Launched two years ago by Intel and now hosted by The Linux Foundation, Moblin is a Linux platform aimed at netbooks and mobile internet devices.

Moblin 2.0 is a bit of an odd bird when it comes to its UI. We also found it the buggiest and least optimised in performance when tested on the Asus 1005HA.

The main interface is a toolbar running along the top of the screen. This bar drops down for you when you move the cursor to the top of the screen; otherwise, it stays hidden. When it does appear, you click on the functions listed across the bar as you would with a web browser's tabs.

The various built-in functions are separated into categories on this toolbar. These include Myzone (a start page listing recently visited sites, your ‘to do' list, appointments and friends' Tweets); Media (storage for your audio, video and image files); Pasteboard (a clipboard for cutting and pasting); Applications (which is further broken down into sub-categories like Games, Office and System Settings); and Zones.

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Zones works as a combination of a desktop workspace and application task manager. You click this to move from one application, or desktop workspace, to another.

Installation was fast. It took less than 10 minutes for Moblin to install from a USB flash drive to the Eee PC. The installation file for Moblin is about 720MB.

Wireless networking worked without a hitch, and we were surfing the web almost immediately.

But Moblin's web browser (built on Firefox's Gecko engine) had problems handling JavaScript-heavy sites, including Facebook and Gmail. The browser couldn't keep up with our typing when we tried to compose an email in Gmail, letters taking seconds to show up.

The calendar app crashed twice, and its window wouldn't close, leaving us with two frozen calendar windows cluttering our workspace.

On the netbook's 10.1in screen, text appeared too small and barely readable in some areas of the Moblin UI. For example, in the folders displaying our personal files, filename text was tiny and slightly distorted.

We also found switching between running apps cumbersome. You click the Zones tab, and then choose the next running app you want to access. Or point the cursor towards the bottom of the screen, where a bar will appear which scrolls up like a window shade, revealing the next active program.

You can easily lose track of things if you're running more than two programs at once. In fact, you can't tell how many applications you have running.

MP3s wouldn't play, and Moblin didn't automatically offer to download appropriate software. Instead, it popped a notice suggesting we try the software repositories.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Moblin 2.0: Specs

  • Intel Atom or Intel Core 2 CPU (support for SSSE3, Moblin will not work on non-SSSE3 CPUs
  • Platforms with the GMA-500, Nvidia, or ATI Graphics chipset are not supported)
  • Intel Atom or Intel Core 2 CPU (support for SSSE3, Moblin will not work on non-SSSE3 CPUs
  • Platforms with the GMA-500, Nvidia, or ATI Graphics chipset are not supported)

OUR VERDICT

The absence of an office application, like a word processor or spreadsheet is a curious oversight. And hopefully, future revisions of Moblin will be optimised, and its web browser will become Web 2.0-friendlier.

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