Trapped in ol’ Moblin, Again

Article Source MoblinZone Blog
November 13, 2009, 10:43 am

ZDNet blogger J.A. Watson is on a mission to bring software shutdown to the Moblin desktop. In a review of Mandriva 2010, Watson makes a convincing case why the feature is missed worse than ever in distros supporting multiple desktop environments.

The lack of a soft power-off utility was the top complaint registered by the first crop of users to try out Moblin 1.0, back in June. Almost six months later, the utility remains AWOL in the newest v2.1 release of Moblin.

Watson writes, in part, “I will say this again about Moblin. They might think it is ‘cool’, or ‘chic’, or ‘new wave’ to make a system without a Logout/Shutdown selection, but it is a mistake. You think you are being very ‘modern’, but what you are doing is making things less obvious, and therefore more difficult, for a lot of people. It wouldn’t hurt anything, other than perhaps a few over-inflated egos, to add one more bizarre hieroglyphic to the menu bar, and put ‘Lock Screen / Logout / Suspend / Reboot / Shutdown’ on there!!! End of Rant.”

What’s this Fuss About?

The trouble Watson has is that after installing and launching into the Moblin desktop, he has trouble reverting to Mandriva’s stock KDE desktop. If the Moblin desktop included a “logout” option — a fixture of other Linux desktop environments — he could use it to respawn the distro’s login manager. Modern login managers such as XDM, GDM, and KDM offer drop-down menus of installed environments, letting the user choose for example between GNOME, KDE, XFCE, Moblin, or WMaker before authenticating.

Without the feature, though, Watson must zap X via a shell. He rightly points out that few netbook users are likely to know how to accomplish that. It’s neat that root privileges are not needed to do this on Moblin, since the server doesn’t run suexec’ed to root. But, that only gets the average user half way; they still have to figure out how to launch a shell (Watson has trouble with this part), and then they must know a suitable command, such as “killall Xorg”.

Mandiva 2010: a better Moblin than Moblin itself?

Overall, though, Watson praises Mandriva’s implementation of Moblin technology. He writes, “After a good bit of investigation and testing I decided that this might really be a better and more reliable implementation than Moblin’s own distribution.”

This isn’t surprising; downstream implementations should add polish, fit, and finish. For example, Ubuntu is considered better for mainstream Linux desktop users than Debian, its upstream source.

The Moblin project is very much an “upstream” source. Despite efforts to make the technology easy to evaluate, via “Live CD” releases based on Fedora, the aim of the project is really to produce technology useful to Intel(r) Atom(tm) chip customers. That holds true regardless of whether the customer is a device designer “rolling their own” Linux from a variety of upstream sources (like the Moblin project), or whether it’s a netbook vendor licensing their Linux from an OSV (operating system vendor). OSVs currently offering Moblin implementations include Xandros, Mandriva, Canonical, Novell, Linpus, and AsiaNux, among others.

Read the rest of Watson’s review/rant, here.

Moblin technology is also slated for inclusion in Fedora Core 12, expected to ship Tuesday of next week (Nov. 17).