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Ubuntu One cloud service stretches out with cross-platform clients, says review

Dec 3, 2010 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Canonical's Ubuntu One personal cloud service for Ubuntu 10.10 users has expanded its reach beyond Linux with new iOS, Android, and Windows clients. Ubuntu One's beta Windows client is off to a solid start, but work remains if Ubuntu One wants to overtake Dropbox, says this eWEEK Labs review.

In October, when Canonical released Ubuntu 10.10, some of the product's most talked-about new features involved the expansion of the personal cloud service, Ubuntu One, beyond the popular Linux-based OS to other platforms — such as Apple's iOS, Android, and Microsoft's Windows.

At the time, I was able to test Ubuntu One with iOS and Android, but the service's Windows support was still "coming soon." Recently, Canonical launched a limited public beta of Ubuntu One Windows, and I put the service through its paces, adding a Windows XP SP3 client to the Ubuntu One account that I use on my work and home machines.

The service's Windows client — while rough in places and limited in breadth of its support for Ubuntu One's capabilities — worked as advertised. It kept an "Ubuntu One" folder in the home directories of my Ubuntu systems synced up with a folder of the same name in the My Documents folder of my XP test VM.

For Ubuntu One users who also run Windows, this new Windows support is promising — and the service would benefit from similar support for OS X and for other Linux distributions beyond Ubuntu, as well.

For those who aren't already using Ubuntu One, however, Dropbox is a better solution for multiplatform file synchronization, for it supports more platforms and is more mature than is Ubuntu One. Both services offer free accounts with up to 2GB of storage space.

Additional Ubuntu One features, such as synchronization for Tomboy Notes and other CouchDB-enabled applications, aren't yet available for the Windows client. Beyond its initial 2GB of free storage space, additional storage on Ubuntu One can be purchased in 20GB increments for $3 per month or $30 per year.

The Ubuntu One Windows client beta runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. For Windows XP, the software requires Service Pack 3 with the Windows Installer 4.5 update and version 4.0 of the .NET Framework.

When I installed the client on Windows XP SP3, I was unable to complete my first sync until after installing version 3.5 of the .NET client as well. With those prerequisites out of the way, I found that the process of registering my Windows machine with the online service ran much like it did on my Ubuntu systems — I entered my user name and password for the service into a login dialog, and, once I was authenticated, I could see my Windows instance listed among the other machines and devices I'd previously linked up to Ubuntu One.

Unlike the Ubuntu version of the client, the Windows beta doesn't sync files automatically when they're created or modified — rather, I had to hit a "Synchronize Now" command, or configure the client to sync on a schedule. According to the product's documentation, automatic sync is in the works, as is support for synchronizing files and folders outside of the Ubuntu One folder.

Jason Brooks is a writer for our sister publication eWEEK.

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