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.