Jolicloud is one of the more interesting entrants in the near-future competition for a cloud-based netbook OS.
Like its closest competitor, Google Chrome, it's a shade of Linux that's unrecognisable on the surface, built over an older version of Ubuntu with a browser-based veneer.
Installation and performance are essentially identical to Ubuntu's 9.04 UNR, so you get the same rapid boot up, the same battery life and the same hardware-dependent suspend and resume. It might not reach the stratospheric battery life that Google's gunning for with its no-hard-drive, no-user-install approach, but Jolicloud is far more likely to work with your current hardware.
The main part of the display is a customised version of Google's Chromium browser, which Jolicloud has nicknamed 'nickel'. It's a cleverly themed, full-screen replacement for Ubuntu's launch menu that feels more integrated than the current Chrome in its namesake OS, and offers plenty of native Linux goodness.
This is because its main function is to act as an 'app store', enabling you to install applications from a list of hundreds, presented in a pleasing, icon-centric interface.
Many web-based tools, such as Twitter and Google Docs, lock themselves into the Nickel window and look like part of your desktop, but you can also install many standard Linux applications, which you can't with Chrome OS.
But we did experience a few problems. The manual partitioning options always failed for us, and the migration of key tools to the cloud means you miss such essentials as a touchpad configuration utility.
Most seriously, if there's no internet connection, Jolicloud shuts down. Without Google Gears, a default installation will be crippled by long train tunnels or trips to the Outer Hebrides.
But these problems can be solved and, for a first release, Jolicloud 1.0 succeeds.
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