A Hands on and Review of Ubuntu One

Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) has recently released a beta version of their online file syncing service – UbuntuOne for public testing. This file syncing service is similar to the popular Dropbox service and it allows you to share and sync file across different computers.

In this tutorial, we are going to take a quick look at its functionality and how you can install UbuntuOne in your Ubuntu machine.

First of all, before you can install the application on your computer, you need to request for an invitation code from Ubuntu. If you have a Launchpad.net account, simply login to UbuntuOne and request your invitation code, else it will prompt you to register a Launchpad account.

ubuntuone-requirement

Secondly, your computer has to be LInux-based, specifically Ubuntu Jaunty. The application does not work on Windows or Mac. If you are using other Linux distro, or older version of Ubuntu, use it at your own risk.

The application for the invitation code can take up to 3 days. Once you have received the code (via email), you can click on the link to activate your account. Here is also where you select the subscription plan. Currently, UbuntuOne offers a free 2GB storage plan and a 10GB plan for US$10 per month.

Installation

If you are using Ubuntu Jaunty, the installation will be a breeze.

1. On the installation page, download the PPA to your desktop. Double click to install the PPA onto your computer.

ubuntuone-ppa

2. Next, click on the Install button to install the ubuntuone-client package.

ubuntuone-install

The installation make use of the pre-installed apturl package to install the application onto your computer. For some reasons that the Install button does not work (either you don’t have apturl package installed or you are using a non-Firefox browser), you can still install the application via the terminal:

sudo apt-get install ubuntuone-client-gnome

3. Once the installation is done, go to Applications->Internet->Ubuntu One. This will load the application (and the system tray icon) and bring up a webpage that asks you for permission to access your computer.

ubuntuone-grant-access

You have to click on the “Add This Computer” and grant it permission to access your computer before you can start using it. If you are not comfortable with this, click Cancel and forget about using Ubuntu One in your computer.

4. Open your Nautilus folder. You should now see a Ubuntu One folder in your home directory. In the folder, you will find two sub-folders: My Files and Shared With Me. The My Files folder is for you to store and sync your files/folders online while the Shared With Me folder will show files that are shared with you by others. When you shared your files with others, those files will appear in their Shared With Me folder too.

ubuntuone-folders

5. At any point of time, you can also manage your files via the Web interface.

ubuntuone-web

Review

At the moment, Ubuntu One only offers simple file storage/synchronization/sharing with others. Those are the basic stuffs that most online file storage services provide, so there is nothing special about it. In addition, Ubuntu One only supports Ubuntu Jaunty, which makes people wonder if it is really worth the time and effort to download and try it.

Well, the real value of Ubuntu One does not lies in the file storage/synchronization. This is only the first step. The real objective is to be able to synchronize your computer application data and preferences and to be able to control the whole computer online. Imagine the scenario where you installed all the Firefox extension in one machine and it syncs and imports itself automatically to the other machine that also have Ubuntu One installed. When you access the other computer, you can use your Firefox immediately without having to reinstall all the extensions.

Being an application that have access to your computer and holds your data online, it also means that you could possibly control your computer (such as screen sharing or remote access) right from the Web. I am not sure if Canonical is implementing this, but a WebOS that holds all your application data and preferences is highly possibly with the Ubuntu One architecture.

As Ubuntu One opens itself to third party developers in the future, we will start to see more and more applications that make use of the sharing/synchronization services. While Ubuntu One does not support multiple OS platforms, it is also highly possible that third-party developers can do it by integrating the underlying components (or via WebDAV) with a platform specific shell.

Conclusion

Ubuntu One is still at beta mode and there are plenty of things that are not on par with other online storage solution such as Dropbox. However, with the vision of Ubuntu One and as Ubuntu become more and more popular, I won’t be surprised to see Ubuntu One becoming a major force in the file and data management arena in the near future.

What do you think?