At home in the clouds

At home in the clouds
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First Published: Tue, Sep 22 2009. 09 21 PM IST

 Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Updated: Tue, Sep 22 2009. 09 21 PM IST
In today’s world, the computer has evolved from a geeky computational device to an entertainment and social interaction hub. Basically, it’s more personal.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
It’s the operating system (OS) that is responsible for hiding the billions of computations and calculations that happen when displaying all that we see on our computer screens. Whether playing a game, checking email, watching a movie or just poking buddies on Facebook, everything happens in complicated binary, which nobody really wants to see.
So how personal are computers? As personal as our rooms or homes, because we decorate them with wallpapers, install only what we want and tweak settings to better suit our needs.
These days, however, personal computers (PCs) are more like mobile homes, with laptops becoming the norm, and mobile phones being able to compute more. We need to be connected to our information from anywhere, all the time.
So what are our options? Carry a laptop/netbook, struggle with mobile computing or carry our operating systems around on a USB drive. The last one usually sounds good to most people, but USB devices have this terrible habit of getting lost, trampled on, stolen, infected with virus or just dying.
Of course, you could just move everything online.
Everything?
Most of you are probably already aware of the various online services available for just about anything the regular PC user would need: data storage, image editing, office applications, personal information/contacts management and video editing.
Although you could use different applications for each of these tasks, you’d have to download a file from your online storage application, upload it to an online editing application, download it once you’re done, and upload it back to your storage. That’s such a bore to even read about, let alone actually try.
Although a lot of these services are being integrated, they’re still no match for a proper OS and your own PC. So why not move the OS itself online?
EyeOS
There are a number of online operating systems available today and the number is growing steadily.
You could, however, check out eyeOS. Unlike others, it is a free service which also gives you online storage. And since it is also open-source under AGPL3, the advantage is that you can install it on your own server. Other online operating systems don’t give you this freedom.
EyeOS is built on PHP and uses a combination of Web-standard technologies such as HTML (hyper text markup language), JavaScript and CSS (cascading style sheets) to create the UI (user interface). This means it will run on any standard-compliant browser. By itself, it doesn’t require any extra plug-ins. All it needs is a PHP-5 capable server, which is the common denominator for just about any hosting package these days.
Installation
You can run eyeOS on your computer using Apache with the PHP plug-in. The best way is to just install an AMP (Apache, MySQL and PHP) solution such as WampServer or XAMP—though eyeOS doesn’t need a database server such as MySQL.
We’ll consider WampServer as the example for this article, but the installation procedure is almost identical for any AMP package you choose.
After WampServer is installed, you can start it from the program menu. Since MySQL won’t be used, it can be turned off to save resources.
The eyeOS installation package is a zip file, which will need to be extracted to a directory under the server root. In the case of WampServer, it is the www directory in the installation folder (by default, C:\wamp\www\). This folder is where files that will be served by Apache need to be stored. If you wish to install other applications on the same server, you will be better off installing eyeOS in its own directory. We’ve chosen the default \eyeOS\ directory here.
To start installing, open a browser window and head to http://localhost/eyeOS/installer/. It’s a single-step installation and only asks for a root password and a hostname. You can also allow other users to create their own accounts.
You should now be greeted with a login screen. If you enabled user account creation, you can now create your own account by clicking on the New User button. Again, the procedure is as simple as entering a username, password and a default language.
In case you didn’t enable account creation by users, you can log in into the default administrator account, with a username of “root” and the password you entered while installing eyeOS. Shortly, you will be greeted with your own desktop. This desktop is quite similar to the standard UI layout we’re all used to.
Features
EyeOS provides most of the functionality we are accustomed to in any OS.
• A powerful, highly configurable access-control system, with heavily customizable ACLs (access control lists) and support for user groups, and a user management system
• Support for assigning user quotas for disk space
• An in-built configurable cache system
• Support for office document formats using OpenOffice
• A file association management system
• Support for auto-launching application on start-up
• Fully customizable in terms of looks, it comes preloaded with a few themes as its default installation.
A default installation eyeOS also comes with quite a few bundled applications to get you started. Most basic computer applications, such as creating/editing documents, viewing images and even playing games, are covered.
You don’t need to settle for applications that come with the installation though. EyeOS has a large repository of online applications that can be accessed via an in-built software management application. The update system is based on partage, the package management system for Gentoo Linux, so it’s familiar for those with Linux experience.
Is eyeOS your OS?
Whether you are creating a presentation on Google Docs or adding/editing pages on Wikipedia, the sheer power of collaboration that the Internet brings can do wonders, and having it all offered in one place sounds too good to be true. It is, in a way. As always, bandwidth plays spoilsport. Honestly, if you have a Net connection slower than 512 kilobits per second, eyeOS is definitely not your OS.
Is it only for home users? Not at all. In fact, organizations with an eyeOS installation on an intranet server can save quite a bit in terms of operating systems and hardware, and have the added advantage of doing away with compatibility issues and sharing data, because everyone uses common resources and interfaces. It’s a perfect solution for those who do nothing more than everyday PC tasks—games included.
Optimized PHP settings for eyeOS
To optimize the performance of eyeOS, you can make the following changes to your PHP configuration by editing the setting in ‘php.ini’:
max_execution_time: This defines how much time (in seconds) a script is allowed to execute. A setting greater than 60 is recommended.
max_input_time: If you need to upload large files, the default time of 60 may not be enough. Take the connection speed into account when setting this.
memory_limit: Set this based on how much you will be using eyeOS.
post_max_size and upload_max_filesize: The former should at least be more than upload max_filesize.
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First Published: Tue, Sep 22 2009. 09 21 PM IST