambitious project aimed to bring together the efforts from the Maemo and Moblin communities in an effort to give rise to a next-generation open source Linux-platform that could run on a wide variety of devices efficiently. The MeeGo project is hosted by the Linux Foundation and is completely open source. One of the main touted advantages of the system was the ability for App developers to develop apps which could be run on multiple devices and platforms without requiring rewritten code. 

Some of the project’s main features are
 Basic core code over which Specific UX packages can be installed. This gives companies the freedom to design and install their own UX packages.
 Community involvement
 Support for multiple hardware architectures
 Freedom for innovation
 Rich cross-platform development tools

The main different UXs developed with MeeGo are:

Netbook – The increasingly popular little cousin of the laptop PC. These devices come in a compact form factor, with smaller screens and smaller processors with lower power consumption. Manufacturers such as Asus, with their famed EeePC line, Fujitsu and Samsung have come out with netbooks running MeeGo.

Handset - For use in mobile phones, small tablets and other such devices. The Nokia N9, running MeeGo, unveiled in June 2011 has created a lot of anticipation in the market. It promises a unique user experience.

In-vehicle Infotainment – For use in vehicle entertainment systems. The GENIVI Alliance has adopted MeeGo for their In-Vehicle entertainment systems.

The first UX of MeeGo to be released was the netbook UX, in May 2010. This release was called Meego1.0. A six month release timeline was kept and the next release of the core came out in October 2010 in the form of MeeGo1.1. The MeeGo Handset and In-vehicle Infotainment(IVI) versions were released between this period.

Recent developments
 Nokia’s adoption of Windows for their new smartphones; MeeGo losing one of its biggest supporters.
 Intel’s announcement that development on MeeGo will be halted due to lack of manufacturer interest.
 Intel’s move to a new mobile platform called Tizen, led by Intel, Samsung, The Linux Foundation, The LIMO foundation.
 OpenMobile’s Application Compatibility Layer – This enables the use of existing android applications on MeeGo devices, thus increasing the application base for MeeGo by thousands.

Some of these developments have left the future of the MeeGo project uncertain but it still enjoys much community support , which may be reason enough for its continued development.

Strengths and Key values 
One of the key values that MeeGo offers is the light nature of the OS – Its ability to run efficiently on low spec hardware and its ability to run effectively from a live USB device, without installation. In a market already filled with many light distributions of Linux, MeeGo stands out with its fresh UI and simple interface. The fact that it was developed specifically for lighter hardware helps improve performance on netbooks and other machines running hardware based on the Intel Atom, AMD fusion and such processors. 

Another much talked about feature, which is important on netbooks, is the short boot-up period as compared to larger OSes such as Windows – the lesser time the system takes to be up and running, the better. The possibility to dual boot alongside Windows or other OSes also puts forth the option of using MeeGo as a quick-boot alternative for functions like Internet access, Media playing, Word processing, etc. for which the larger OS need not be booted up. 

One of the main challenges for MeeGo would be staying true to these key values while also adding newer feature sets or functionality. Possibly, the biggest challenge is the lack of awareness amongst layman users of the existence or usage possibilities of such an OS. This is the group that may be most benefitted from the adoption of MeeGo as a free and simple solution in lieu of expensive proprietary software. 

Targetable User Groups
-Students & first time computer adopters – For these users the adoption of MeeGo and appropriate hardware would prove to be a very cost effective solution. It takes care of all the common functionality such as Media playing, Word processing, Email, Social networking, Internet browsing and Office suite (Open Office).

-Small enterprises – This sector provides for an excellent opportunity for small or medium scale enterprises to make their operations computer enabled at nominal costs, on inexpensive hardware and free software.

Further development 
How can MeeGo serve the needs of its target users more efficiently?

While MeeGo already addresses most of the needs of its target users, what is required is to expand the active user base so that more of them can benefit from its merits. Presently a crucial move for the MeeGo project would be to actively reach out to its targeted user base. This may be very relevant in a country like India where a large part of customers of computer equipment end up buying hardware and software beyond what they actually require, and pay for  unnecessary functionality or software due to sheer lack of awareness.

While a large part of the student community can easily be easily accessed via online media such as social networks, the other target group of layman users and small enterprises are less accessible. This group could be permeated by generating more awareness amongst local dealers who are the main suppliers of hardware and software for them. More often than not, they are provided with pirated copies of proprietary software. This group needs to be made aware of the viable free alternative called MeeGo.

An effective way to reach out to this group may be in the form of pre-loaded software on netbooks and their desktop version – nettops. This may be done via partnerships with manufacturers or suppliers. Nettop computers with MeeGo and OpenOffice pre-installed can be marketed specifically for homes and small scale enterprises as a viable and cost effective solution to make them digitally enabled.

Another powerful targetable user base would be schools, where the adoption of MeeGo will provide for an effective solution for computer enabled education. This could be especially relevant for small schools which may otherwise not have the resources for expensive computer solutions. One of the ways to reach out to this community is through NGOs which are active in the education sector and through movements such as Teach for India which aim to bring quality education to rural India.

To conclude, MeeGo puts forward a very simple yet powerful solution for a computing experience and can play a vital role in digitally enabling the masses and ushering the IT revolution to otherwise latent groups, especially in a developing country like India.