Ubuntu Netbook Edition Goes Through Streamlining

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Ubuntu Netbook Edition is yet another version of the popular Linux-based, Debian core OS Ubuntu. But instead of being almost the same as the other versions of the OS, this one is specially built for running on small screens and low powered processors with scarce resources. This specific version of Ubuntu uses Moblin stacks and has the Moblin as the basis for the UI. Moblin is another Linux project (MOBile LINux) that was started by Intel.

Ubuntu Netbook Edition was originally called Ubuntu Netbook Remix. It was only recently renamed to Ubuntu Netbook Edition. But even then, it had some problems while running on netbooks. Those who are familiar with Ubuntu, will know that it comes bundled with free and open source software to take care of all you basic and advanced computing needs.

But a lot of the apps are redundant on a netbooks because of the lack of certain hardware features and the typical use of a netbook. Hence, apps like Brasero Disc burning utility wasn’t very useful on netbooks since it did not have the necessary hardware. The same goes for quite a few other apps.

Although not all of these apps are necessarily all that large, the space crunch on netbooks makes every byte count. Hence, the Ubuntu developers are currently busy streamlining the entire package and getting rid of the redundant bits like the Brasero app mentioned earlier and utilities like the Palm Pilot app. The latest nightly release has these things missing and is much more stable. The upcoming point release is thus expected to be much slimmer to install and will also have several bug fixes.

This edition of Ubuntu is optimized for the Atom because of Moblin, but it can also run on other mainstream processors. And since this is Linux, you can make it run on anything you want as long as you have the time, patience and coding talent for it.

MSI Releases Wind U135 Model To Celebrate Sales

U135_all-300x198MSI must be pretty chuffed with themselves for making the Wind line of netbooks. They are mostly known as a component manufacturer before they came out with the Wind to ride on the big netbook wave of the last two years. The Wind has been pretty successful and has sold millions. This has caused MSI to commemorate the success by releasing a new Wind model. It is called the Wind 135 and it has some real muscle for a change.

Okay, so when I say muscle, do remember that I mean it in a netbook way. That means that it has something extra as opposed to just a new look. The U135 is powered by a chip from Intel’s new Pine Trail series Atom processors. There is a choice between 160GB and 250GB HDDs when it comes to storage, which is pretty nice to have on a netbook. Also, the keys are supposed to be 20% bigger and that can really make a difference in how good it feels when you are using it on a regular basis. Netbook keyboards have always had small keys to conform to the form factor, so we will take anything that is bigger than the average. So this is actually a worthwhile feature to talk about.

The power consumption has also come down. It now consumes only 7 watts of power. With the optional 6-cell battery, you can really make your netbook last well beyond your entire working day.

Other than these features, everything else is pretty much what you expect them to be. There is 1GB of DDR2 memory, the screen is 10″ and you get Windows 7 Starter Edition. There’s a 1.3MP webcam, 3 USB 2.0 ports and 4in1 card reader slot. That last one is actually another really useful feature. You can get it for around $310-$330 on Amazon.

Samsung Plans New Moblin Netbook For India And Russia In Q1 2010

Samsung N127 Moblin NetbookSamsung has been planning to release a new Mobilin version of the Samsung N127 netbook. This netbook will be sold first in India and Russia. The launch time is within Q1 2010, which means it should get more detailed out pretty soon. Right now, we know that the device will run Intel’s Moblin as it’s primary OS.

The netbook will be a 10.1″ device that will be powered by the Atom Z-series processor, which has enough power to make Moblin feel really snappy. According to tech news source Ars Technica, the Mobil deployment on the netbook does feel quite fast and responsive. They also note that the large icons also help the user experience. Since Moblin was designed to run on smaller screens, the elements look much bigger than usual on a 10.1″ screen.

If everything goes well with this launch, then Samsung is likely to release another model. Details of this other model are unavailable at this point. The hardware is pretty much the same as what you get on the other Samsung netbooks in the market. NetbookChoice notes that they have even left the ‘Windows key’ in place, showing that they have only worked with integrating the OS and haven’t done anything to the hardware.

The price of this device is hitherto unknown but it seems like it will be on the lower side. Testing response in an upcoming market like India in a way makes it certain that they are playing a low cost gamble by putting in a new OS in an old shell. And it seems like Samsung isn’t the only company doing this. Even MSI plans to bring out a netbook that is running on Moblin. But all of this looks like the prelude to the Chrome OS more than anything else. Let’s hope that one lives up to our expectations.

HP 210 Netbook Is Here, Of Sorts

hp-210-sighting-rm-engThe HP 210 Netbook is officially available. It is available on retail and it is also available in troubleshooting entries. But there’s one major thing missing — the thing was never announce officially. No glitzy photosets, no long winded PR, none of that. May be HP is cutting costs while the global economy stabilizes out. You never know what they are up to but at least the device is here for us to buy.

The HP 210 is a netbook device that turned up just a week or so back on troubleshooting pages where support pages fully list it’s specs. In the meantime, it was available for sale on the e-tailer eCost. On eCost, it was said to be in stock and going for $399 for the matte black option. I like that, the matte black option.

Other than that little morsel, you also get to know that the thing is another netbook that belongs to the first wave of Pine Trail netbooks. Pine Trail is the next version of Intel’s Atom chip.

The 210 is powered by an Intel Atom N450 (a Pine Trail indeed) and has integrated graphics. That means no HD video or any such thing. It will still be pretty sluggish at only 1GB RAM and storage is the usual (read boring) affair with 250GB coming in as standard. Battery is 6-cell but no estimates have been found. Is this beginning to get a norm with HP? Let’s hope not. I say this because a similar thing happened with the Mini 311. May be the marketing dept. is really small and forgetful at HP. Get your act together HP, everybody’s watching.

Samsung N220 Pine Trail Netbook

n220-1There has been a leak of sorts of a new Samsung Pine Trail netbook thanks to a French retailer listing it, probably ahead of then given schedule. This is the Samsung N220, the first Samsung  Pine Trail device to be spotted so clearly and with so much detail too. It just might become the first Pine Trail netbook from Samsung to go on sale, followed by the inevitable many that are going to be made.

Since it was listed for sale, the leak carries a hefty amount of detail. It basically leaves nothing out and is as good as an official announcement could’ve been minus the PR talk. The CPU is an Intel Atom N450 running at 1.6GHz. The display is a non-glossy 10.1” screen displaying 1024×600 pixels. You get the standard 1GB RAM, which still ticks me off big time. Storage is okay at 250GB. It will be running Windows 7 Starter edition, which is again okay. Thankfully, it does not skimp on connectivity and has WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooh 2.1 and the mandatory ethernet. It also has an SDHC card slot along with 3 USB slots, VGA out and audio in and outs. It’s powered by a 6-cell 5900mAh battery that is rated at 11.5 hours, so I would expect around 10 hours under normal conditions. The Euro price is 349, which much over $500 in USD but that will come down when it starts selling in the US. Economy differences make sure of that.

So like I said, we know basically everything there is to know and still nothing official from Samsung. The main thing to note here is the extra long battery life. I think it is as much the 6-cell battery as the improvements of Pine Trail.

Acer Aspire One 532 Pine Trail Netbook Spotted

acer_aspire_one_532_pine_trail_netbook-540x203Acer’s driver pages show that a Pine Trail netbook is imminent in the company’s line up. Pine Trail is the next generation in Intel’s Atom line of CPUs. This specific model from Acer is powered by the Atom N450 that is still not officially announced by the chipmakers. But the official announcement is as good as not needed by now with all the leaks and the details that have found online. Now all we need is for someone to go hands on with these devices.

This model from Acer will be Acer Aspire One 532 and it will be carrying the Atom N450 in conjunction to your boring old netbook configuration. you would think that the new chip and the subsequent upgrade in power would make them add more RAM but it seems like a pipedream now. Of course, there’s no blaming Acer for this one. The hindrance comes from Intel themselves and how they control the Atom and the associated Intel chipset.

Intel has so far dictated extremely forcefully about the configuration that these netbooks can be built around. This is actually the main reason why there has been absolutely zero variety in the market before ION and the other chipmakers came along with their own offerings for the scene.

Intel, like other large companies, is worried about the cheap yet powerful Atom cutting into their profits by cannibalizing the sales of the high end models. There is always a fixed amount of consumption that can take place before the market is saturated. This because at any given point — there is a limited number of customers who want to buy a portable. If they get a cheaper device that does their work just fine, they will buy that instead of a higher model and that will be their purchase. This causes the companies to lose revenue. So companies don’t really like Atom but they will lose market if they don’t make Atom-based devices. Hence, they continue to both manufacture and downplay Atom as much as they can.

ION Netbooks Emerge But Slowly

nvidia-ion21The long promised ION netbooks are emerging, but really slowly. So far we have one from Samsung and one from Asus. But other than that, there are no other models. This is worth noticing because of two things.

A)   The ION has been around for a long time now and it is almost time for ION 2 to emerge into the mainstream.

B)   The ION actually adds the missing piece of the puzzle by giving Atom exactly what Atom needs – raw, graphics cheap.

The companies that have brought these netbooks are actually spending any money on that. They are just waiting for the boom to hit? Not exactly. Their main problem is that netbooks carry too little a profit margin. That is bad enough for any company. But then something else happened.

ION came along and showed everyone that it is actually possible to achieve great graphics and HD video capabilities on netbooks running on Atom dual core CPUs. In fact, it can play most recent 3D games at respectable details and frame rates. Suddenly, everyone realized that they do not have to spend all that much to get decent performance. They can get the usability of a $800 desktop from a $450 netbook because they don’t need the surplus performance that remains when they use their main systems.

So once people begin to understand that ION netbooks are actually extremely cheap and powerful solutions, they will stop buying the high-end systems. And it is through these higher-end devices that companies and vendors actually make their profit. So they will never shoot themselves in the foot and promote something that will eat away their profit. The ultimate loser is actually the consumer, who is losing out on a great piece of technology.

Intel Releases Atom Developer Program SDK

intel_atom_developer_programIntel has finally release the Software Development Kit (SDK) for the Atom Developer Program. The idea was introduced to the masses at this year’s IDF (Intel Developer Forum).

The Atom Developer Program is an attempt on Intel’s part to further popularize Atom even further. Third-party applications have always made and defined platforms and Intel is looking to promote Atom as a platform rather than just a chip. Atom still is the definitive chip for making low-powered portable devices and Intel is looking to use its presence through netbooks and other devices to launch this program.

The program is meant to help developers create apps that are purpose-built to run on Atom devices. In other words, apps that are optimized to run on lower resources, small screens and low resolutions. Intel’s opinion is that the current applications have been built to run on fully powered systems and hence they make for a poor user experience on netbooks and other Atom-powered devices.

This new SDK will thus unite developers in an attempt to make apps especially for netbooks. These apps will be distributed through a special channel, which is likely to be like a mobile app marketplace. According to Intel, the apps will be distributed through netbooks.

The current SDK is in beta and it can be downloaded from here after registration. It is currently free but will later be priced at $99. Apps can be made for both Windows and Moblin. All software will have to be validated by Intel and paid for apps are in the making. The tentative date of fruition is not fixed but the general timeline is said to be sometime in 2010, which is pretty vague.

Nano 3000 Is VIA’s Answer To The Next Generation Atom

via_nanoIntel has long had an almost free reign over the netbook segment thanks to their Atom processor. In the beginning it was practically monopolizing the market. Then came other players like AMD, VIA and NVIDIA. They each made their own versions of an Atom-killer. But sadly, none of them took off quite well and manufacturers continued to use Atom on almost all netbooks and netbook-like devices.

There have been experiments with chips like the Athlon Neo from AMD and the Tegra from NVIDIA but there was never a buzz around any Atom-rivalling chip as there still is around the Atom. And this is all going to go into the past as we enter a brand new product cycle.

Intel is getting ready to release the next generation of Atom chips and the first models carrying these chips will start rolling out as early as January next year. Theoretically they could’ve come out this year but everyone wants to clear out their stocks through holiday sales.

While Intel prepares for this release, VIA is already ready with their answer to these new Atom chips. They have upgraded their own Nano chip and they calling this new version Nano 3000. This news chip will improve graphics performance and will be able to playback high bit-rate 1080p HD videos without a problem. This is achieved through the chips superior 64-bit superscalar architecture name ‘Isaiah’. Even though the Nano 3000 is not as energy efficient, it is more powerful than the Atom at only a marginal increase in power consumption.

The Nano 3000 is available in speeds ranging from 1Ghz to 2GHz and there is a 20% speed boost in comparison to the Atom.

MSI Wind12 U230 Runs On AMD Athlon Neo X2

msi-u230-wind-MSI is pushing the boundaries between standard netbook and standard notebook with their new model – the Wind12 U230. This is a new offering that MSI is flaunting around the Internet. It is not your typical Atom netbook if only because this runs on an AMD Athlon Neo X2 chip. It also has a 12.1” display that has a native resolution of 1,366×768. The keyboard is described as a special ‘de-stress’ keyboard that will supposedly keep you from stressing your fingers.

The Athlon Neo X2 chip on this netbook/ultraportable clocks at 1.6GHz and apparently gives you a better performance than the comparable Atom chip. Another factor to take into consideration is the battery life. The MSI Wind12 gives you only four hours of battery life, whereas other comparable models often touch 5 hours and some around 6 hours. This short battery life will be a definite let down for those who are looking to buy this device. It might also affect how popular this model proves to be.

Other features include a 1.3megapixel webcam and a 160GB HDD. The official weight is 2.9 pounds, which is okay and it will be running Windows 7 Home Premium. For some reason, MSI highlights the fact that the copy of Windows will be genuine. No word on pricing yet.

While there is no apparent resistance in the market regarding non-Atom netbooks, they generally tend to confuse prospective buyers. This is because there is a distinct difference in the internal architecture and manufacturers want to highlight that. But in doing so they tend to confuse people as to why their netbook is better than Atom netbooks. But other than running the Neo, this new netbook is average at best with a below average battery life. So it might not sell as well as MSI thinks it will.