DesktopTwo Online Operating System

There have been several websites lately that focus on creating an operating system that is browser based. A place where you can get to all of your stuff from any location that has Internet access. A couple of the others are EyeOS and YouOS. There is even works for an ajaxOS version of Linspire. What that will do is allow your computer to launch the most up-to-date version of software from the Internet, everytime you open the application, the best part is, you don't need to install the software. However, we're not talking about Linspire. In this blog entry I want to talk about DesktopTwo, an online operating system that I have been playing with for the past couple of days.

What exactly is DesktopTwo?

An online OS is exactly what it says it is. You will go to the website, login to your account and you will be presented with a graphical user interface.

What can I do with DesktopTwo?

At the moment, most of the online operating systems are limited to a few basic functions. However, that is rapidly changing. With DesktopTwo you can blog, edit your websites, instant message, play your MP3s, email AND the best part about DesktopTwo is that you have online storage, 1 gig to be exact so you can write documents and save them to your online desktop.

You won't be able to replace your current operating system. There just aren't that many applications yet. Key word beying yet!

Things I like, don't like and thoughts I had while using DesktopTwo.

One thing that I really like about DesktopTwo is that it works just like a normal desktop operating system would. You double click on icons and they open just as they would on any other operating system and they open rather quick as well. The applications look like real applications. They feel like real applications.

You can change the wallpaper, change how many icons appear on the desktop. It runs very smoothly. Some of the other online operating systems that I have played with are sometimes a bit choppy. This one is rather smooth and feels nice.

It appears as though you can share applications with other users. Might be useful for getting someone started with DesktopTwo.

You can upload and download files into your hard drive. I wasn't able to download a file because I couldn't create one. However, I was able to upload files from my local drive and download them again.

It appears as though they are developing widgets. They have one widget that tells you the time, date and how much hard drive space you are using.

I like the MP3 player and I like the functionality that it provides. I think this would be perfect for me because if I was traveling I could upload my collection of MP3s to this service and simply stream them back to me. I know having the actual MP3 on my computer or a portable device would be better but what if I didn't have room on my hard drive. Better yet, what if I was on the road and was running out of storage space on the hard drive, I could upload to a service like this, download them when I got home and still have the ability to listen to the music. The only problem then becomes the amount of storage that is available on the service and your connection speed to be able to stream them back. You also have to be connected to the service to listen to your music. However, I still think this would be a great way to dump some files off of your hard drive for making room for pictures you have taken on your trip or at least it would for me.

Once they integrate more applications into this service you could very well use it for terminal computing. Got some old computers? Simply connect them to this service, put them in full screen mode and you'd have a fully functioning computer. Yes, you could use a service like CosmoPod.com but this is much faster.

When you click on the browser, if you are using Firefox, it will simply open another tab in Firefox. I'm sure they are working on their own web browser that will be integrated into the operating system soon.

The text editor also functions in the same way, whenever you open it up it opens a text editor in a new Firefox window. I do have to appreciate this though. A lot of times whenever you enter a lot of text into a flash window it bogs down the application. At least that has been my experience with flash based text editors.

Whenever I have tried creating a file and saving it, there has been an error message pop up.

They have a built in search tool for searching your account, Google or Yahoo. However, I was un-able to use it. Whenever I would enter a search term, press enter or click on Go, nothing would happen.

On the front page of DesktopTwo it says that you get 1 gig of free online storage. However, when you look at the hard drive usage information in the information widget, it says that there is a total of 5000 Mb of storage. It says that I am using 1234.6 Mb and that there is 3765.4 Mb free. I am guessing that this is the amount for the installed applications and how much room I have to install more applications.

Conclusions

Online operating systems have most certainly came a LONG way. I remember several years ago playing with one and thinking about how great it would be to be able to have an online operating system that I could take everywhere with me. I cannot remember the name of the service either. All I remember was that it had a red background as the default background.

I think that this will definitely be a great online operating system as long as they keep developing it and as long as more applications are made available for it. I think that they should release this as a download so that organizations and schools can customize it for their needs.

DesktopTwo.com

Article update: Tuesday, September 9, 2008: I have updated the screenshots for this article so that they look good with the wider theme. I had to re-create the screenshots but DesktopTwo looks the same now as it did back in 2006. There are a few minor differences but not many. The only original screenshot in this article is that of the MP3 player. The new MP3 player looks different, more like iTunes.

As I said, DesktopTwo has not changed a whole lot. The only difference that I see now is that they are now powered by Sun Microsystems. They also have a Java based version of OpenOffice.org available through the DesktopTwo application. That makes the service more convenient.

There are also advertisements on the main desktop. They’re not obtrusive. They even dim out if you are not hovered over them.

I also updated this article for grammar and coding errors. Please forgive me if I still missed a ton of grammatical errors. English was never my best subject.

Aptana Studio

Yesterday morning I downloaded Aptana, it is a web development application much like Macromedia Dreamweaver. I've been using it most of the day to work on a new project and I really like it a lot. I think it is very close to being able to steal away Dreamweaver's customers. Best of all its a free application. Even better than it being free is that it’s a cross platform application. You can run it on Linux, Mac and Windows. I thought I would share with you some of the things I like and some of the things I don't like about it.

What I like:

When you first startup the application you are presented with a getting started guide, I guess you could call it. It shows you where everything is, such as where the files are located, where the code assist view is, where the code checking is. Things like that. It’s really is useful if you're switching from another program.

Whenever you are typing code it will pop up (unobtrusively) and tell you whether the code will work with Firefox or Internet Explorer while it also suggests code to you. I find that very useful and I personally think it would make a person become a better web developer.

Also, whenever you are typing code, if that code is incorrect it will display an error message down in the error checking area of the program. It doesn't come up and beep at you and the best part of it is that it is live, you don't have to wait until you've wrote a whole page of code to find out there is a problem.

One of the other features that I found extremely useful as I was using Aptana yesterday was the code outline view that is always present on the right side of the screen. For example, yesterday I was working on a CSS file for a WordPress website. I needed to quickly get to the part of the code where I defined the style for the sidebar. You can simply scroll down the code outline view and find where you've defined style for a particular element. I really found this to be very useful.

Another feature I found useful but probably not one that I will use very often. I could be wrong, but I didn't use it any yesterday other than to see what it did. There is a way to change the perspective of your coding environment. You can change it to a debugging mode, a team synchronization mode and a resource mode. I'm interested in seeing what the team synchronization mode does and I wonder how it would work.

As I worked with Aptana yesterday I realized that I was able to more quickly identify problems with my code and also, I was able to see errors in my code from the previous day that I never saw in Dreamweaver. One of the reasons for this is because of the layout of Aptana. Its got the code centered on the screen. The second reason is due to the live error checking feature. With Dreamweaver I always forget to open the validation panel and validate my code.

What I don't like:

Like Dreamweaver, with Aptana you can define your website into a project. This bundles all of your files together into a folder. I really like this feature a lot. The only problem that I had with it was that whenever I would close Aptana and re-open it I could not figure out how I could re-open that project. You can navigate to the folders using the file viewing window but I could not figure out how to re-open a project.

Something that some people will immediately be disappointed with if they use Aptana is that it does not contain a WYSIWYG environment. For me this is fine because I never (try not to) use the WYSIWYG environment in Dreamweaver. If you do use that feature of Dreamweaver you will miss it in Aptana because it is simply a coding program.

One thing that I do miss with Aptana is whenever I am typing code in Dreamweaver and I need a color, Dreamweaver will pop up a dialog with colors I can choose. I really like that a lot but I know I should probably be more prepared for what colors I am wanting to use 😉

Final Thoughts:

I really like it. I am planning on at least trying to use this as my main web development program. I know there are still a few problems with it but from what I saw yesterday, I really like it. I also think that there is finally a shift for more good free and open source web development applications that are cross platform. Also, they're not even a version 1.0 application yet and they've already got a lot of great features. I'll definitely be happy to see what they can come up with between now and version 1.0.

Aptana: The Web IDE

Article update: Thursday, September 11, 2008: I’ve updated this article with new screen shots. Unfortunately, I was unable to acquire a copy of Aptana build 0.2.0.10299 which is what the review above is based on. I’ve been re-doing the screen shots here on TechButter so that they all look good with the new theme. In my opinion, the layout and design of Aptana has only been slightly altered.

Since publishing this article in 2006 I have been using Aptana a lot. There was a while when I was developing with Taco HTML Editor but now that I have my PC back up and running I am using Aptana again. I would have used it on the Mac but it was way too slow on there.

I am pleased to report that the problem I mentioned above regarding the project management feature has been fixed and improved. You can now create a project and easily return to it after you close and re-open the program.

There are a couple of things that bug me with the latest version. First, as you open files there is a Java program that opens called “theAwtToolkitWindow.” I personally find it really annoying. Second, I wish there was a way to turn off the code auto complete.

Otherwise, I think it’s a great application and they are constantly improving it. There are now two versions. A free version and a professional version which costs $100. They have additional purchasing options. Also, they have a couple of new products: Aptana Jaxer and Aptana Cloud.

Windows Terminal Ware

About Wtware & Reasons For Use

If your business has an assortment of old computers that are planned for removal, you may want to re-consider that plan once you learn more about Wtware. What is it? Wtware allows you to take a really old computer and turn it into a Windows terminal workstation, with very little effort and nothing to install on the client workstation. The only requirement is that you have a Microsoft Windows Server (2000 or 2003) that has Terminal Services Server installed.

Once you get your server set up for accepting clients, you can then insert a CD, floppy, USB thumb drive or use your network card to boot onto the server and use it as a normal workstation. There is nothing to install (unless you want to) and the only thing the computer is doing is displaying to you the desktop on the server.

The beauty of it is that you've saved money by reviving old hardware and the added benefit of only having one machine to install software & updates on. Also, since the machines are now running off the server they will be much faster and to make them faster you will only have to upgrade one machine.

Problems I Had

Unfortunately I ran into problems while I was testing out the software. The first problem arose when I tried testing the software out on my laptop. My laptop is quite old. I do have a PCMCIA network card installed in it, however, Wtware cannot detect my network card during the bootup process but that is the case with almost any other operating system I have had on it, even Windows.

The second problem I came across was with the other computer I have that I tried it on. It did detect the network & video cards without any problems. However I could not get it to accept a default configuration, it seemed as though it wasn't happy with any of the configurations that I chose. It kept asking me to go through each test for the video card again and again even though I had already entered the information into the configuration file on the server for the specs of the machine I was trying to boot from.

Successful Test

Fortunately, I did have a successful test of the software. I opened up Vmware server and created an empty virtual machine. I booted the virtual machine using the Wtware ISO image I had made and previously burned to CD to try and boot the other two machines. This time it worked. I was able to configure everything correctly and in a short amount of time I was booted onto my server.

Easy to setup

Wtware is fairly easy to set up. All I had to do was to install the software and then create a boot disk. You'll follow a wizard to enter DNS & DHCP information. Once you do that you'll burn the ISO image to a CD, take it to the computer you plan to use as a terminal and run some tests to see which settings will work best on that terminal. After that, you'll return to the server and make a configuration file (the name of the file will be that terminals MAC address). You'll enter a few settings in there, return to the other computer and you should be able to boot that computer onto your terminal server, very quickly.

Gripes

Although I think this is a great application I do have a few gripes about it. The first gripe that I have is that the license you purchase can only be used on ONE network card, one MAC address. That means it is tied to that network card, forever. The license is $20. If I'm going to spend $20 on something I should be able to use it on any machine I like and move it to any machine I like. Now, if the license was down in the $1 or $2 range, I might not care. This is one case where I think they should charge a fee for their software ($20 maybe) and then charge a much, much lower rate for the licenses ($1-$2).

The free version also has banner ads that are obtrusive. I realize that they need to be able to get people to upgrade to the paid for version, but why does the ad have to be obtrusive? They are marketing their free version to libraries and schools who can't afford their software.

Free Alternative

After my gripes section above a thought comes to mind. Would I actually pay for and use this software? No, I probably wouldn't. Why? Whenever I need to connect to a Windows terminal server and the machine I am using does not have an operating system already; I would probably simply insert a live Linux CD (DSL, SLAX, Puppy, Ubuntu, etc) and simply use the Terminal Server Client software that is already pre-installed and connect to the remote server. Granted, this process is not as fast as Wtware, but it would work and you could use this alternative on as many machines as you like, without banner ads.

Learn More

Now, I realize even though this program isn't for me that there is truly a market out there for it. I can see businesses that are needing more computers but can't afford brand new computers using this. It is honestly a lot better than waiting on a live Linux CD to boot, then connecting to the server, every time you need to use it.

Windows Terminal Ware