Monday, 10 August 2009 10:46

Keep an eye on your own open source cloud environment

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Want to live in the cloud but don’t quite trust it? SourceForge's open source project of the month for August may be for you! eyeos is a self-hosted cloud operating environment for business, schools and home built in PHP.

The “cloud computing” concept is all about working more and more online and less and less on your local machine.

The advantages of cloud computing are that people who work on multiple devices – home computers, office computers, smartphones, travelling netbooks – can continue to access all their files and mail without needing to think about synchronising data in any way.

Almost twelve months ago Google introduced the Chrome web browser. One of its reasons for being was a view that the world was moving to a greater reliance on web-based services (such as Google’s own application suite.)

At the time I mused this was where Linux-based netbooks particularly had a niche because ultimately, in a cloud environment, the operating system and embedded applications aren’t as important as the ability to simply get online.

Yet even so, despite the amount of effort being invested in cloud-based services such as Google’s offerings or Microsoft’s Azure conventional businesses are still holding back.

There are many reasons for this, not least of which is concerns over security and longevity.

Dr Taher Elgamal – the man behind the SSL protocol – gave an eminently sensible argument that if businesses want to conduct electronic transactions with each other they ultimately must trust each other to have appropriate security. “It is easier to trust in an outsourced cloud server,” Elgamal said.

Yet, on the other hand, earlier this year Hewlett Packard’s online backup service Upline was switched off leaving subscribers to find other options and move data.

You might be interested in investigating the cloud and giving your workers greater mobility but aren’t ready to relinquish control of your data to someone else.

In that case, eyeos is for you.


eyeos is an open source web desktop written in PHP, XML and JavaScript. It was designed with the Apache web browser in mind but that’s not compulsory. As such, it will run on Windows, Linux and MacOS hosts.

Being a cloud environment, eyeos is designed to enable users to upload files and work with them no matter where they are or what device they are using, just so long as a web browser is available.

EyeOS ships with an impressive 67 applications and system utilities that include fundamentals like a word processor, address book, file manager, PDF reader and more. eyeos is compatible with both Microsoft Office and Open Office.

A toolkit is provided to enable developers to build their own custom eyeos applications which can then be made available to the rest of the community.

eyeos previously was a finalist in SourceForge’s community choice awards for the category “Most likely to change the world” before winning the August 2009 selected project of the month title. It is easy to see why eyeos has received such lofty acclamation. It is a well-architected system that sets up with a minimum of fuss.

More than that eyeos provides a genuine solution for real-world usage, whether by individuals or by corporations or by academic institutions. You can see a video of eyeos in action inside the Jacint Verdaguer school in Sant Sadurn’ d’Anoia near Barcelona, Spain.

You may also try eyeos for yourself via a free public test server - in fact, you can realistically use that as your own cloud-based server without local setup.

Signing up on the public test server is a cinch – just enter a username and password. No publically identifiable information is requested, not even an e-mail address.

You will find a rich suite of applications from the aforementioned word processor through staples like spreadsheet and presentation, to instant messaging, FTP client, a chess game, recycle bin – heck, even a web browser too!

Each new window opens with alacrity providing a swift and responsive working environment that is a pleasure to use.

You might wonder how such a program can exist, giving away software. Happily, this is one of the beautiful aspects of open source software. The eyeos team raise revenue from training, custom programming, delivering paid support and making branded installations as well as general consulting.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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