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Jolicloud Wants to be your Other Linux OS
December 21, 2009
Operating System choices for the Netbook market continue to grow, at least from the Linux perspective. Current alternatives include Ubuntu's Netbook Remix, Moblin, and now Jolicloud. Add to that mix Google's Chromium OS, and you have four very viable options to pick from. Each OS has its own set of distinctive features while providing the common applications we all need to get things done.
With plenty of Netbook models and Christmas sales, it's a good bet that a lot of folks may soon have a new toy to play with. If you happen to get one of these with Windows installed and you'd like another option, you're in luck. Jolicloud works on a large number of Netbook models. There's a list of supported models on the Jolicloud website.
One of the biggest things that impressed us about Jolicloud is that it just works. We tested the latest Pre-Beta release on a Lenovo S10e, and everything worked including Bluetooth, wireless and video. It even gave us a useful mapping of the Windows key on the keyboard. Other little things like Adobe Flash work right out of the box so you won't have to go looking for plugins.
Jolicloud offers several options for installing the OS. If you happen to have a Netbook with Windows preinstalled, you might want to choose the Jolicloud Express installer. There's also an ISO file and Jolicloud USB Creator utility if you want to go the USB disk route. The USB utility is pretty handy for use with any "hybrid" ISO image (meaning it's bootable), and there's a version for Apple OS X, 32-bit Linux and Windows.
Installation from a USB disk is pretty painless. We were able to install over a previous distro (Moblin) in less than 20 minutes. The only hitch was taking the custom partition route to delete and overwrite the previous Linux partitions. You must select the EXT3 partition and assign the root directory as a mount point to install Jolicloud.
The Jolicloud folks have done the community a great favor when it comes to the Intel GMA 500 graphics driver. This chipset is used by a multitude of netbooks (such as the Asus EeePC 1101, Acer Aspire One 751, Dell Mini 10 and Mini 12) and to date has been a thorn in the side for many users wishing to try out distros like Moblin. You can read about the adventure on the Jolicloud developer blog.
In the Cloud
It's pretty obvious that Jolicloud has a strong tie to "the cloud" since it's a part of the name. Software updates and installation of additional applications all happen through the "My Jolicloud Dashboard." Jolicloud uses Mozilla Prism to make Web-based apps like Facebook, Gmail, Google Docs, and Zoho efficiently use the smaller Netbook screen. Installing one of these applications from the app directory creates a quick access button in the launcher menu.
There's a version of Adobe AIR in the application directory that makes it possible to run any AIR-based application on your Jolicloud Netbook. This opens up a whole new category of applications including things like Klok, Ora Time and Expense or Tweetdeck. The AIR installer places a desktop configuration file in the Desktop folder along with icons in the Accessories folder. For online storage Jolicloud provides options like Box.net, Dropbox, Drop.io and more.
You'll see a notification icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen whenever system updates are available. You can choose to proceed with the install or ignore the message till later. The "My Jolicloud Dashboard" screen provides another way to update your system on demand. Clicking on the Updates tab of the Dashboard screen will show you if any updates are ready to be installed. You can also check out a list of transactions completed with the Jolicloud service using the History tab.