Open Source

Try Desktoptwo for a Web-based desktop


I was going to write about Microsoft's bid to buy Yahoo and what that would do to open source...but that topic has already been beaten to death. And besides - we don't know if it's going to happen or not (we can certainly hope it doesn't.)

Anyway...

I discovered a fairly nifty tool that can be used to serve as a "desktop anywhere" tool. It's called Desktoptwo. Desktoptwo is a Web-based desktop that acts like a local OS. It's what some seem to think is the next greatest wave of the computing future: Webtop. Companies have been trying for years to get this right, and I believe someone finally has. It's fast to load, it's reliable, it's easy to use, and it's free (as in FOSS.) There is no installation and no fee. The requirements are next-to-nothing:

  • Network attached PC
  • Browser with Flash plugin
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Java

Of course the Flash alone leaves out the iPhone, so it's not as portable a desktop as I would like it to be (although Flash is reportedly coming to the iPhone soon.)

Now, there are ads to deal with. They aren't so much in your face as you would think. At first they are. Once your desktop loads, they come floating out to the near mid-section of the desktop. But then they fade back as if they were nothing more than a watermark on your wallpaper. Hover your mouse over them and, voila!, they are back to the fore. I'm sure the ads will go away at some point - or maybe there's a paid version that won't have ads cluttering up your Webtop. But it's free - what do you expect?

But what does it have to offer? That's the real question. Is it useful? Well, among the tools Desktoptwo offers are:

  • Hard Drive
  • Calendar
  • Mail
  • Website Editor
  • Blog
  • IM
  • MP3 Player
  • Office Programs
  • Message Boards
  • RSS Reader
  • Bookmarks
  • Live Chat

So yeah, it's useful. Of course, from the above list you can see that Desktoptwo is probably not for the hard-core business user. You're not going to be crunching numbers on a database. But it is certainly useful for those who bounce back and forth between more than one computer and have no means of transporting files back and forth. It's also useful for those who need a simple means of collaboration and are not always in the office to use that awesome CMS. Of course it's also useful for those who want to do things such as chat but not leave behind much of a trail for others to snoop or follow.

But mostly, at least to me, it's about supporting FOSS. Sapotek, the company behind Desktoptwo, is a huge supporter of FOSS. Sapotek believes the future is about the user reclaiming their IT space with the help of open source software. And when I contacted the people behind Sapotek, their response to the question, "Do you support FOSS?" was akin to someone asking me, "Do you like Linux?"

"OMG YES!" (To paraphrase my 13-year old stepdaughter.)

I was actually quite pleased. I expected to be returned the standard corporate diatribe extolling the ROI of open source and such. Instead what I got was a warm welcome from what seemed to be a group of very genuine open source fans who happen to be developing something that could turn out to be quite useful. To get a good snapshot of what the people at Sapotek are about, read their blog. It's enlightening.

I've been poking around with Desktoptwo for a few days now. I hope that this product takes off if for no other reason than seeing that a small company with such enthusiasm for open source can make a name for themselves all the while pushing open source technologies. For the longest time Open Source technology received its major push from LAMP and Open Office. It is time that FOSS branched out and started gaining support in other spaces. In my honest opinion I think FOSS will soon start to garner more support in many arenas. And I think Desktoptwo is the perfect example.

And with companies such as Sapotek walking the walk, I think the next few years are going to be something really special for open source technology.

Give Desktoptwo a spin. And while you're at it, contact Sapotek and give them their much deserved kudos for their use of open source techology.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

3 comments
sysop-dr
sysop-dr

Does this leave an open connection from their server back to my desktop, thus pocking a hole in my firewall? What are the security implications of this software, how exploitable will those holes be? Yes I like FOSS software but too often security is left as an after thought or depends on other outside software like SSL and the developers while not meaning to, end up with a system that is too easily exploitable. I have not tried this software yet and will likely not until security issues examined and disclosed and tested. The largest problem with all software these days is security has not got the same level of of activity as features. Much like safety in the manufacturing world security in the computing world has to get to the point where it is the first thing in every developers mind and has the same or higher priority as features and delivery.

Mrjoshua
Mrjoshua

Jack, Thanks very much for the kind words about Desktoptwo and also for recognizing our deep commitment to FOSS. The truth is that a product like Desktoptwo could not have been created by such a small, dedicated team were it not for the fact that so much great software, development kits, etc. are freely available and accessible via the web. This also explains why Desktoptwo is a free product and shall remain so forever. In the end, adhering to the principles underlying FOSS requires more than accepting a particular ethos or philosophy or a desire to cut costs ('tho that may be a motivation for some), but also a respect for the dignity of the user, i.e. people. Long gone are the days (so we hope) where IT decisions are made by others and choices are constrained by socio-economic factors, technological barriers or even the limits of one's knowledge. Users should be free to choose what they want, when they want it and from wherever they may be, which is why the marriage of FOSS with the capabilities of the Web as a platform makes so much sense... and what led us to create Desktoptwo. Desktoptwo, along with the free software community that supports it - Sapodesk - are just the beginning and we look forward to providing more free services and tools as we, and our communities, expand. Thanks again, Joshua Rand CEO Sapotek Inc.

ted
ted

I was just using it, and it seems to be a very nice system. I am hoping that it is secure, but other than that! You got a winner! What is the version of desktop os? It is such a clean interface.. I like it.

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