I think a lot of users are under the mistaken impression that Jolicloud is some kind of newfangled cloud-based OS. It is, kinda, and it’s easy to see why you’d think this when you log in to your Jolicloud account for the very first time:
Though the app installer itself is brand-new, Jolicloud is built upon two pre-existing technologies, both of which I will now demystify for you.
In Mozilla Labs‘ own words:
Prism is an application that lets users split web applications out of their browser and run them directly on their desktop.
This means that every Prism “app” is, in fact, a separate and dedicated instance of the Firefox web browser engine. This makes using multiple Web 2.0 services simultaneously more stable — if a Prism app locks up other Prism apps are unaffected. If you’ve ever had Firefox freeze up on you with multiple tabs and/or windows open you’ll appreciate this.
Also, Prism apps aren’t burdened with the extra navigational elements of a standard Firefox window. This makes for a more efficient use of the real estate on your display — a definite plus for small-screened netbooks.
One disadvantage of Prism is that there’s no support for plugins, so you won’t be able to (for example) block ads. Also, there’s the occasional hiccup where clicking a link in a Prism app won’t open Firefox proper, but instead another instance of the same Prism app. But for me, the convenience and stability outweigh these two minor annoyances.
If your Jolicloud desktop looks suspiciously like the Ubuntu Desktop Remix that’s because it is. Jolicloud is built on the foundation of Ubuntu 9.04, and though the standard Synaptic Package Manager is hidden from view, launching it is as easy as opening up a Terminal window and entering the following command:
Do this and you’ll be able to raid all the standard Ubuntu software repositories and/or add your own.
I suppose you could even forsake the Jolicloud login & Prism apps altogether and run the OS like a standard Ubuntu installation. You’d still have the benefits of GMA500 support out of the box, but you’d also run the risk of breaking your install if you tried downloading new drivers and such outside of the official Jolicloud Updater.
Hopefully, this sheds some light on how Jolicloud works. As I stated off the top it’s my favourite netbook Linux of the moment!