Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chrome vapor vs. Jolicloud reality

There was quite a lot of buzz this week about Google's new Chrome OS. The operating system was announced several months ago, but Google released more information about it at a small press event on Thursday.

Basically, ChromeOS looks to be an operating system based entirely around the Chrome web browser. It requires very little else, because the intent is that your apps and the vast bulk of your data will live in the Internet cloud.

ChromeOS has certainly made the spotlight currently shining on cloud computing even brighter, but it's not the first OS with such a vision. And right now, it's just that - a vision. The OS isn't expected to be ready until at the end of 2010. In Internet time, that's an eternity.

There is an alternative though, and it's available today (currently in alpha testing). The OS is called Jolicloud, and it's an operating system project with an interesting goal - to "combine the two driving forces of the modern computing industry: open source and the open web". You can read more about their idea here.

I downloaded and installed Jolicloud a few weeks ago on my 1st generation EeePC 701. The Linux-based OS that came pre-installed on the machine was pretty rough around the edges, and kind of a pain to use. Jolicloud is also a Linux-based OS (based on the Ubuntu netbook remix, I believe) but is much more polished, even in its current alpha release.

The interface is slick, and responsive. They've also managed to make the trackpad recognize multi-touch gestures for scrolling, which is really handy. And the WiFi works exceptionally well, right out of the box. Before Jolicloud, I needed to manually turn on the WiFi and wait a few seconds for it to connect. Now it's automatic, and ready for me when the OS boots up.

Perhaps the biggest plus is how easy it is to find and install new applications. Jolicloud provides categorized groups of apps, and installing an app is as simple as clicking the green "Install" button. Uninstalling is just as easy - just click "Remove" and the app is gone.
System updates are equally easy, and can happen automatically if you wish, so you always have the latest and greatest system.

Jolicloud also has some social networking features built right into the OS. When you log into Jolicloud, you can add buddies that are also Jolicloud users. I haven't played with the social features too much, but I'm interested to see where they take them.

I'm pleased to announce that My Writing Nook was accepted into the Jolicloud catalog, in the Office category. I installed it last night, was impressed with the results. I'm really pleased to see how well it integrates. When an app runs, Jolicloud gives it the entire screen, except for a thin menubar at the top. MWN looks really slick within this environment. It's truly uncluttered and distraction-free. Check it out:

The alpha release is currently invite-only. I have a few invite codes, so if you are interested in one, send me an email and I will be happy to send one your way. If you've got a netbook and you're unhappy with the OS it runs, I urge you to check out Jolicloud. If you're not brave enough to just blow away your current OS, you can run just boot and run Jolicloud right off a USB thumb drive.

Jolicloud has gotten me excited about using my netbook again.

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