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Ulteo Virtual Desktop: Letting Linux Do Windows

Ulteo's new beta runs Linux in Windows.

Originally a browser-based Web service that allows users to create, edit and sync OpenOffice.org files, Ulteo has expanded its service to hosting complete KDE desktops on its servers. The new Ulteo Virtual Desktop is an installed application that runs on Windows XP and Vista 32-bit.

At just more than 500 MB, the download is extremely large. Also, the installation is exceptionally slow, taking up approximately 5 GB of hard-drive space. Once installed, though, the Ulteo Virtual Desktop itself loads in a reasonable amount of time and the applications launch just as fast as Windows-based programs on the same PC. Based on coLinux (Cooperative Linux), the Ulteo Virtual Desktop is not a virtual machine or virtualization software--it is a standalone application that comes preloaded with many popular Linux programs.

When the Ulteo Virtual Desktop is opened, a configurable taskbar panel appears. The user can position this panel anywhere along the border of the screen and customize its display options, as well as the shortcut buttons. In the settings menu, the user can choose from three repositories; Stable (the recommended default), Edge and Test. The Test Center was able to run all three without any problems. For those who subscribe to Ulteo's hosting service, the Ulteo Virtual Desktop can be synchronized to their online account.

While Test Center reviewers with Linux knowledge didn't really see the usefulness of the application, others with limited familiarity were wowed by it. The biggest value of the Ulteo Virtual Desktop is in letting newcomers to Linux get acquainted with it in a comfortable, Windows environment. All of the included applications are integrated seamlessly, with easy access to the Desktop and My Documents folders, as well as network connectivity. Similar to the KDE layout, the Ulteo Virtual Desktop's interface is easy to navigate and the included array of graphics viewers and editors, multimedia players, office-based programs, and utilities are intuitive to those unfamiliar with them. Mozilla's FireFox Web browser and ThunderBird mail client are the default, as is the Kopete IM client.

Considering that this is not even a version 1 beta, we have high hopes for Ulteo Virtual Desktop. It allows Linux novices to dip their toes into the water without any fear, and lets Linux pros use their favorite applications when they are forced to be in a Windows environment.

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