My head in the clouds

So, over the last year I’ve attempted to revive my netbook from it’s life of being unused. From buying a new battery, reinstalling XP back to it’s factory settings, trying Lubuntu, a light weight Ubuntu distro even more lighter than Ubunutu eee, Chrome OS, and most recently Joli OS.

Lubuntu was nice, but I very quickly ran into issues around forgetting to make a swap disk and swap files screwed over sleep/hibernate mode, which is pretty important for netbooks, so that died quickly.

A cloud based caught my eye, so I tried chrome. Supposedly, my little 2008 netbook wasn’t quite up to scratch for Google, although it ran it quite well it just didn’t work with the touchpad at all, which is a little difficult. But I played with it with a mouse for an hour or so, got to say, it’s impressive what you can do with what amounts to just a browser.

In my attempts to fix this issue with Chrome though I ran into an interesting OS called ‘JoliOS’ a cloud OS like chrome, but also tied with Desktop iOS and android applications, with the idea being that your cloud is unified, everything you do on Joli is there on anything else you can access with it. Oddly is is also based around Chrome, but is at it’s heart a linux distro.

Although you actually need to dig a little to find that linux core, right clicking on the desktop will reveal to most techy people that Joli is basically entirely within a web browser from the word go, with the options back/forwards save as etc. 

While the whole thing doesn’t quite come together as well as it should perhaps on my eeepc with a few bugs around full video display, and some slowness going between sections of the desktop, it’s fast and quick to get to everything, with no real taskbar (only a small thin line up the top with small icons for all open apps) most of my eeepc’s screen can be taken up with whatever single page I’m looking at.

Yup, single page. This is where it’s clear this is for netbookers or low power users in my eyes, you are not viewing anything side by side here at all. But for a netbook, this isn’t really an issue.

Joli also uses ‘apps’ in a very iOS like appearance, but upon closer inspection there really isn’t much to these apps… they are with few exceptions hyperlinks that don’t present the URL at the top of the screen. However, this actually works, for the sites you constantly look at like facebook or something having them close but separate to the general browsing experience helps you reduce the amount of tabs open during your research or whatever it might be that you are doing.

And it’s actually pretty surprising how much really is covered by these hyperlink apps. With word processors, editors of various kinds, music movies, it’s unsurprising there is a push to take these things to the cloud.

But, you ask, what’s so great about all that, can’t I just do all that on my computer without the OS. And the answer is yes, on that level Joli is nothing special. For me what is special is what Joli seems to be on the verge of really setting up. Along the side of the desktop under buttons for desktop and HDDS is a section called ‘my cloud’ listing dropbox, skydrive, google drive, flickr, readability youtube and all those kinds of things. chances are you have a lot of these services already. And what’s impressive is that most of these are actually not just the hyperlink to webpage, but more fully intergrated. Clicking on a cloud storage will look like just another drive, youtube has a different interface closer to an iPad, flicker and readability much the same, and all these unique services are made to look much more unified. the swap from Readability to dropbox isn’t as jarring as it might normally be.

While all that is impressive what Joli really lacks is completeness though, while it displays dropbox like another drive, clicking on anything simply opens up dropbox’s website, to the same spot regardless of what file you clicked on. While readability is nicely integrated facebook is barely a part of the system, and twitter merely a hyperlink.

Another strong issue with the OS is probably a lack of native apps. While it is linux, the Joli app store only has a very limited collection of the most basic linux apps, open office, VLC and skype come to mind. But I was surprised at the lack of a general IM program like Pidgin. There are plenty of web based services that emulate it, but I do feel the OS lacks more non cloud based applications at the moment, and even though you can install other linux apps on the OS, I have not been able to make them appear on the desktop.

Keyboard short cuts i also see as another issue.

I’m really curious to see how Joli turns out once the iOS app is restored on the Australian itunes store, and see if it being around on all my gadgets really helps a great deal or not. But I’m actually now quite optimistic for what a cloud future might be like for computers, I’m convinced at the very least, it could actually work if devs like Joli keep doing the kind of thing they are trying.

Oh, this was typed on Joli while listening to music from 61, which is a surprisingly interesting service that I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for joli 


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