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Alpha Ubuntu for UMPCs is developer ready


Canonical isn’t wasting any time getting Ubuntu ready for UMPCs (Ultra Mobile PCs) and MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices). The company just announced on June 24 that the developer release of Ubuntu MID Edition 8.04 is ready for testing.

Ubuntu MID, formerly Ubuntu Netbook Remix, based on standard Ubuntu. It has been customized for use with Intel’s new Atom processor, but its heart is pure open-source Ubuntu Linux.

It also includes am easy-to-use ‘Launcher’ for new Linux users to get online quickly and have faster access to their favorite applications. Launcher is based on GNOME 2.22, but most users could do all their online and PC work on it and never know that GNOME, never mind Linux, was under the hood.

According to David Mandala, Canonical’s project manager for Ubuntu’s Mobile and Embedded Group, in a Canonical blog posting, Ubuntu MID other changes are relatively minor and are meant to make the most of a MID’s touch-screen display.

Mandala wrote, “In some cases we took some applications and modified them to fit better on MID screens and to be finger friendly for touch screens. In others we have included Moblin technologies.” For instance, the MID browser, which is based on Gecko, Firefox’s rendering engine, “has zoom capabilities that optimize the browsing experience for users, critical for a device primarily designed for Web access.”

Ubuntu MID, Mandala continued, “also contains applications for email, calendaring, document reading, contacts and a media player as part of the default install. All the applications are freely redistributable” under the GPL.

For now, Ubuntu MID is available as both an installable image for two MID hardware platforms and as a KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) virual machine. Most people, unless they’re already working on a Moblin project, will find the Ubuntu MID 8.04 KVM image the only way to give Ubuntu MID a try. This should run on any modern Linux distribution, Linux kernel 2.6.20 or higher, with KVM support.

The other images will only run on their specific architectures. The first is for the Samsung Q1U McCaslin platform. Since this is not the platform that Canonical plans to deploy Ubuntu MID on, I can only recommend that those who have this hardware and can’t stand to wait to check it out.

The other image, Menlow, is for the Intel Atom Processor as built for the Intel Crown Beach development station. This is a very raw implementation, and I can only recommend it for those who are know both the Atom processor and Ubuntu extremely well and are willing to spend a lot of time just getting the distribution to boot, never mind run.

Still, as Mandala puts it, “Developers may want to hack their favorite application from Ubuntu Desktop Edition onto Ubuntu MID to match screen size and touch screen requirements so that they and other owners can use it. Developers are encouraged to share and have their work reviewed within the UM&E (Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded) and communities.”

OEMs, of course, who want to deploy Ubuntu on MID are this alpha distribution’s true audience. Canonical’s custom engineering teams, based in Taiwan and Lexington, Mass., will be more than happy to work with these developers.

For general information on the Ubuntu 8.04 project visit the Ubuntu Mobile site. Want to help develop this new small distribution? The Ubuntu developer’s mobile and embedded site is open for business.

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