Jolicloud is a Nifty New OS for Your Netbook

Want to breathe new life into your netbook?  Here’s a quick look at Jolicloud, a unique new Linux based OS that lets you use your netbook in a whole new way.

Netbooks have been an interesting category of computers.  When they were first released, most netbooks came with a stripped down Linux based operating system designed to let you easily access the internet first and foremost.  Consumers wanted more from their netbooks, so full OSes such as Windows XP and Ubuntu became the standard on netbooks.  Microsoft worked hard to get Windows 7 working great on netbooks, and today most netbooks run Windows 7 great.  But the Linux community hasn’t stood still either, and Jolicloud is proof of that.  Jolicloud is a unique OS designed to bring the best of both webapps and standard programs to your netbook.   Keep reading to see if this is the perfect netbook OS for you.

Getting Started

Installing Jolicloud on your netbook is easy thanks to a the Jolicloud Express installer for Windows.  Since many netbooks run Windows by default, this makes it easy to install Jolicloud.  Plus, your Windows install is left untouched, so you can still easily access all your Windows files and programs.

Download and run the roughly 700Mb installer (link below) just as a normal installer in Windows.

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This will first extract the needed files.

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Click Get started to install Jolicloud on your netbook.

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Enter a username, password, and nickname for your computer.  Please note that the username must be all lowercase, and the nickname should not contain spaces or special characters.

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Now you can review the default installation settings.  By default it will take up 39Gb and install on your C:\ drive in English.  If you wish to change this, click Change.

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We chose to install it on the D: drive on this netbook, as its harddrive was already partitioned into two parts.  Click Save when your settings are all correct, and then click Next in the previous window.

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Jolicloud will prepare for the installation.  This took about 5 minutes in our test.  Click Next when this is finished.

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Click Restart now to install and run Jolicloud.

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When your netbook reboots, it will initialize the Jolicloud setup.

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It will then automatically finish the installation.  Just sit back and wait; there’s nothing for you to do right now.  The installation took about 20 minutes in our test.

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Jolicloud will automatically reboot when the setup is finished.

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Once it’s rebooted, you’re ready to go!  Enter the username, then the password, that you chose earlier when you were installing Jolicloud from Windows.

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Welcome to your Jolicloud desktop!

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Hardware Support

We installed Jolicloud on a Samsung N150 netbook with an Atom N450 processor, 1Gb Ram, 250Gb harddrive, and WiFi b/g/n with Bluetooth.  Amazingly, once Jolicloud was installed, everything was ready to use.  No drivers to install, no settings to hassle with, it was all installed and set up perfectly.  Power settings worked great, and closing the netbook put it to sleep just like in Windows.

WiFi drivers have typically been difficult to find and install on Linux, but Jolicloud had our netbook’s wifi working immediately.  To get online, simply click the Wireless icon on the top right, and select the wireless network you want to connect to.

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Jolicloud will let you know when it is signed on.

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Wired Lan networking was also seamless; simply connect your cable and you’re ready to go.  The webcam and touchpad also worked perfectly directly.  The only thing missing was multitouch; this touchpad has two finger scroll, pinch zoom, and other nice multitouch features in Windows, but in Julicloud it only functioned as a standard touchpad.  It did have tap to click activated by default, as well as right-side scrolling, which is nice.

Jolicloud also supported our video card without any extra work.  The native resolution was already selected, and the only problem we had with the screen was that there was no apparent way to change the brightness.  This is not a major problem, but would be nice to have.  The Samsung N150 has Intel GMA3150 integrated graphics, and Jolicloud promises 1080p HD video on it.  It did playback 720p H.264 video flawlessly without installing anything extra, but it stuttered on full 1080p HD (which is the exact same as this netbook’s video playback in Windows 7 – 720p works great, but it stutters on 1080p).  We would be excited to see full HD on this netbook, but 720p is definitely fine for most stuff.

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Jolicloud supports a wide range of netbooks, and based on our experience we would expect it to work as good on any supported hardware.  Check out the list of supported netbooks to see if your netbook is supported; if not, it still may work but you may have to install special drivers.

Jolicloud’s performance was very similar to Windows 7 on our netbook.  It boots in about 30 seconds, and apps load fairly quickly.  In general, we couldn’t tell much difference in performance between Jolicloud and Windows 7, though this isn’t a problem since Windows 7 runs great on the current generation of netbooks.

Using Jolicloud

Ready to start putting Jolicloud to use?  Your fresh Jolicloud install you can run several built-in apps, such as Firefox, a calculator, and the chat client Pidgin.  It also has a media player and file viewer installed, so you can play MP3s or MPG videos, or read PDF ebooks without installing anything extra.  It also has Flash player installed so you can watch videos online easily.

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You can also directly access all of your files from the right side of your home screen.  You can even access your Windows files; in our test, the 116.9 GB Media was C: from Windows.  Select it to browse and open any file you had saved in Windows.

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You may need to enter your password to access it.

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Once you’re authenticated it, you’ll see all of your Windows files and folders.  Your User files (Documents, Music, Videos, etc.) will be in the Users folder.

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And, you can easily add files from removable media such as USB flash drives and memory cards.  Jolicloud recognized a flash drive we tested with no trouble at all.

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Add new apps

But, the best part about Jolicloud is that it makes it very easy to install new apps.  Click the Get Started button on your homescreen.

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You’ll first need to create an account.  You can then use this same account on another netbook if you wish, and your settings will automatically be synced between the two.

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You can either signup using your Facebook account,

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…or you can sign up the traditional way with your email address, name, and password.  If you sign up this way, you will need to confirm your email address before your account will be finished.

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Now, choose your netbook model from the list, and enter a name for your computer.

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And that’s it!  You’ll now see the Jolicloud dashboard, which will show you updates and notifications from friends who also use Jolicloud.

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Click the App directory to find new apps for your netbook.  Here you will find a variety of webapps, such as Gmail, along with native applications, such as Skype, that you can install on your netbook.  Simply click the Install button on the right to add the app to your netbook.

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You will be prompted to enter your system password, and then the app will install without any further input.

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Once an app is installed, a check mark will appear beside its name.  You can remove it by clicking the Remove button, and it will uninstall seamlessly.

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Webapps, such as Gmail, actually run in in a Chrome-powered window that lets the webapp run full screen.  This gives the webapps a native feel, but actually they’re just running the same as they would in a standard web browser.

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The Jolicloud Interface

Most apps run maximized, and there is no way to run them smaller.  This in general works good, since with small screens most apps need to run full-screen anyhow.

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Smaller apps, such as a calculator or the Pidgin chat client, run in a window just like they do on other operating systems.

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You can switch to another app that’s running by selecting it’s icon on the top left, or you can go back to the home screen by clicking the home screen.  If you’re finished with an program, simply click the red X button on the top right of the window when you’re running it.

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Or, you can switch between programs using standard keyboard shortcuts such as Alt-tab.

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The default page on the home screen is the favorites page, and all of your other programs are orginized in their own sections on the left hand side.  But, if you want to add one of these to your favorites page, simply right-click on it and select Add to Favorites.

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When you’re done for the day, you can simply close your netbook to put it to sleep.  Or, if you want to shut down, just press the Quit button on the bottom right of the home screen and then select Shut Down.

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Booting Jolicloud

When you install Jolicloud, it will set itself as the default operating system.  Now, when you boot your netbook, it will show you a list of installed operating systems.  You can select either Windows or Jolicloud, but if you don’t make a selection it will boot into Jolicloud after waiting 10 seconds.

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If you’d perfer to boot into Windows by default, you can easily change this.  First, boot your netbook in to Windows.  Open the start menu, right-click on the Computer button, and select Properties.

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Click the “Advanced system settings” link on the left side.

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Click the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery section.

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Now, select Windows as the default operating system, and click Ok.  Your netbook will now boot into Windows by default, but will give you 10 seconds to choose to boot into Jolicloud when you start your computer.

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Or, if you decided you don’t want Jolicloud, you can easily uninstall it from within Windows. Please note that this will also remove any files you may have saved in Jolicloud, so be sure to copy them to your Windows drive before uninstalling.

To uninstall Jolicloud from within Windows, open Control Panel, and select Uninstall a Program.

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Scroll down to select Jolicloud, and click Uninstall/Change.

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Click Yes to confirm that you want to uninstall Jolicloud.

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After a few moments, it will let you know that Jolicloud has been uninstalled.  You’re netbook is now back the same as it was before you installed Jolicloud, with only Windows installed.

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Closing

Whether you’re wanting to replace your current OS on your netbook or would simply like to try out a fresh new Linux version on your netbook, Jolicloud is a great option for you.  We were very impressed by it’s solid hardware support and the ease of installing new apps in Jolicloud.  Rather than simply giving us a standard OS, Jolicloud offers a unique way to use your netbook with native programs and webapps.  And whether you’re an IT pro or are a new computer user, Jolicloud was easy enough to use that anyone can do it.  Give it a try, and let us know what your favorite netbook OS is!

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Download Jolicloud for your netbook

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!