I’m a tech- and gadget-phile, but I’m not really tech-savvy; I just want my shit to work. So when a generalized dislike of Microsoft and insufficient funds for a new Apple laptop combined to inspire me to get a netbook with the Ubuntu version of open-source operating system Linux pre-installed, I found myself drowning in system hang-ups, compatibility issues and other problems.
(If you understood less than 25 percent of that last sentence, don’t worry about it. I wouldn’t have either before this whole fiasco. Go read something else, today I’m recommending Florida Sportsman or anything by Vonnegut.)
It’s not that Linux is a bad alternative to Windows or OS X. It’s just that, to me, it seems designed more for die-hard computer lovers who like to tinker, customize and innovate endlessly. I don’t want to tinker, customize or innovate. I want to connect to my home’s wifi network, see images and videos on the websites I visit, hear sounds, and get my documents to look the way I want ’em, all of which were either hard or impossible to do via the version of Ubuntu that came installed on my Dell Mini 12, and various other versions of Linux that I tried. (To be fair, Dell screwed the pooch by using some obscure hardware that isn’t properly supported by Linux, then went ahead and put the software that didn’t support it on the damn machine.)
After a lot of frustration and alternative-seeking, I found a Linux-based, netbook-specific OS by a French company called Jolicloud, and so far, it’s turned out to be pretty much exactly what I was looking for. Sort of a cross between Linux and the emerging Internet-based operating systems that keep everything in an online “cloud,” Jolicloud is basically Ubuntu For Idiots Like Me, people who don’t want Windows but also don’t want to have to go to the command-line terminal to get new applications or tweak instructions to make something work. The system is optimized specifically for a long list of netbooks, automatically installing the software and drivers that help your particular portable computer work best. It also has its own version of an app store, where you can click on supported applications you want and have them installed without having to navigate a synaptic package manager or open a behind-the-scenes terminal. (Again, if you just read “bleep bloop blip,” don’t worry about it.)
On the cloud/Internet end of things, Jolicloud is also optimized for social networking, and has its own sort of social network of system users and fans. But if you’re not down with Facebook and Twitter and all that crap, you don’t need to participate. The bottom line is, Jolicloud is a simple alternative netbook OS that boots quickly, is easy to learn and use, and works well on my Mini 12 when no other Linux version would without serious overhaulage. And after the hell I (and a couple of my more tech-savvy friends) went through trying to figure out what was wrong with my netbook, that’s plenty enough for me. So thanks, Jolicloud community.
CNET Jolicloud Preview, August ’09 (and the system’s come a long way since then)