Flying into the Jolicloud

I have a netbook (ooh I know soooo last year) and have been very happy with Linux Mint on it but have recently returned to Jolicloud which now has an HTML5 based desktop, easy install of apps in a that increasingly familiar app store way and fast web browsing via Chromium though Firefox and Opera are also available to install.

For existing windows users there is a 15Mb download installer that installs within windows to give a dual boot netbook with automatic access to Windows side files when running Jolicloud.

There’s is also easy access to many popular on-line file storage services including dropbox.

I must admit I’m very impressed with version 1.0 of Jolicloud which yields a good hybrid of local apps and data and those in the cloud. Though aimed specifically at the netbook form factor this desktop would be great for re purposed computers in the community or as a fast booting second desktop option for any windows user.

Jolicloud

Standing In The Light Of The MoonOS

MoonOS

I love the modular nature of linux desktops and distributions even if  the growth of the ‘if it’s linux then it must be Ubuntu’ fan-boyism can become annoying (I love Ubuntu but oranges, as they say, are not the only fruit). I’ve been getting close to modifying and customising a linux desktop myself  via remastering and was intrigued to find a desktop that had been built on top of Linux mint, itself a modified variant of Ubuntu.

MoonOS is a project started by Cambodian artist Chanrithy Thim and currently offers desktops based around the fast E17 and LXDE desktop window managers. Both are light enough to be used in virtualised environments with LXDE particularly suited to netbooks, thin client ,remote desktop solutions and low spec computers.It even runs on Google’s Android phone technology.

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Linux Mint 6 XFCE Community Edition RC1

A new release candidate for Linux Mint community edition has been released. Mint is based on Ubuntu but includes some free but closed source extras (codecs, adobe flash etc) in order to provide a better ‘out of the box’ computing experience (Mint does make ‘universal’ pure open source versions too).

I’m normally a Mac user but increasingly I’m using Linux Mint for sheer speed and customisation ability and even enjoy running Mint purely from CD on our Intel Mac.It can equally be installed on a USB drive or alongside an existing Windows or Mac operating system.

This new XFCE based linux desktop adds a user configurable firewall and Mint Nanny which lets people filter web sites by domain for a simple way to control where others (children for example) can roam on the Internet.

For the first time this version of Mint can be installed from within an existing windows desktop using Mint4win which is similar to Wubi used in Ubuntu.

More feature details are available on the Linux Mint site.

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Looks Familiar

A familiar look?

A familiar look?

One of the great bug bears of anybody who demonstrates a modicum of technical ability with computers is the expectation of friends and family that you are automatically on hand to sort out any technical problems that they may encounter.

Sometimes this may go above and beyond what it is reasonable to expect and what may be practical to supply in any ongoing form particularly if the user seems adept at undoing your handiwork or resents attempts to educate them with regards to best usage to ensure a reliable and consistent desktop experience.

When your patience is tested you’ll often find the geeks of this world try to quell mounting support requests by installing linux as an alternative to their failing windows desktop.

Scaling Users

This is not as easy as it sounds as users generally hate change. I saw Steve Rubel quoted recently as saying that technology and software easily scales but people do not. This is true of people who get used to a single desktop experience (inevitably Microsoft Windows). Just replacing Windows with Linux will not automatically make an instantly happy computer user or quell support requests unless a degree of familiarity with their previous Windows experience is not maintained.By familiarity I mean look and feel rather than any virus, spyware or reliability experiences.

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

And throwing the baby out with the dirty bathwater is, in my experience an absolute last resort after you’ve re installed windows umpteen times to clear infections or to regain a snappier desktop experience.

Moving such users in slow stages can ease the ‘shock of the new’.

This can involved standardising their windows experience with the same applications that they will likely encounter should a linux alternative be worth a try.These days that’s a lot easier as applications like firefox, open office,Thunderbird, picasa and google earth are easily available on linux.

Replacing Microsoft Office with Open Office or one of the various web offices can also be a challenge but if users cannot adapt and have a legal offering of office then it can continue to be used on linux with a little setup of wine or laying down a small fee (well worth the easing off of support calls in my humble opinion) to install crossover office.

I find that applying a theme with the familiar colours and icons (users can balk if they don’t se folders in a familiar colour) works best on a distribution that has a combined bottom panel that operates similar to windows. In my case I prefer either Linux Mint (Gnome edition) or OpenSuSe. You can stack the usual top and lower screen panels on top of each other but at the bottom of the screen with other distributions but users are likely to easily mess up this arrangement.

Fonts

A quick word about google earth and picasa. These are essentially windows applications that operate under wine which can mean that the font rendering can need some severe tweaking especially when viewed via some modern graphic chips (Nvidia springs to mind). It puzzles me that picasa is installed with an additional menu to specifically adjust the menu fonts whereas google earth is not and launching the latter application can be a shock when the fonts are so small as to be unreadable. This means delving into the Google earth .conf files in order to adjust the menu fonts accordingly.

As a means of reducing friends and family support requests this approach can pay dividends but obviously depends on what software the user is wedded to.A slow wean off proprietary software may prepare the ground for a later linux desktop deployment.

Business is business

In the business world it’s easier to keep legacy windows applications on a linux desktop via virtualization of a thin client server arrangement which can pay dividends for office desktop uptime in the right environment.

Resources: icon theme , wallpaper , eXperience theme

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Linux Mint Flavour

I currently use Ubuntu on one of our computers but am always keen to try new variants especially if they can be deployed on donated machines and make it easier to pass on something useful without having to spend too much time tinkering under the bonnet.
Previously I had been installing Ubuntu and Xubuntu but had spent time adding the extras needed to make to user experience as complete as possible (changing menus, configuring multimedia plugins etc).

Linux Mint Community Edition
I then heard about yet another Ubuntu variant called Linux Mint that came with multimedia components such as adobe flash and the ability to play real, windows media and quicktime already configured.

So I tried the XFCE Community Edition BETA 008 CD as a live CD (runs entirely from CD without installing in order to try out prior to a hard drive install) on our intel based Mac and it was the fastest performing live CD I’ve ever used. Web pages loaded faster than on our Mac mini and I could watch the BBC iPlayer without having to download flash (though I did have to upgrade the installed version of flash in order to use the full screen function). Linux Mint also places the program menu items in a configuration that many other people will be familiar with which is a bonus for anybody deploying it on machines that are being gifted back into the community.

Gnome Edition
I also tried the Gnome based edition that has more eye candy (rotating workspace desktops even on the live edition) and uses a slab style menu though inevitably the memory footprint is not as efficient as the XFCE based edition (XFCE being better for computers with less memory). For comparison I made a similar screenshot walkthrough that can be found here.

Update: All Flavours of Linux Mint ran perfectly from CD on our intel Mac though I’ve experienced a fair  few problems attempting to load on  older hardware circa PIII’s and Duron’s. A warning if you try to install alongside OS X as these editions will not give the correct boot loader and currently requires installing without GRUB (or you’ll mess things up in a big way for your Mac) and manual jiggery pokery in the Mac terminal afterwards to get a correct dual boot.

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Previous posts on Ubuntu variants: gOS , Ubuntu Studio, Ubuntu

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