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Jolicloud Cloud-Based Linux Desktop Review
Date: Jan 24, 2011
Author: Jesse Litton
Jolicloud 1.1 Computing Experience

Jolicloud's newest operating system release can be summed up in one word: “accessible”. To sum it up in fourteen words: “accessible, and yes it's Linux underneath, but please don't run away screaming quite yet.”

Anyone trying this relative newcomer might call it accessible because it has an extremely easy-to-use interface. Or, it could be called accessible in the sense that it's free and will run on minimal hardware. Or, it may be accessible because it integrates concepts familiar to social networking users directly into the main interface.

A Jolicloud Desktop

Previously, Jolicloud had been referred to as a “netbook only OS”. But, with version 1.1 the organization has changed their focus to emphasize “recycling computers”. System requirements are exceedingly minimal, and the entire OS uses barely over 2GB of space on a test machine. An official list of supported/tested devices is available, though it's hard to imagine a system that would not run this OS.

There is one caveat to mention related to system specs, though: Jolicloud is only available for x86 devices at the moment. If you have a smartbook or other device powered by an ARM CPU, the current version of Jolicloud will be of no use to you. It appears that the OS will be available for ARM devices in the future though, as one of the benefits the developers cited when moving their web app platform from Prism to Chrome was “Good performance on ARM netbooks and tablets”.

Jolicloud's Universal Folders

Jolicloud uses the Ubiquity installer (the same installer used by most Ubuntu-based distros). This makes it exceedingly easy to resize a Windows partition and install Jolicloud alongside an existing installation, should you not want to make the jump to an alternative OS at one fell swoop.

The Jolicloud interface is somewhat unique, yet somewhat familiar for users of Android or Apple iOS. It would be easy to imagine that Jolicloud's interface has been intently scrutinized by the developers behind Ubuntu Unity and ChromeOS. And, it is a sure bet that Jolicloud will find itself competing with all these operating systems on multiple platforms in the near future.

Jolicloud 1.1 Computing Experience (cont.)
Like the phones you may be accustomed to using, Jolicloud sports a simplified “app center” that makes it easy to add hundreds of free Linux applications and web sites to the desktop. When an icon is added for these, there is a simple “Like” or “Unlike” option that updates your Jolicloud feed. This lets you and your friends keep abreast of which apps you do or do not prefer, allowing you to more readily learn about (or inform your friends of) new and popular apps/sites.

Jolicloud's application installer

Unlike ChromeOS and most phones, this OS is not locked down. Power-users can still get to a console, perform any tweaks, and install any native Linux apps they desire.

Access to all local system apps via GUI and terminal

Another interesting aspect of this OS, harkening back to the accessibility mentioned earlier, is that you can access your Jolicloud desktop from any computer with an HTML5 compliant browser (right now, that means Chrome or Chromium). Simply point your browser to my.jolicloud.com, login with either your Jolicloud or Facebook ID, and your desktop appears just as it would on any other synchronized Jolicloud device.

Cloud Access to Synchronized Desktop via a Web Browser

Improvements since version 1.0 include faster boot times, HD video and Flash improvements, as well as longer (15% more battery life). You can see the Jolicloud site for a list of additional features.

The future of this operating system is anything but certain, with ChromeOS sure to grab a large portion of the same target audience, but it's definitely worth a look.

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