CosmoPOD.com offers free remote KDE desktops over NX. Anyone can sign up to have their own desktop accessible from any computer with a network connection. CosmoPOP uses KDE's Kiosk framework to ensure security for their system. To find out more about the service and why KDE was the chosen desktop, KDE Dot News spoke to the man behind CosmoPOD, Stephen Ensor. Read on for the interview.
The KDE desktop on CosmoPOD
What services does cosmopod.com offer?
CosmoPOD.com is a personal online desktop that offers 1GB of online storage, one may run CosmoPOD.com on any computer that is connected to the internet and may do all the common tasks a modern desktop has to offer. My long term vision for CosmoPOD is: one day you will walk through an airport or tube station and touch a public screen it will log you in instantly via your fingerprints and in a wink you will be on your full screen easy to use desktop, a little later your cell phone will bling and you can call up a mobile version of your same desktop and check your email IM etc. Users won't have a constant stream of popups telling them to update their systems and applications and security will be all there and up to date, if a next big thing app hits the market it will already be there for the users.
How did you get the idea for this?
I was playing with many different Linux distros for a while and was contracting at the time in London, I was e-mailing many documents between work and home and I found myself duplicating a lot of work because of the different versions. I thought a central remote desktop that I could access from anywhere would be the answer. I also recalled arriving in London and e-mailing files back and forth and trying to edit them on the internet café's computers was a nightmare. So I really wanted it for myself and thought it would be really cool if anyone in the world could have one free too. I also thought with security becoming such a big issue and most normal users just don't know how to keep their systems secure, people would want a secure place to store and do their office related work.
How many people are currently using cosmopod on a frequent basis?
Per day I get around 150 people coming on and off their desktops, around 30 new registrations, about 300 visitors to my website and serve up about 200,000 Google ads. All this has been gaining good speed and I expect this to pick up quite a lot when I start a marketing drive.
Why did you choose KDE?
Funny you ask I was actually looking to use Gnome first but after much reading and testing I found KDE to be snappier and have a smaller memory footprint, the supporting applications were mature and well integrated and Konqueror was great! But the tipping point came when I started to look into lockdown features, KDE became the clear winner with the Kiosk Admin Tool. There are a few things I would still like a fast KDE start up and KOffice is not as feature full yet as OpenOffice (which runs too slowly and takes up too much memory to be used) so that is the trade off there.
What applications does CosmoPOD's KDE offer?
CosmoPOD offers all the applications a modern desktop required, a MS compatible office suite, e-mail, browser, IM, html editors, games etc. I generally install any applications I get e-mailed by users if they are not the same as ones already installed. I don't want 5 IM clients for example.
What changes does cosmopod's set up have over a typical home user KDE setup?
The only difference is the lock down so that users cannot install their own applications and move the menus around, they also cannot access floppy and CD drives as this is now a networked desktop.
How easy was it to lock down the KDE install?
This was very easy once I discovered the Kiosk Admin Tool, installed it and it makes it pretty clear what is going on in a nice GUI, there are still a few problems with configuring the menus on different distros but otherwise it makes things very easy especially the way it handles users and groups.
Have you had any feedback on experiences of non-KDE users on this KDE desktop?
Yes and no. People are always very happy with the service and it's been great having such keen feedback, I don't get much discussion from the users regarding what technology is being used. They are generally non-techie and just use it and the applications on it. I think locking stuff up helps so the users don't remove their taskbars, menus and buttons, KDE is great in that the K applications are quick and well integrated into the desktop. I try and keep application choice down to a minimum so as not to confuse users and have a few ideas to simplify things further in the future.
How do you pay for the service?
I keep a bit of real estate on the right hand side of the screen where I serve up Google ads soon to be based on what the user is reading similar to Gmail. Before I started with setting up the service i did many spreadsheets and forecasts to see if the model held and it does quite well, I don't yet have the contextual thing going yet but it is in the pipe line. We are also exploring putting branding images inside windows and menus.
What sort of hardware does this run on?
Very standard and cheap x86, we are looking into renting processing power as there are certain times when we spike but that is a while away.