From GNU/Linux to Warhammer & back again!
A look at an out-of-the-box, Ubuntu based Linux distro with a bias towards computing in the cloud!
No matter if you are a Linux user or not, everyone seems to talk about the new GoogleOS which is due to arrive next year. These “big name” steps that are being taken to providing cloud computing will change the way we look at our net experience, where we store our data and more importantly answer the question is it possible to live off and be happy with an online apps solution.
Looking at xPUD, which is currently in an early release of 0.9.2, the first thing to strike you is the size of the download (and subsequent space it requires for a HD install) which is 60 meg approx and 50 meg approx respectively. After burning the .iso you are ready to rock and roll, so lets take a look at this tiny distro. Which has already some competition from other tiny distro’s out there.
xPUD is Ubuntu based, which usually means theres at least a “minimum standard” to expect. I don’t think theres much debate that Ubuntu has taken the Linux platform far with it being one of the most popular distributions available. Couple that with a lightweight xfce DE and you’re in for a treat.
Booting in approximately 8 seconds, you are presented with a simple, clear interphase. Having covered other “browser based” distro’s here, the first impression is that xPUD is very polished and the custom menu system which “protects” users from going astray is very nice. The four large icons to the left of the screen pretty much contain the features you would expect. The settings tab includes plain English (or the language you selected at bootup) and simple interfaces, making configuration of your hardware easy. Theres no real room for error with the simple setups for your network, display can easily be changed as can sound & language. Its in the settings tab that you can install more software (to your HD if you require), although if this is being used in a kiosk scenario that probably would not be needed. For those that are wanting more packages for maybe an HD or SSD install, Opt-Get handles that task, again with a simple UI.
You also have the file tab which offers you a GUI file manager which is handled in this instance by PCMan 0.5.1.
Hardware was detected flawlessly at bootup and there were no issues on the test machine whatsoever. 9 seconds to boot and be net ready is fantastic for a LiveCD in my opinion.
The default packaging of any distro is important in my opinion, with this being an intended browser based distro, its only right that the first thing we should cover is the web browser, which is handled by Firefox 3.5.5 the latest version. Since running Chromium, I have not kept up with Firefox but in this implementation it operates very quickly and has no issues. You have an option to call up a terminal should you wish and theres also an installed media player (gnome-mplayer 0.9.8)
Now we move onto the web apps. Since you have a browser its pretty academic what web apps you use but there are links on the menu tab for Facebook, Google Calendar, Meebo and Youtube.
Compared to other browser based distros that Ive covered here, xPUD is extremely polished. The menu that greets you is clean, attractive and simple. Even the most IT challenged would have no difficulty in getting to grips with it in a very short space of time. Hardware was recognised without issue and the bootup shutdown times are without doubt the fastest Ive seen in a distro to date.
So now I need to say what I think was missing, since this is still early in its release, these are not complaints or critisms about xPUD, infact all of the suggestions are minor and can be achieved by the user themselves at runtime. Lets take a look at some of those things.
Online Apps – I expected to see a Google apps link as default on the menu system. Youtube is pretty much a household name and really I don’t think it needs its own shortcut. Meebo is fine, however I don’t believe there is IRC access with that and I would have either liked to have seen a bundled small IRC app or atleast a link to a web based one.
Display – The display settings are easily changed which is good, however it would probably be wise to have a timer “reset to default” in case your chosen resolution is out of range of your monitor. (Having said that with a 9 second boot, its hardly an issue)
Install options – Obviously this is a LiveCD although there is an optional .exe to install from Windows. What is missing is an install option as default through the LiveCD itself. It can be installed although messing with Grub is not the simpliest of beasts for those who don’t like the CLI or have little Linux experience (IMO)
At the end of the day though, I strongly recommend this distro. Provided you have no hardware issues this is ideal for a friend or family member that wants to get online without the hassle of learning anything. Its great in a kiosk environment and I can see this being fantastic for my little Acer One Netbook (I will be looking at this shortly)
Visit the home of xPUD and support this project! What a fantastic piece of work and a real credit to the devolopers who have obviously spent alot of time making this Linux experience as painless as possible.
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org