I stood there in the queue to receive my Conference Freebee Idea-pad fully expecting to be turned away. These devices were for the devs to work on, no?
The Nice Man from Intel who was handing out devices held out a box and asked “Which company are you from?”
“Err, I’m not a company” I stammered. “I’m just an end user.”
I paused, expecting him to snatch the box away out of my reach. Instead he thrust it eagerly into my waiting paws: “Well, we shall really want to hear what you make of it then!”
They asked me whether I wanted the broadcom drivers and thankfully someone answered for me. I had taken h0pbeat along with me to assist in the install, and he was a star, setting it all up and ready for me. I put it on the helpdesk with my MeeGon sticker on to identify it as mine (Thanks Texrat!) for others to play with and dashed into a talk about community.
I sat down next to Ash (MeegoExperts) who was running MeeGo on his own netbook. Watching over his shoulder I picked up a couple of keyboard shortcuts, and saw he was running tweetdeck. He suggested I google that and Open Office to see how they were installed.
I went back to the helpdesk and did just that. Within the hour I had both working. And both had required installing via the terminal. I was shaking slightly, but glowing. And in dire need of a pint of the black stuff to calm my nerves. But the exhilaration was worth it! And in response to my jubilant tweets I got congratulations from people beside whose tech knowledge I feel like an annoying mossie.
So the Idea-pad came home, causing pains in my shoulders from cabin luggage containing not one but two netbooks. And I started to play.
And that’s where I began to hit the brick walls. Everything I tried to do was just out of my reach. I could get so far, but there would always be a line where the instructions were aimed at someone with just a spot more knowledge than I had. By Friday night, I had tried and tried to:
install the mp3 codecs
install the onscreen keyboard
make the ad hoc network operate
enable the community repo
customise the ‘MyZone’
I was defeated. And a tad depressed. I retired to bed with my bear and had a little weep over my own inadequacy.
Fortunately, though I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, I have the grim determination of a small ill-tempered terrier. So after a day of chores, I settled down to Try Again.
AndyBleadon had kindly supplied directions for installing the fluendo codecs: I had stalled because the fluendo website had directed me to d/l the linux generic code, and the instructions were looking for an .rpm. I worked that bit out. I asked the website for the rpm, and got a scary message about rpm files damaging the device. With Andy’s reassurance, I went ahead, and within minutes was playing an mp3 file. Still can’t view mp4 though, for some reason.
One more shot at the community repo, and googling the fact that it was telling me that ‘wget’ was an unknown command, I duly installed wget and then followed the instructions.. I have access to that supply of apps now.
I opted to give up on the onscreen keyboard: I’ll wait till Someone Clever has that sorted with a decent UI so I can turn it on and off. Instead, thanks to timoph, I have located and installed xournal, which gives me some usability for the tablet mode using the touch screen. Excellent. And yes, both that and x-chat were downloaded as rpms, and installed via the terminal. Without extra instructions.
Dawn Foster in IRC kindly pointed out to me how to customise the MyZone rather better (which is great!) and I have found the bug which stops JoikuSpot and other ad hoc networks connecting and voted on it. (Bug http://bugs.meego.com/show_bug.cgi?id=440 I think!)
So summing up?
The Idea-pad is a very decent piece of kit. It has better hardware than my current netbook, and the battery life is awesome. It’s pleasant to use (though a little unbalanced with the battery weight – falls off the arm of the chair!)
The MeeGo netbook OS is… unfinished. In trying to make it simple to use, too many things have been left out. The UI still needs work and some of the basic things one would expect are not yet pre-installed as they should be.
And frankly, before this is released on the world to average bears, it needs to be made so that nothing ever needs to be installed via command line.
On the other hand, for me personally it has been an amazing experience. People from all over the community have stepped up to hold my paw, give instructions in a way that a bear of very little brain can follow, and cheer and support as I’ve made each step. I’ve probably missed some names out in the list of people who’ve been so incredibly helpful and supportive in not only getting the IdeaPad sorted, but teaching me things I can use for myself. As I tweeted earlier today: “Install a programme for a bear and you help for a day: teach her to use the terminal and she’ll bug you for life.” Thank you to each one who has helped me, supported me, and been so, so patient with a bear who head is full of sawdust.
Most importantly, I have lost my fear of the Terminal, not least because I’ve discovered that if I ask it to do something stupid it will probably politely tell me to sod off. On the n900, the Terminal was viewed as sacred ground, only to be entered if I was carrying suitable propitiatory gifts for the minor deities and demons that dwelt there. On the other hand, the terminal of the ideapad (which desperately needs a name) is somewhere I can work if necessary without having to reach for the valium.
I’ve found I can sometimes solve my own problems and work out what the Terminal is telling me – even if I daren’t always act on my own initiative in the face of scary warning messages. In terms of investment, I doubt the people who distributed the IdeaPads will feel the have got their money’s worth but the enormous steps forward I have made in my geekdom from playing with this is astonishing (to me at least!) I can even remember a few basic commands.
So Thank You to the people behind the #meegoconf ideapads, from a bear of still very little brain, but just a little more confidence than before.