EyeOS, an open source Web operating system

* Celebrating the 800th issue of the Web Applications newsletter with a look at eyeOS

This issue of the Network World on Web Applications newsletter is a milestone: The 800th issue! That means our 900th issue will be Oct. 2 next year and the grand 1,000th issue is due Sept. 16, 2008.

For this special issue I have a Web application that I think is equally special. If you check out Gearhead this week you’ll see that the topic is Web operating systems otherwise called Webtops.

Web operating systems are essentially personal productivity environments implemented using Web browsers, AJAX, and other Rich Internet Application technologies with data and additional services being provided by a Web server.

There are only a handful of Web operating systems that are reasonably stable, few that approach mature, and even fewer that are open source. Fitting all of these categories is eyeOS, an open source Web operating system written in PHP.

When you download eyeOS you have the choice of two windows implementations: The MiniServer or the MicroServer. The MiniServer is a complete eyeOS server with a built-in Web server and a custom browser (Microsoft’s .Net framework 2.0 is required). The MicroServer is a fast, lightweight server also with a built-in Web server (but with no system dependencies, i.e. nothing like .Net is required), which uses the default PC browser.

In both cases the package includes a professional installer that will get you up and running in minutes. You can also upload the entire installed file set to any Web server that supports PHP and run the system from the Internet.

EyeOS provides a windowed application environment within a browser window, and application windows have z-ordering, overlap, and can occupy all or part of the browser window.

Users can create accounts that are accessed with a name and password and the system comes with a guide on how to configure eyeOS security for public facing deployments.

The system comes with a selection of applications that includes a simple text only bulletin board, calculator, calendar, WYISWYG editor, browser, a Web browser, RSS reader, contact manager, and e-mail client. There’s also a settings manager and an application manager for installing and uninstalling applications.

If you want to add applications you can check out the eyeOS applications gallery, which provides a remarkable number of applications. Some of the applications you can add include a mapping tool based on Google Maps; a video editor; an Internet radio and MP3 player; an improved RSS reader (the included one is a little rough); a painting program; a port scanner; an IM client; an image gallery; and a remarkable number of games.

If you want to create your own applications there are some quite good developer notes available.

The eyeOS system does have a few problems. Performance is one of them, and with more than two windows open you’ll often get browser warnings that scripts are taking too long to execute along with the standard offer to abort them. Another issue is occasional lockups with the windows becoming unresponsive but that usually clears after a couple of minutes. Another problem is that occasionally you’ll be sent back to the logon screen after launching an application or selecting an option in an application.

What is impressive about eyeOS is that it works and, on the whole works well. As the basis for an intranet or extranet service eyeOS has enormous potential.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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