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Ubuntu One Cloud Computing

Ubuntu 9.10: The Karmic Koala Benchmarked And Reviewed

Ubuntu One is Canonical's cloud computing component (try saying that three times fast). But the term “cloud-computing” has been used to describe everything from Web mail to online photo albums. So what does Ubuntu One do, and why should you care? Well, Ubuntu One is basically the same type of service/app as DropBox.

Like DropBox, Ubuntu One creates a folder on your hard drive (in your Home directory), the contents of which are automatically backed-up online and synced to any other PCs you have running Ubuntu One. The folder has a shortcut in your Places menu and a system tray icon to display when your are connected, disconnected, or updating files. Being so well-integrated into Ubuntu means you won't be syncing any files between your Ubuntu box and a Mac or Windows PC using Ubuntu One.

You can, however, use the Ubuntu One Web site to access the contents of your Ubuntu One folder from any computer with Internet access, even those that don't have the Ubuntu One client installed. But using the Web interface to access Ubuntu One files on non-Ubuntu systems takes away from the simplicity and ease-of-use that come with a shared local folder.

Along with a synced and backed-up folder, Ubuntu One also integrates with the Evolution personal information manager to backup and sync contacts. Tomboy Notes also has an integration feature to make sure your notes are always up-to-date on all of your systems, and accessible online. While this integration is nice, again, it is limited to Ubuntu machines and is currently constrained to Evolution and Tomboy. Another thing that DropBox does that Ubuntu One does not is support symbolic links. With symbolic links, DropBox can also have contact and note functionality compatible with almost any application.

I've actually been using Ubuntu One for a few months in 9.04 and like it quite a bit. However, the service began acting up on me right around the time that the 9.10 beta was released. The problems became worse and more frequent the closer we got to the operating system's RC. Between the time that the RC emerged and the final copy shipped, Ubuntu One was unusable. I was not able to connect or disconnect properly using the system tray icon and local folder during this time. Sometimes the Web page would not load either, completely locking me out of my files. When the site did load, it often showed an old listing of files, and sometimes even a completely empty directory. Fortunately, Canonical fixed the issues surrounding Ubuntu One 48 hours after the final release of 9.10.

Bottom line: it's a neat little feature, but don't rely on it as your sole backup. Keep in mind that the beta tag has still not been removed from the Ubuntu One service. It does essentially the same thing as DropBox, and many of the neat tips and tricks that exist for DropBox can be applied to Ubuntu One as well. If you only use Ubuntu across all of your machines, don't hesitate to give Ubuntu One a try. If you are a multi-platform user, it's DropBox for the win.

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