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eyeOS: A genuine Web OS

By Dmitri Popov on July 24, 2007 (9:00:00 AM)

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Portable applications can come in handy when you are on the move, but there are situations when using them is not an option. For instance, before you connect an external hard disk or a USB stick to a public computer, you have to ask permission. More importantly, even if you get permission, you can never be sure what kind of nasty viruses and malware you will be getting on your storage device. But why bother with portable applications at all when you can have your very own Web-based operating system bundled with a few essential applications? That's the promise of eyeOS -- an impressive and surprisingly useful open source Web-based OS.

Unlike most Web desktops that require you to create an account and rely on their service, eyeOS offers you two options. The hosted version of eyeOS allows you to create a free account and use the system without getting your hands dirty installing, configuring, and maintaining it. The major drawback of using the hosted solution is that you can't log in as root, which means that you won't be able to install additional applications, among other things.

Alternatively, you can install eyeOS on your own server, which gives you complete control over the system. If you decide to go the DIY route, you'll be pleased to know that installing eyeOS is a complete doddle. Since eyeOS doesn't require a database back end, all you need is an Apache server and PHP. Moreover, eyeOS has its own installer that does all the donkey work for you. Download the latest version of the eyeOS package, unpack it, move the resulting folder to your server, and point the browser to http://yourserver/eyeos/install.php. The installer does the rest for you; all you need to do is configure is a root account and enable the Create New Users feature. Once eyeOS is installed, create a new regular user account and use it to log in to the system.

The eyeOS's Desktop looks a lot like a conventional Linux desktop. There is a Home folder and a Trash can on the Desktop, and you can access all the installed applications using the tab at the top of the window. The green eyeOS button on the Desktop gives you access to Settings and Applications, and you can use the button to run applications from the "command line" as well as close the current session.

The default application bundle may seem a bit too skimpy, but it has all the basic needs covered. eyeFiles is a file manager that allows you to create and manage folders as well as upload and download files and documents. Since you can upload virtually any type of file, you can use eyeOS to store files and documents you might need when you are on the move. The eyeDocs editor caters for your word processing needs. It sports all the essential formatting tools, including different fonts styles, numbered and bulleted lists, tables, and inline images. Although the documents created with eyeDocs are saved with the .eyedoc extension, they are just plain HTML files, so you can download and open them in any HTML editor or word processor.

The eyeCalendar application is a simple calendar that allows you to add and manage appointments and events. However, its usefulness is severely limited by the complete lack of support for calendar sharing and subscription. You can't import or export the calendar, either. Things look a little better for the eyeContacts tool, since you can use it to import and export contacts in the standard vCard format supported by any address book application worth its salt.

eyeOS also features a Web browser called eyeNav. Using a browser in a browser may seem silly, but it actually makes sense: eyeNav leaves no traces of data on the computer you are using, thus providing complete privacy. There is also an RSS reader in form of eyeRSS. It's a no-frills RSS tool that can help you to check your favorite feeds. However, in its current incarnation, eyeRSS is a bit finicky about RSS feeds: there are quite a few that it simply refuses to parse.

Like a conventional OS, eyeOS allows you to install additional applications available in the system's "repository" using the eyeSoft tool. To install an application, log into eyeOS as root, press the eyeOS button, choose Launch App, type "eyesoft" (sans quotes), and press the Run button. This opens the Application Manager with a list of all the available applications grouped by categories. At the moment, this list is pretty short, but there is a perfectly good explanation for that. eyeOS was recently redesigned from the bottom up, and the older applications are not compatible with the new version. You can expect to see more applications in the list as the developers port them to the new eyeOS. However, even the current list contains a few useful applications, such as eyeTerre, which is a Flash-based map viewer that supports Google, Yahoo!, and NASA maps.

While eyeOS is not a dedicated collaboration tool, it does sport a few features that you can use to communicate and share documents with other eyeOS users. The eyeBoard application provides a simple message board where all users can leave messages. If you need to share a document with all eyeOS users, you can do so by simply dropping the document in the Public folder. eyeOS also allows you to create folders visible only to a selected group of users. Right now, creating such a folder requires some manual work, but an upcoming version of eyeOS promises an administration tool that will make this task significantly easier. To create a new shared folder, log in as root, select Group from the Places menu, and create a new folder. To grant a user access to the folder, you have to edit the user's configuration file. To do this, locate the username.xml file (where username is the actual user name) inside your eyeOS installation, open it in a text editor, and add the line <group>sharedfolder</group> right under <group>public</group>. Replace the sharedfolder part with the name of the shared folder you've created.

While the current version of eyeOS is somewhat light on features and the bundled applications have their limitations, this open source Web OS holds a lot of promise. If the developers fix the shortcomings of the preinstalled applications and add more installable tools to the application list, eyeOS has the potential to become a killer solution for mobile users. For now, if you need a no-nonsense lightweight Web-based desktop environment, it's definitely worth kicking eyeOS's tires.

Dmitri Popov is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Russian, British, US, German, and Danish computer magazines.

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on eyeOS: A genuine Web OS

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eyeOS: A genuine Web OS

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.51.229.51] on July 24, 2007 11:50 AM
I believe this kind of OS will become the next Microsoft - Google. Hope an Open Source one will win this war!!

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eyeOS: A genuine Web OS

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.33.169.187] on July 24, 2007 11:58 AM
I gave this a try and it works great. This could be part of the web 2.0 future.

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eyeOS: A genuine Web OS

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.176.92.40] on July 24, 2007 01:01 PM
:O WOW! Installed in seconds and very impressive!!

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eyeOS: A genuine Web OS

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.163.173.14] on July 24, 2007 02:46 PM
can it play mp3s? movies? can we add our own applications?

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eyeOS: A genuine Web OS

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.173.118.215] on July 24, 2007 02:59 PM
The browser that comes with eyeos could use all the plugins, including java that are installed for firefox in the local computer. The browsing history doesn't seem to show up on the parent browser.
But in the web server logs, the source ip address is correctly identified as that of the computer used for accessing eyeos.

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I like the 'ghost'

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.105.214.101] on July 24, 2007 05:18 PM
'http://g.ho.st',
looks pretty good and come with 3G of free storage!

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I also like G.ho.st

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.205.120.23] on July 25, 2007 10:35 AM
I also like G.ho.st free storage they also provide 3rd party intergration, MP3 player and you don't need to concern on data security. they store all data at Amazon.com . Maybe safer than on your PC at home.

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Re: I do NOT like the 'ghost'

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 87.219.251.199] on July 25, 2007 11:09 AM
Not at all! I can't download it to my server and MUST trust their security, so it can't fit in my company plans.

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And again, Flash messes everything...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 200.185.232.96] on July 28, 2007 06:13 AM
If you use FF+Linux=Flash content ALWAYS above al page contents. This happens everywhere, but inside eyeOS it is REALLY annoying...

When the hell Adobe will fix this?

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Accessing the repository

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 206.248.149.123] on July 29, 2007 12:21 AM
The repository is accessed by launching 'eyeSoft', not 'eyesoft'. And click the 'Update' icon for the latest application list.

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FOSS Box.net?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.110.6.227] on July 29, 2007 07:25 PM
It appears that, between eyeFiles and eyeDocs, this package can give you what amounts to an open-source, self-hosted variant of Box.net. Interesting.

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Dinosaur

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.204.223.246] on August 04, 2007 12:36 AM
The "web OS" concept is a retread of mainframe-terminal, which was the background of the "personal" computer revolution. Laptops, USB devices, live CDs, etc. are making it even more obsolete.

Of course certain corporate interests would like to reverse the PC revolution and put people on the web. Google is just one of them.

You really had to stretch to find problems with USB. Who does serious work at "public" terminals? PCs are so ubiquitous now that borrowing one from a friend or at coworker is 95% of cases. Your strained "permission denied" scenario is very artificial. In that case you should be using a laptop.

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eyeos is great but other os's already go much further

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 86.59.50.58] on August 25, 2007 12:54 PM
i like eyeos for its fanciness and open-source code. however, as regards the given possibilities other solutions such as <a href="http:/www.oos.cc">www.oos.cc</a> and desktoptwo go much further. i am wondering what is going to happen with all of these systems...

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Re: eyeos is great but other os's already go much further

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.147.52.188] on September 02, 2007 03:03 PM
The reason why you should try eyeOS is because it's open source which is good because you can develop features for eyeOS by yourself, I don't see many other webos which is open source and is good, maybe one exception it's called eXo Webos (www.exoplatform.com) but its really hard to install and too figure out.

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cmyos.com

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.53.139.179] on August 27, 2007 03:02 AM
http://www.cmyos.com is offering a free hosted version of eyeos. You can try it out and explore its options.

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