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Phoenix Hyperspace, the Instant-On Linux: Needs More Time in the Oven

Cool Stuff

  • March 4, 2009
  • By Carla Schroder
In Torture-Testing Phoenix HyperSpace, the Linux-Based Instant-On OS, we learned a bit about Phoenix HyperSpace, the Linux-based "instant on" operating system. We learned that Phoenix is positioning it as a fast, safe, secure, energy-efficient environment for mobile workers that should meet most of their computing needs, making a trip into Windows an occasional foray rather than a daily necessity.

I've been spending some quality time with it on a Lenovo S10 IdeaPad, and today you get to hear all about my adventures with it.

Cool Stuff

It's not exactly instant-on from a cold boot, but takes about 30 seconds to come up and find a wireless network. Which is pretty good, and even better, sleep/awake worked flawlessly. I conducted marathon sleep/wakeup tests by opening and closing the lid at random intervals over a period of days, and it passed with flying colors. It always came up correctly in a couple of seconds, and sleep worked just as quickly.

It supports both 3G and wi-fi, and I had no trouble roaming and connecting to random strange networks. You get a Firefox Web browser that has Google set for the home page, shortcuts to Amazon, Facebook, Meebo, and YouTube, and the newest release comes with HyperSpace Office (which is ThinkFree Office), a complete productivity suite. HyperSpace has its own My Documents folder, which is not the same as the Windows My Documents folder. Maybe a different name would have been wiser, because how are users going to know?

Yes, a Bash Shell!

There is a genuine Bash shell, which you can get to by going to the very top right of the HyperSpace panel, and click on the little triangular three-dot icon. It opens a root shell, and when you start poking around you see that this is based on BusyBox, and it comes with a limited set of stripped-down commands and utilities.

The whole works is pretty locked-down. There is no obvious way to add applications, though you can poke around and mess with configuration files in the usual way.

Weird Stuff

I could not save files to the My Documents folder, and there is no way to create other folders or navigate to them, so I'm not sure what you're supposed to do with that nice embedded office suite. The suite boasts of great compatibility with Microsoft Office document formats, but I couldn't figure out how to import or export documents created outside of HyperSpace. You can't print, either.

The touchpad drivers in HyperSpace are very touchy, and the dratted thing kept doing "tap to click" no matter how careful I was. There is not a good touchpad configuration utility. There is a mouse configurator with one setting-- speed. It needs a configurator to adjust both speed and sensitivity of touchpads.

Another oddity is you can run multiple applications at the same time, but the only way to switch between them is with Alt+Tab. There are no minimize buttons, no way to resize windows, and no panel that shows which apps are running.

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