Friday, June 17, 2011

The JoliCloud experience

So first came Chromebook, and now we have another cloud OS. JoliCloud is an open source cloud-based OS. The downloadable ISO is there for you to install a local client that connects to Joli OS which is cloud based. That's right. No Internet no go. The faster your subscription the better, of course.

Installing JoliCloud

JoliCloud installation aka Ubiquity
JoliCloud works right from your browser, so strictly speaking you don't have to install anything. But since it's marketing itself as an OS for old computers... well, a lot of old computers can't run the latest browsers so local installation would be a necessity in that case.

The actual installation; in Ubuntu you'd be seeing their slideshow right about now.
Right off the bat, you can see that JoliCloud is using the same Ubiquity used for installing Ubuntu. It looks like an older version of Ubiquity. Some customisation work was done to make the install look different, but the setup wizard is undeniably Ubiquity.

The login

JoliCloud login screen
So... you login to your Joli OS installation and find that... you need to login?

The second login. Screen capped with LiveCD.
What the heck? For a cloud-based OS it seems to lack some sense here. Thankfully, it appears to be only the first boot that has this quirk. Once you link up to your online JoliCloud account (or create one on-the-fly) subsequent logins only require that first login.

The desktop

If you have any experience with iOS or Android devices, then the two rows of app icons with dots near the bottom representing your virtual workspaces shouldn't be too much of a challenge. You'll need to explore a little to find your way around but it shouldn't take too long to get productive unless you're a technophobe.

The desktop looks clean and simple. Personally, I'd prefer not to have icons all over the place but that'd just a my preference. I think first timers will like the fact that popular web services are available right from the start.

Installing apps is just a matter of adding them to your JoliCloud account. Simply click the big green plus button. Click the add button from the list of apps and they'll be synced to your account. Shortcuts will be made on your desktop to access them, and additional virtual desktops will be made to accomodate them if there's not enough space. Maybe they could make it three rows of apps instead of just two?

The experience

Since this is running off the cloud, it's not so snappy. The desktop feels rather sluggish with 512MB RAM assigned to the VM where Ubuntu works just fine.

The good thing is, of course, the fact that JoliCloud is always up-to-date. Install once and that's it. No version upgrades needed every half a year or so to get the latest software. Once it's available, you'll have it immediately.

GNOME Control Center?
Try as they might, it's still clearly a GNOME desktop that's installed. A little exploration is all you need to find the tell tale signs. They appear to be trying hard to hide the underlying filesystem details, and making things a lot more "user friendly".

Where's everything outside /home?
...but Nautilus is still there. It's just much harder to get to.

Nautilus anyone?
JoliCloud is certainly interesting. I have doubts about cloud computing but the rest of the world seems to be enjoying the ride, so I'll look and see. There's potential here that needs a lot of polishing before I'd consider using this on a daily basis.