Sunday, 13 April 2008

My review of gOS Space

You will all no doubt be aware that a few months back I reviewed the original gOS, and I was enthusiastic about it. In my opinion, the original gOS was a great Linux distribution for the average computer user - someone who used it to write up a few documents, send a few emails, and surf the Internet a bit. With its emphasis on web apps, it was not only an ideal operating system for casual users, but was an indication of where desktop computing appears to be headed, with the real work being done "in the cloud", with the desktop just the front end for that.

Subsequently, gOS Rocket was released, but I never got round to reviewing this, mainly due to hardware issues (I couldn't get it working with my wireless connection). I tried it, and there was very little improvement over the original - a slight difference to the iBar, and a few extra applications.

But now, gOS Space is here, and it's a radical departure from the original. So, once again I downloaded a copy and gave it a try.

One thing I noticed straight off is the size. gOS Space is around 768MB, too big to fit on a CD-ROM, so you'll need to burn it to a DVD-R instead. Like it's predecessors, gOS Space is based on Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon, so you know right from the start that it's going to be easy to use.

The biggest change to gOS is the desktop: they've dumped Enlightenment (although apparently code from Enlightenment is still being used), switching instead to Gnome (as used in Ubuntu). I was a bit sceptical about this, not being a great fan of Gnome, but having seen it, they've done a fantastic job with it. Check out the awesome desktop:


It's radically different to the previous gOS desktop, but retains the same ethos behind it, with the concentration on web apps, accessible through the dock, in addition to the usual applications as used by Ubuntu, which are available from the menu in the top left corner:


This picture really doesn't do justice to the wonderful little animation you get when you mouse over an icon on the dock - they glow blue and rotate. Great little touch, and makes it look really user-friendly.

In place of the existing dock, they've used the excellent Avant Window Navigator, and have included a feature similar to OS X Leopard's Stacks to enable many links to be activated from one icon:



The theme used for the application windows is simple but stylish:



Now, it would be fair to say that the desktop still owes much of its inspiration to OS X, but it's not just copying the Mac graphic interface. The switch to Gnome means they can include Compiz, always one of the great advertisements for Linux:


And, of course, under the hood it's Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon, so it's among the easiest of Linux distributions to use.

The inclusion of the Stacks-style feature means that they can fit a lot more links in than previous versions of gOS, so for each item there are several choices. For instance, look under Music and you'll see, among others, Jango, Imeem, Last.fm, and Pandora. Equally, look under Videos and you'll find YouTube, Google Video and MySpace TV. The apps are generally well chosen, and there are more available from the menu, including all the old favourites from previous versions of gOS such as GMail and Google Reader.

The name, of course, is no accident: gOS Space is aimed at people who use MySpace. There's an entire stack devoted to MySpace, as well as links to add the new applications to MySpace (shame that MySpace still persists in not allowing you to edit your profile in anything other than IE). The News stack is not something you'd use for serious news: the links are for MTV News, MySpace News, and Perez Hilton - basically they're concentrated on celebrity gossip rather than news:



Cosmetically, gOS can't be faulted. It's a truly stunning desktop - if anyone ever tells you that Linux doesn't have a nice desktop, just show them this and watch them eat their words!

Space is more like Ubuntu than any previous version of gOS - the file manager is Nautilus, the terminal is the same one Ubuntu uses, in fact I could only find one application in Ubuntu that isn't in gOS (namely Ekiga Softphone, but then it has Skype instead, which is more widely used, so that's not a great loss). So there's certainly no problem in terms of functionality. You could just as easily use gOS Space to do serious coding or compile a new kernel as with Ubuntu - the sources list for APT includes all the Ubuntu repositories, so anything in Ubuntu is also available for gOS.

In all honesty, I can't find a single thing to dislike about Space. The only drawback is the larger size, meaning you need a DVD instead of a CD, but that's not a big deal, as it doesn't seem to be any slower than Ubuntu. It will appeal to people far outside the usual group of Linux enthusiasts, and will help to get people using free software, even if they don't give two hoots about open source. Personally, I won't be using it as my main OS, being very much a KDE man, but I would be more than willing to recommend it to a less computer-literate friend or relative. If the Everex MyMiniPC were to become available in the UK with this installed, I'd be straight down to buy one, as it's a fantastic deal regardless of what OS you wind up using on it, so the fact that gOS Space is such a great distro is even better.

I do have a few suggestions, though. I still think that Flock might be a good fit for gOS instead of Firefox, due to its integration with social networks. I also think that it could do with a good application launcher similar to Quicksilver - fortunately there's an excellent candidate for this in Gnome Do, which is not yet in Ubuntu, but I believe is available from Hardy Heron onwards. Finally, I'd suggest the creators add a link for a social bookmarking service such as del.icio.us or Ma.gnolia, as these are extremely useful web apps that would prove very useful for many casual Internet users.

If you're a casual computer user who doesn't want to use Vista, this may be a great OS for you. If you like the Mac desktop, but aren't willing to shell out the exorbitant price for one, this also may be ideal for you. It's a great choice as a first Linux distro, and if you want to use Linux but the rest of your family don't, this may well be the distro to make them change their minds. If you want to try it, here's the link to the homepage. gOS Space could well be a distro that changes a lot of people's minds about just how easy to use Linux can be.

13 comments:

Keshav Khera said...

Wonderful review Matthew. You must have changed the view's of many about gOS. I will soon be getting it. I'd mail then to provide the torrent, even if they don't by tomorrow, i'll get it anyhow. Love the new desktop and Gnome integration. And better it's based on ubuntu.

exelens@gmail.com said...

Hi )))

I wrote review 2
but only on Russian language
http://it-talk.ru/?p=104

Sid said...

Nice introduction to gOS space. I would only be happy if the cd is bootable in all hardware. Currently I m trying gOS E in my desktop which I had a hard time to boot (I used a kubuntu CD to go into the boot menu and then inserted the gOS CD. The looks are absolutely stunning. But I wish there was an easy way configuring an ADSL connection for newbies. The problem stems from Ubuntu, it seriously lacks a gui program to setup a ADSL connection. I am still trying to get try out the WWW with my home ADSL connection.

NICHOLAS said...

wow! cool review matt... I think you made me change opions about the gOS... Now i feel like migrating to Gos

August29of73 said...

I think it is just plain dumb that they started out with Facebook integration in previous versions and then totally dropped it in favor of MySpace in this version. I understand "adding" MySpace, but subtracting a feature that already provides function and value is just plain STUPID! Besides, MySpace sucks!

Robinson said...

Thanks so much for the great review!!!
Thanks to you, I've looked to try gOS space now

vi said...

I thought this was an excellent review (it is still a very good review) until you mentioned Flock. After that these thoughts went through my head:
1. Is he really as sane as he sounds in the rest of the article?
2. Is he one of those nutty idealistic, revolutionary zealots promoting unripe desktop linux instead of writing documentation for it or reporting bugs?
3. Does he have any sense of usability?
4. Did he ever try to use Flock as a main browser?
5. Does he live in a barrel and is familiar with the trends, market dynamics and so on only in his own niche?
6. Does all this undermine the credibility of the whole article?

Flock is a piece of hobbyist software and if it replaced Firefox it would (petty much) lock the whole gOS into the same category (of hobbyist software).
I think they are aiming for, and are, better than that.

MattBD said...

Whew, vi, I'm guessing you don't like Flock very much! I have to admit, I don't use Flock as my main browser, but it depends on what you use it for. Considering that the target audience for something like gOS Space is non-technical users whose interests online will typically be in things like Facebook, YouTube etc, I simply felt that Flock might be a good fit for the operating system. I actually think it's a good browser if social networking is your primary motivation for going online. It's not for everyone - I would not want to use it as my main browser, but then I'm not the target audience.

Dave Liu said...

Hi Matthew, wow.. I felt like I was reading my own thoughts again when I read your review. We really saw this as another way to build a bridge between Linux and non-Linux users. Great! :-D Thanks for the great review. -Dave

Anonymous said...

when instaling gos it does not recognize nvidia geforce 8400 cards

your just left with a 800x600 screen

any ideas how to change this to 1680x1050

MattBD said...

Thanks for your comments everyone! Sorry I haven't been able to respond as fast as I'd like to, but unfortunately I recently moved to a house without an Internet connection (hopefully that will be changing soon).
Dave - thanks for your comments! Hope my feedback, as well as that provided by everyone else, has been useful and will help to make gOS even better!
Sid - Do you have a wireless router? If not, that wouldn't be a bad investment as most of them have a browser based interface that you can use to set up your Internet connection easily from any browser. My D-Link router has one and it makes it easy to get an ADSL connection working in Linux. Quite apart from the advantages of using wireless!
Anonymous - have you tried Envy? That might do the trick.

Mike Peter Reed said...

My two cents:

1. gOS is probably the best desktop experience I've had with Linux out-of-the-box in a long long time.

2. I agree with the commenter above, MySpace sucks!!

Still, it's not too hard to reconfigure the doc to your liking.

BTW, I am primarily a MacBook user and I'm glad Linux distros are starting to favour simplicity and hide the complexity. I'm hardly a novice computer user but I'd rather use a computer to be immediately productive than have to futz about with the OS first. With gOS the OS gets out of the way, and the "eye candy" is functional for the most part without being a resource hog. I was very skeptical when I booted the LiveCD but I was really surprised it ran so well from optical media! I guess it's a sign of tight code and the fact it's very much about using apps from the cloud rather than locally.

Kev And Charlotte said...

Wow, i've installed a bunch of UBUNTU's on my laptop, and ALL of them i've had to fudge with the wireless for a while -- for some reason gOS SPACE works with teh wireless straight from the boot disk!! What strange paradise is this!!

I now have a triple boot laptop. But man... what's with the "NEWS" stack? Would it kill them to put GOOGLE NEWS in there somewhere in between "Perez Hilton" and "MTV NEws" ?????