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James Gardner: Home > Blog > 2008 > gOS 2.0 Rocket Review

gOS 2.0 Rocket Review

Posted:2008-01-09 12:38
Tags:Web, Software Releases, Desktop Software

gOS Rocket is the second release of Good OS LLC's operating system nicknamed the Google OS because rather than relying on traditional desktop applications, gOS is set up for you to work online instead and has icons launching many of Google's applications placed directly on the desktop.

Many tech sites are making a big deal of this talking about how gOS allows the user to move their applications into the cloud, a name used for applications which run over many servers on the internet. In reality gOS is nothing more than a copy of Ubuntu with a customised enlightenment install instead of Gnome, and released under a more restrictive license than the original Ubuntu. Despite this obvious fact I can't help but get very excited gOS myself because the fact gPCs are selling in large quantities means this OS does mark a significant shift in the way ordinary consumers of technology are thinking about what an application is.

Here's a quick overview of the install as well as a few screenshots. I'd encourage you to download and burn it yourself if you are interested though. Installation is easy enough. You use bittorrent to download an ISO image which you burn to CD. After rebooting gOS live loads which lets you try the operating system without installing it and without it changing any settings on your computer.

As gOS boots you see a green screen with the gOS logo and a bar moving from left to right. A nice touch is that the bar moves with sinusoidal motion, slowing down as it reaches each end as if you are actually watching it side on as it moves around in a circle. You can see this release is still a bit rough around the edges though because after the previous screen disappears lots of usage messages are printed for each line of text output during the boot because some command is being used with the wrong arguments.

After a minute or two gOS finishes loading (it would be a lot quicker if you installed it rather than running from CD-ROM) and without clicking any buttons or having to sign in you arrive at the desktop:

gOS Desktop

The first thing you notice is the new application launcher at the bottom of the screen. This now resembles the Mac OS X Tiger dock even more closely with the icons growing larger as you move the mouse over them and extra applications you lauch appearing on the left of the bar. It does feel rather slick.

gOS Dock

Here I've got my mouse over Google news and have both Firefox and the Gimp running (their icons are on the right).

The icons on the dock are:

Firefox Web Browser GMail GTalk Google Calendar Google Docs and Spreadsheets Google Reader Google Maps Google News Google Finance Google Product Search gBooth YouTube Blogger Facebook Wikipedia Meebo Skype Xine Movie Player Rhythmbox Music Player Box.net Tech Support

The gOS-specific applications you may not have heard of are gBooth, Box.net and Tech Support. gBooth is supposed to let you use a web cam but clicking the icon gives this error page on a Plesk-hosted website which hasn't been configured yet. So that doesn't work at all (not too great a start):

../2008/01/gos-20-rocket-004.thumbnail.png

The Tech Support icon loads <a href="http://faqly.com">faqly.com</a> in Firefox which you can visit from any browser and is just a simple question and answer site which isn't too interesting.

The box.net icon is more interesting and loads this in Firefox:

../2008/01/gos-20-rocket-005.thumbnail.png

When you click register as individual you are asked to edit your credit card details but it states you will only be charged the $7.95 per month after the 14 day trial period. You have to remember to cancel your trial or you will be charged.

../2008/01/gos-20-rocket-006.thumbnail.png

Box.net is a nice service but there is no integration with the rest of the gOS desktop so there is no advantage of using it with gOS rather than on any operating system with a web browser.

One of the main features of this 2.0 version of gOS was supposed to be the inclusion of Google Gears to enable offline access to certain web applications. This isn't actually installed for you when you load Firefox you are shown the screen below for you to install gears yourself. The other link (supposed to be a list of gears applications) just shows an untitled blank page at the moment.

../2008/01/gos-20-rocket-003.thumbnail.png

Although the gears installation routine all completes successfully and the <tt>Google Gears Settings</tt> option appears on the <tt>Tools</tt> menu, gears doesn't actually work. I've tried re-installing twice so I'd consider this a bug. SInce it was supposed to be a major feature of this release it is a bit disappointing.

Until gOS actually integrates features into the desktop it will be nothing more than a slightly flaky Linux install with some links to web pages. The concept is a good one but the implementation doesn't live up to the hype. Perhaps the most impressive thing about gOS isn't gOS itself, but rather the fact that the free web applications it relies on have evolved to the stage where they genuinely can be used to replace desktop applications.

Despite the slightly negative comments about the beta so far I'm still going to be watching the releases with interest as gOS really does represent the future and it won't be too many years before I am using it or something similar as my main desktop.

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Posted:2008-01-09 13:28

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