Choosing an Online Desktop - gHacks Tech News

Choosing an Online Desktop

A few years ago the idea of cloud computing seemed vaguely absurd to me. I infinitely preferred using desktop software to any kind of online alternative and I hated the idea of having my data floating off somewhere in the "cloud".

I liked it here, at my desk... safe.

2 years later and I still prefer using desktop software but have slowly made my data accessible to me anywhere over the Internet. I manage my email through a desktop client but it's also all stored online (Gmail, Hotmail), my bookmarks are all kept in del.icio.us, I use FeedDemon which synchronises my feeds to NewsGator online, my documents are stored in a couple places including Live Mesh and Office Live and all my photos are backed up. I have almost a dozen social network profiles and 5 different email accounts.

In fact the only thing that I hadn't moved online was my actual desktop itself. After trying out the tech preview of Live Mesh my interest became aroused in the whole subject as I wanted something more fully featured.

I managed to find almost a dozen online desktops and gave every single one a trial as I determined which provided the best experience. I've managed to narrow the list down to three.

 

Desktoptwo

desktop two

This was possibly the fastest desktop I tried; menu's opened as snappily as on my PC and icons and windows could be dragged and moved smoothly.

The interface is similar to Windows so you'll have no trouble navigating around the desktop for the first time. A number of programs are provided such as RSS reader, email, media player, Address book, IM and web browser.

The biggest failing of Desktop2 is that there is no office suite. Not Google Docs, not Zoho, nothing. Also only 1 gigabyte of storage is allocated for free accounts and advertising is displayed on the desktop. It's not too bad but it does get fairly annoying with time.

 

OoDesk

oodesk

It's still a little buggy (eg: windows will sit in a "loading" state forever) but still pretty impressive. It follows the Windows interface to the point of having an XP style "start" menu. There really are a lot of application provided and the ability to add plenty more if you wish. It has a good "explorer" style file management system and sharing capabilities.

 

G.ho.st

g.ho.st

G.ho.st has become my favourite online desktop and the one I would most recommend. It's not the fastest, best looking or most stable, but it manages to provide the compromise between all three plus adding in a lot of functionality and does the best job of integrating with online identities and web apps.

There are just so many little things about G.ho.st which make it so much more of a pleasure to use like clicking and dragging to select a number of icons and customizing the desktop. Little things, but ones that a lot of online desktops simply don't have.

You will also get 5 gigabytes of online storage and 3 gigabytes for email. Invite more people to sign up and receive an additional gigabyte for every person who joins. It has two office suites; Google Docs and Zoho, I prefer Docs as its a little speedier although Zoho gives a lot more functionality.

I like G.ho.st because you can really make it feel like your own workspace, and for me that's most of the appeal of working on a PC.





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    Comments

    1. Dante said on May 31, 2008 at 10:03 pm
      Reply

      I had also migrated a lot of my data into online storage so that I may easily access it at any site. But I’ve taken the precaution of archiving them into password protected RAR files. And than the email I store the files in is further encrypted with Steganos. Call me paranoid, but nobody is going to know what I’m doing.

    2. Anton said on June 1, 2008 at 8:13 am
      Reply

      Thanks for your interest in G.ho.st!

      Please note that we also started opening up to the community and already open sourced our mobile client at: http://code.google.com/p/pixie-os/

      The first prototype of the mobile client is available at: http://pixie.testghost.com. It requires an account on our test server at http://qa.testghost.com.

      Happy G.ho.st’ing :-)

    3. Odoiporos said on June 1, 2008 at 9:54 am
      Reply

      Thanks for Ghost! It’s really great!

    4. Solaris said on June 1, 2008 at 9:55 am
      Reply

      What about Jooce?

    5. Anton said on June 1, 2008 at 10:31 am
      Reply

      Re. What about Jooce

      Solaris, what do you think about G.ho.st vs. Jooce? Could you compare the features of both systems and tell us what you think?

      Personally, and yes, I’m biased, I think it will be hard to compare because G.ho.st has many more features.

    6. darkkosmos said on June 1, 2008 at 1:20 pm
      Reply

      Anton Ghost probably has more features than Jooce but I like how Jooce is flash powered :)

      Edit: Tried Ghost, it’s flash driven too, I vote ghost :)

    7. Anton said on June 1, 2008 at 3:45 pm
      Reply

      Thanks! G.ho.st is getting better all time – many more features coming soon – stay tuned! :-)

    8. Wokkel said on June 2, 2008 at 9:45 am
      Reply

      Ulteo has openoffice included and an online storage, with its own network, it looks promissing

    9. WCS.Tony said on June 2, 2008 at 12:28 pm
      Reply

      I often need to access my notes and files when I am away from my PC and do not fancy carrying a laptop everywhere I go. Instead I have been using my own “virtual desktops” by simply leaving a PC on, back at home. I can then log into this PC from any other PC on the web with the fantastic LogMeIn or sometimes CrossLoop.

      Having read this article I thought all my problems were solved and I would be able to download my files to these services and access the files from any old PC – anywhere. I would no longer have to worry about my borrowed PC having a copy of Word, Excel or even if they had an USB drive or CD reader.

      So I registered with all 3 and tried them out – how disappointing!
      They all seem to consume all the resources on this PC and the response is very slow.

      Now I realise that this is a fairly old PC, but I was under the impression that all I needed was something to run an IE or Firefox session. All the processing would be done on the remote computer; this is certainly how LogMeIn works. Such an Online Desktop system would give a new lease of life for all those old PCs and laptops as the processing work would be done on the “server”.
      Just think how many people would use such a system!

      So why do I have these problems?
      Have I missed the point of these services?

      The only one that does not grind my PC to a halt is ULTEO which loads up much quicker than the other 3, it also offers Open Office which should meet all my requirements – so will be testing it out further.

      Come on Desktoptwo, OoDesk and G.ho.st – pull your fingers out and provide a system that can be used efficiently from any old PC or laptop.
      Less bell and whistles and more good old fashioned efficient programming.

      I am rather surprised that good old Google has not waded into this arena with its considerable muscle power and resources. It already has the document reading and storage sorted out, the only reason I do not use it is that most of my reference files are bigger than 500Mb.

      Surely the revenues from targeted advertising to an Online Desktop system would easily pay for itself?
      It would also tie up all the various Google offering – GMAIL, PICASA, CALENDAR, READER etc.

      I will watch this arena with great interest, but for now back to LogMeIn and now Ulteo.

      Thanks for the article!

    10. Josh said on June 2, 2008 at 1:58 pm
      Reply

      Hey Tony!

      I guess these are not true “virtual desktops”. They will not run without a operating system underneath, but I don’t really find it an issue. I don’t so much use it as a subsitute of my own desktop at home, but as a way to access all my files when I am somewhere else.

      So yes, it’s quicker to simply use Google Docs by itself in a browser at home, but when I’m elsewhere I’ll log into G.ho.st instead.

      ULTEO is impressive in the fact it offers up much more featured programs such as firefox and open office with the desktop, but my experience of it was as the slowest of them all. I’m not sure what kind of computer you are running, but I’m surprised we have had such a different experience.

    11. Dotan Cohen said on June 2, 2008 at 11:46 pm
      Reply

      I want to sign up for g.ho.st, but if you post a link where you will get the credit (and additional space) then I’ll sign up via your link.

    12. Josh said on June 3, 2008 at 3:20 am
      Reply

      Why thank you!

      All you have to do is sign up normally and when it is set up you’ll get asked if anyone referred you… just put [email protected]

      Let me know how you like it!

    13. Anton said on June 3, 2008 at 7:52 am
      Reply

      Shalom Dotan!

      You can sign up at http://G.ho.st – press the giant green button on the left and when the login screen opens, click the “Register here” button.

      If you want extra storage – just invite a few friends and you will get an additional 1 GB for each one you invite.

      BTW, if anybody’s interested, I wrote about how it feels to work in G.ho.st at: http://antonbar.blogspot.com/2008/06/working-in-israeli-palestinian-startup.html

    14. Dotan Cohen said on June 3, 2008 at 12:37 pm
      Reply

      Shalom Anton. What I meant in asking was what it Joshua’s referrer ID. Now that I have it, I am signing up. Thanks.

    15. Dream-Achiever said on September 12, 2008 at 5:56 pm
      Reply

      Hi there,
      Have you not tried Mygoya ?
      http://www.mygoya.de/us/

      Regards,
      Dream-Achiever

    16. johnfortich said on October 26, 2008 at 10:48 am
      Reply

      i’ve been looking for something like G.ho.st for a long time.. since i travel alot but wants to keep my desktop and files anywhere i go but not by carrying a laptop.. ive tried jooce or most of other sites elsewhere.. nothing compares to G.ho.st its simply brilliant.. next thing you know this guys will be making a 3D walkthrough virtual desktop.. or webtop.. cant wait.. ^_^

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