Just a quick update. I installed Ubuntu 7.10 from CD yesterday.
I used the Zonbu supplied external USB CD drive and a Transcend 8GB flash card, putting my Sandisk card with the Zonbu OS on the shelf for safe keeping. It took quite a while to complete the install due primarily to the relatively low speed of the CD drive (24x).
Other than a problem with strange behaviour around my USB/Keyboard when running from the LiveCD, the system installed smoothly. I accepted all the defaults, setting only the timezone.
To my great pleasure, when I rebooted and loaded the full install direct from the flash card, all the drivers worked out of the box (except video which defaulted to VESA mode). The sound worked properly (although I did have to drop to the console and use alsaconf to turn up the master volume as it was far too low), the NIC worked and even more impressively the Belkin WiFi dongle worked out of the box. The only thing I had to do was enter my encryption key…
The system is relatively pokey but I haven’t done a thing to optimize it for the Zonbu (ie. turn off unnecessary services etc). That being said, Firefox works relatively well and the maturity and layout of things like the volume control, network signal strength meter, power off buttons etc. was quite nice. Of course, unlike the Zonbu OS, I had to install flash and the few codecs I tested out, which was easier than in the past but still a pain. I forgot how nice it is that everything “just works” on the Zonbu when it comes to media playback – perfect for non-technical users.
I’m not sure I have the stomach to try and get the experimental branch of the video driver going, and it is unclear to me whether MPEG2 decoder support is finally available or not (this is not an Ubuntu specific issue, presumably the Zonbu OS has the same issue). I would say the video driver is the weakest point of the entire Zonbu experience – but the good news is that there is a lot of upside ahead if they can get all the MPEG2/MPEG4 acceleration operating smoothly.
More info to come, but in the mean time, I do want to reiterate that Ubuntu, especially 7.10, would be an excellent starting point to then be stripped down and optimized for the Zonbu hardware.
There is so much effort and community suport out there, as well as excellent repositories of software, that it is a shame to waste it. I love the efficiency of the Zonbu OS but I’m still inclined to think the same goal could be reached in a way that left the option for more advanced users to “unlock” their Zonbu and use it as a full featured Ubuntu desktop.
I propose a “skinny” Ubuntu derivative that is full compatible with the main Ubuntu release, so power users and even those who just need access to specific applications, can unlock their box and “hot rod” it to do exactly what they want. But then again, it all goes back to the business model. Are those users even within the target? Perhaps not. But a quick glance through the forums shows you that they are who are buying the unit.
Like many tech businesses, what you start out to do is rarely what you end up doing. Will the same thing happen to Zonbu?
PS – The latest Gimp 2.4-RC3 is included in Ubuntu, as is the latest Pidgin (nee Gaim) 2.2.1 instant messenger.