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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

xPUD: Floating On The Cloud

Some say that Linux will never come to the desktop, and maybe they are right. Everyday more and more applications are moving online.
There are numerous Cloud storage services, including some bundled with particular distributions.
So if everything is moving to the web, what use is there for a fully blown desktop? Perhaps what is needed is a super fast, lightweight distro to get us there.
These days, lightweight distros are becoming very popular. Previously Linux Magazine has looked at Tiny Core and this week we discover xPUD. It’s a relatively new distribution which aims to be the “shorted path to the cloud”.
The project website reads:
“xPUD is an unique Linux distribution, consisting mainly of a web browser and a media player, with a simple user interface on top. It can turn your computer into a kiosk-like station by leveraging web technologies, making surfing and watching movies as easy as pie.”
That’s right. xPUD is a 50MB distro that in just 10 seconds boots to an easy-to-use interface, ready to go. As you’ll discover however, it’s also much much more!
To get some more details, Linux Magazine talked with Ping-Hsun Chen, the lead developer of this amazing project.
Christopher Smart: Could you please tell me a little about yourself? Where do you live, what do you do and what is your relation to the project?
Ping-Hsun Chen: My original name is Ping-Hsun Chen. I’m a 23 year old student living in Taiwan, working on my masters degree (majoring in computer science). I started being a freelancer of web and FOSS development when I was 16.
I’m also the project leader of xPUD. We have a small team of active developers and also a small studio based in Taiwan.
CS: Could you tell us how xPUD started?
Penk: Back to June 2008, we were curious about how small a distro could be if the system contained only a fullscreen web browser.
At first we were trying to use the Ubuntu LiveCD system Casper, and we really pushed it to its limit. Soon after we found that by using ldd and strace utilities we could further strip down the system image size, which later on was extended to the fully featured build system “mkxpud”, and xPUD became a standalone project from the “eXperimental PUD” branch.
CS: What inspires xPUD and makes it unique?
Penk: xPUD is unique in many ways. It’s Linux built around a web browser, combined with an intuitive user interface, generated from the binary-level build system. The result is a small system that boots within 10 seconds, and is functional from the beginning.
We decided to leverage web technologies for the UI framework, because web has so many advantages, such as rapid development. We can quickly sketch a prototype with HTML and jQuery, run some usability tests then go back and keep improving it. We can easily mash-up with existing web services or public API, we also love its platform independent nature.
CS: What does the project hope to achieve?
Penk: We want to be the shortest path to “the Cloud”.

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