Ulteo Virtual Desktop: Running GNU/Linux in Windows: Page 2

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Going through the UVD main menu, you will find a small, but reasonably well-chosen group of applications, whose versions were current approximately last October, including Firefox, the GIMP 2.2, and OpenOffice.org 2.3. Although presumably the final release of UVD will update these versions, fortunately these versions are mature enough that they represent free software reasonably well.

The first thing you'll notice when running UVD is how seamlessly, for the most part, it fits into Windows. Applications started from UVD use Windows widgets, and appear in the Windows task bar, where they be resized or closed as though they were native to the host operating system.

In addition, UVD can use peripherals such as printers that are already installed under Windows. You can share documents back and forth between Windows and UVD applications, and, if you are running Klipper, KDE's multiple clipboard, a copy and paste in MS Word will appear in Klipper.

Overall, any loss of speed is so minimal as to be undetectable on a recent computer, which gives UVD a decided advantage over true virtualization solutions such as WMware. The only problem that occurs is an occasional lag, usually occurring when starting a program or when one has been sitting idle for over ten minutes.

Looking closer, you may notice that integration into the Windows desktop is not quite as close as the first impression suggests. Navigating the file-saving dialogue can also be difficult, since how UVD's file structure hooks in to Windows' takes some figuring. Fonts are not shared between the two operating systems, a limitation that can cause formatting problems if you are opening a document in both. Nor do UVD's desktop and system settings work on the Windows desktop, which most likely sidesteps many potential disasters or complex questions (such as the effort to run multiple workspaces within Windows), but raises the question of why these tools have not been removed. As things are, you cannot even configure a new printer from within UVD.

Further investigation also reveals some limitations in UVD itself. In theory, you can run the apt-get command to upgrade UVD, but I was unable to compete a software installation, either because no new updates are available yet or the repositories are more limited than in a standard distribution.

Other limitations include the fact that you can add applets to the UVD panel, but cannot delete them or have them persist longer than the current session.

For that matter, you cannot close UVD itself once you start it. No Shutdown button appears on the panel or in the menu, and, while UVD appears on the task bar under the name of Kicker, the name given to KDE's main panel, it cannot be closed from the taskbar.

To close UVD, you have to exit from Window or logout -- and then you get the mysterious message from Windows that "a network cable is unplugged." This message seems to signify that the connection to UVD is gone, and may be a limitation of Windows that nothing can be done about, but, all the same, it adds to the impression that Ulteo has spent its efforts so far on getting UVD to run and hasn't paid much attention yet to how it shuts down. Still, no doubt the final release will see some improvements.

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Tags: Linux, Firefox, Microsoft, virtualization, Ulteo

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