Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jolicloud - Distro Review

With the recent popularity netbooks have experienced in the last two years we have seen a slew of Linux distros released gear specifically for these tiny screens. For the last couple of weeks I have had my Asus EEE PC booting an upcoming netbook orientated distro called Jolicloud. Jolicloud is built on top of Ubuntu Jaunty Netbook Remix, as such it is fully compatable will all Jaunty repositories as well as the (seemingly limitless) Ubuntu software. Jolicloud is being built as a "social networking" distro, currently it is in private alpha release how ever if you apply at their website they are decently quick about getting back to you with an invite key.

Jolicloud comes as a 650 meg download in the form of an iso file. Their website provides easy instructions for loading the iso file into a spare 1gig flash drive using their own program (essentially it is a simplified version of unetbootin). Installation goes smoothly, it has not been changed from the normal Ubuntu installer (other than rebranding) and as such I had a fully functional Jolicloud system in just under a half hour.

Jolicloud uses the same netbook interface as UNR with a few slight modifications. Firstly, anyone who is coming to Jolicloud from Ubuntu will notice a refreshing light blue theme has replaced the rather ugly orange and brown Ubuntu has sported for so long. The Ubuntu logo that you click to use get back to your home screen has been replaced with a blue house icon.

My Jolicloud:
The big thing that separates Jolicloud from standard UNR is "My Jolicloud". Your cloud is an application that wraps up several core functions of the operating system in one location. Each user of Jolicloud has their own login that allows them to access their "My Jolicloud". The current release of Jolicloud has three working sections in the Cloud - Dashboard, Application Directory, and Settings.

The Dashboard contains your system's update manager, other system notifications, and history of your system. The application directory is one large improvement Jolicloud presents over normal Ubuntu. The layout is a bit easier to manage and the "most popular" section allows you to quickly find applications you will most likely want to add to your system. Also present is a "recently added" tab so you can easily see if anything new has been added to the repositories lately. In addition to containing the vast amounts of Ubuntu software Jolicloud also adds a few other useful applications such as Google's Chrome Browser and Boxee Media Center. Your settings section allows you to manage the "social" part of your Jolicloud account. Similiar to twitter you can follow other Jolicloud users to see what they are doing on their tiny computers. You can also see what systems you have registered on Jolicloud and who the latest people to join Jolicloud are.

The default applications installed on Jolicloud are relatively standard to any Linux distro. Gedit, terminal, FireFox, ect. How ever lacking by default is office software, this is easily fixed by adding it via your Jolicloud. Installed by default also is a piece of software that allows you to automatically (or manually) control the speed your netbook's atom processor runs at (thus controlling power consumption).

Also present in your applications repositories are "Prism Web Applications". Essentially a prism web application is a stand alone application that allows you to load up a single popular webpage (Facebook, Pandora, GMail, ect). The advantage of viewing a page in this form is that it removes the URL address bar, search bar, and other buttons typically taking up space on your tiny netbook screen that you do not need most times. If you do how ever find yourself wanting to view a page that does not have a prism application the default version of FireFox contains many optimizations for the netbook screen. The loading bar at the bottom is similar to that of Chrome's, its only visible when something is actually loading. The file/edit/history buttons at the top have been neatly placed as a drop down arrow next to the search bar and the buttons have been slightly shrunk down.

Final Thoughts:
All in all Jolicloud is a very solid netbook distro. It has replaced Ubuntu Karmic as the default operating system on my Asus EEE PC. If you own a tiny computer it is definitely one worth checking out. Rock solid distro thus far and I feel the Joli team will only deliver more spectacular features before they come into a full 1.0 release.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. what can i say... Its alfa test and i see that there is a lot of unuseble progs. & stuff...

  2. Jolicloud has been rock solid for me, despite the alpha status... I guess it helps that I'm running it on an Eee PC 901, one of their "reference machines".

  3. @AC Since Joli is built on Ubuntu it *should* fire right up with out issue on a wide range of netbooks :)