Jolicloud

I bought my Samsung NC10 netbook earlier in the year and having tinkered with several OS’s and software, I finally think I’m happy with my setup.

There is a lot of skepticism of netbooks. Many geeks simply don’t see any value in such a puny machine. Let’s be honest, you’re never going to edit video with an Atom processor. But if all you want on the move is a browser and somewhere to keep a few files, then a netbook is a brilliant solution.

As an amateur photographer (who isn’t?), I sometimes carry the NC10 on shoots as a place to dump RAW shots prior to editing. The 160GB HDD provides a simple solution for backing up SD cards (every decent Netbook has a card reader).

At home I can often be found checking my Google Reader on the NC10 or just browsing. I love the puppeh. It’s got a great screen, a beautiful keyboard and the thing will tick over for hours before the 6-cell battery needs charging. Yeah the speakers suck monkey balls and the silver trim is a bit naff, but on the whole you could do a lot worse.

There are better Netbooks available now of course. Some of the newer Samsungs have better audio, the new Nokia machine is far prettier, and the ASUS machines offer even better battery life. But if you’re looking for a great, cheap netbook, the NC10 is still an attractive option.

However – buyer’s beware – many fully expect Intel to launch a new Atom chip at CES which should offer more bang for your buck.

So what do I run on my Netbook?

Well the NC10 comes with WinXP. XP isn’t a bad OS. In fact WinXP is a great operating system that has served millions for the best part of a decade. But as someone who likes to try different systems (I’m primarily a Mac user, but I’ve dabbled with various Linux builds) I wanted something more suited to a smaller form-factor and limited hardware.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the developer Alpha of Jolicloud, a cloud-centric netbook version of Ubuntu. Jolicloud has an excellent installer that is a bit like an app-store (similar, but sexier than Ubuntu’s app installer menu), allowing you to download and install linux apps and Prism-based web-apps as individual programmes (like Todd Ditchendorf’s fantabulous fluid on the Mac).

I now dual-boot Jolicloud and WinXP. If you want to try Jolicloud it’s now in open-Beta (link).

The Jolicloud GUI is optimised for a smaller screen. Also, because most netbooks have rhubarb trackpads, and Jolicloud is built on keyboard-friendly Linux, you can navigate by typing. Just start tapping the text of the link you want, and the curser highlights the link/button ready for you to hit enter. Brilliant.

Obviously, the most important app is the browser. Unsurprisingly Firefox is the default, but installing Google Chrome (which I use) is a breeze. With either FF or Chrome, you can also install the quite delicious Gleebox extension which adds a similar keyboard-based UI to control the browser – who needs a mouse?

Other apps worth downloading are the multi-IM client Pidgin, Evernote (brilliant for syncing notes and pics across multiple machines), and my current online text editor of choice, Writer.

Cloud-computing may not be perfect, but with netbook, Jolicloud and a Google login, you can take most of your world with you.

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