Imagine being able to sit down at any ordinary computer in an Internet cafe or public library, start up the resident web browser and access your personal desktop – along with your applications, messages, and information – with a click of your mouse button. Then, when you’re done, you simply close the web browser to have all of the documents you’ve just worked on safely stored on your remote server, leaving nothing on the computer you’ve just been working on.
This is the goal of the mobile desktop and operating system called eyeOS.
EyeOS is a project that was started by a small team of programmers in Barcelona, Spain. It uses the power of today’s HTML, PHP, AJAX and Java script to deliver a dynamic and very mobile desktop environment. The difference from other desktop environments being you launch your eyeOS desktop and applications all from within your web browser. You do not require any software installed on your computer other than a web browser that supports PHP, AJAX and some Java and Macromedia Flash (depending on the apps you’re running).
I work in an engineering office. What got me interested in the eyeOS was the potential this free and open source project shows for today’s corporate office worker.
With everyone being so mobile these days, having your applications and files tied down to a particular computer or corporate network can be limiting at times. However, take those desktop applications, put them on a server connected to the Internet and accessible from any modern web browser and you’ve got your office with you, where ever you happen to be. Add to that the capability of easily document collaboration between system users, and you have the potential of remaining productive no matter where your job takes you.
I could also see where eyeOS would be useful in a school or other multi-user public facility – like a library.
Because messaging happens within the system between the user accounts themselves, there’s no need for anti-spam/spyware software or other such filters. This provides a very appealing environment for collaboration and the exchange of information; especially when you add in the functions of group file sharing within the network.
It’s desktop computing without many of the dangers that threaten other on-line Web computing systems.
Currently, eyeOS is in Beta development and, as I write this, recently released version 0.8.12.
The core applications of eyeOS include a file manager, messenger, contact list, calendar, basic function calculator, message board, web browser, word processor, and some tools for desktop setup & configuration. Basically everything an organized computer user would use on their PDA or cell phone.
On top of these basic apps, there has also been development of a MP3 player, a post-it note utility, blogging software, simple Java spreadsheet tool, live IRC chat client, and a small handful of games.
All of these applications can be downloaded from the eyeOS website and are easy to install to the system.
Here are a couple of my favorite eyeOS apps in more detail:
eyeHome: is your “home base”, so to speak. This application lists the files that you have stored in your private space within the system. It is also where you can launch eyeEdit (the system’s word processor), add contacts to your address book, read your messages from other users and also send new messages to other users.
You can download files from your eyeHome to your local computer, upload new files for storage on the eyeOS server, and delete old files you no longer wish to keep. If a file is supported by your local web brower (like a PDF for JPG file), you can view the contents of the document by simply clicking on the file name.
The “key” feature here is that no files or applications are stored on the local PC (unless you specifically download them). Everything is safely contained on your eyeOS server.
EyeNav: is your system web browser. The benefit of using the eyeOS web browser, in comparison to using the local browser, is if you wish to add a level of privacy to your browsing habits by using your eyeOS server as a “middle man”. Destination web sites “see” the connection originating from your eyeOS server location and not from eyeOS to your present location.
This web browser features the capability of storing bookmarks (now all of your bookmarks exist in one place, no matter which computer you browse from) and built in search engine capability. This allows you to automatically search popular on-line resources, like Google, A9, Ask, Yahoo!, and MSN. You can also do automated search of eBay and Amazon.
eyeOS – Benefits Over Other Systems
So, what makes eyeOS so different from other on-line office tools (like Yahoo! or Writely)? Well, for one thing, eyeOS is not only available from the service provider’s web servers. eyeOS is stored on your own private or corporate servers. So the chance of waking up one morning to find that your eyeOS server is no longer available or has went from a free to payed service is nil.
This also makes your documents more secure, as you are not relying on a third party to store and protect your important data.
Another benefit I see to using eyeOS is future availability. Because eyeOS is built on open source software (PHP, HTML, AJAX) and is released under the GPL itself, if (God forbid) the eyeOS team did cease to exist tomorrow, you could still use and develop the system further on your own. All you would need is someone with some skills in PHP and perhaps AJAX programming to provide your own support for as long as required.
I could not say the same for other on-line services, as many of those – although free to use – keep their source code concealed.
eyeOS – Services & Road Ahead
Recently, the eyeOS team have launched a free eyeOS server to anyone wishing to use the system themselves, but do not want to have to set up their own server. This is provided via their www.eyeos.info site. As of this writing, over 11,000 individuals have registered and have been enjoying the use of the eyeOS desktop environment.
The eyeOS team also offer consulting services for organizations looking for help in setting up their own eyeOS server.
In the near future, eyeOS will be launching version 1.0. It is the goal to implement AJAX throughout the entire system, as well as fine tune the core applications to help incorporate many of the improvements suggested by the eyeOS community.
There are some people that are so impressed with eyeOS (as myself) that they have been contributing ideas, code and documentation to help further develop the system.
Although we keep hearing about the vapour-ware companies, like Google and Microsoft, are working on in the way of web enabled office tools, it’s nice to see a project like eyeOS actually delivering on such ambitious objectives. It amazes me how, more often than not, proprietary developers only TALK about what they’re doing, while the open source community actually invent and DELIVER.
Visit the eyeOS web site for youself (www.eyeos.org) and sign up for your own eyeOS account and see how you can bring your desktop with you, where ever you go.
Manager of the eyeOS Documentation Project.