Netbook: Jolicloud

While searching through DistroWatch for netbook specific distributions, I stumbled on Jolicloud.  This version is labeled “pre-final release”, but it seems pretty solid.  Jolicloud is another Ubuntu derivative, this one based on  Jaunty Jackalope.  It comes with a desktop launcher similar to Ubuntu’s netbook remix, except that it displays all disk volumes on the main screen.

Installation went off without a hitch.  WiFi connected without any complaint.  Apparently it’s been tested against a substantial list of netbooks.

There’s no synaptic package manager in Jolicloud.  Instead, you must sign on to the free Jolicloud service.  Once connected to the Jolicloud app, you can download applications.  There also “social” aspects to Jolicloud, which are pretty much lost on me.  One interesting twist is that some of the downloadable apps are actually websites, which are wrapped by Mozilla’s Prism framework.  Websites such as Google docs, Netvibes, and LinkedIn become first-class application icons available on desktop launcher.  In fact, the Jolicloud app itself is a Prism application.

The basic browser is Firefox.  It comes with Flash, but not with Java.  There’s no easy way of installing the Java plugin.  Chrome is available from the Jolicloud installer.

Surprisingly, there’s no email application in the default installation.  You can download Evolution and Thunderbird from the Jolicloud installer, as well as Prism applications around Gmail and Yahoo mail.

Movies and music run fine from the Totem Movie player.  All codecs are already installed.  Music plays directly from the Nautilus file browser.

No office apps are in the base distribution, but you can easily download Open Office, Abiword, or others.

Skype loads directly from the Jolicloud app, and everything about it works.  This was even easier than the Ubuntu netbook remix install.

The only problem I’ve seen so far is that the desktop launcher crashes occasionally.  OK, that’s a pretty serious problem, but hopefully they can resolve things before things go “final”.  Also, the Prism basis around the Jolicloud app means that searching for apps suffers from slow page refreshes.  Again: fix it.

In general, this seems like a pretty solid choice for general netbook users.

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