The tech world was buzzing (twittering???) today with the news that Google is actively working on an operating system based upon their Chrome browser. It was exciting news that help explain the sudden removal of the “beta” tag from many of Google’s offerings such as Gmail. The announcement is anything but a surprise. Not only had there been rumors on numerous occasions regarding Google’s move into the OS world but it’s clear that Google has been actively extending its reach, or shall we say — empire and this is certainly a logical move toward total domination of our online lives.
Initially I wasn’t all that interested in the announcement. After all, this operating system as headed primarily for netbooks and the small device that I’m hoping for will not be called a netbook and will run OSx or OSx iPhone.
Then I got to thinking — just a few days ago I spent an afternoon exclusively using my HP 2140 netbook. I have the diminutive computer tricked out about as far as it can go with 2 GB of RAM and a 32 GB SSD drive. Still, I found browsing on it a challenge and I was happy to get back to using my iPhone for basic mobile computing. I started wondering if the experience using Chrome OS would be any better. Only one problem — it will be many months before we even see an early release of the new operating system. So we have to be patient, right?
Not so fast. There is an option around and while it certainly isn’t going to be as exciting as Google’s Chrome OS it’s worth a look. It is calledand I’ve been using it on my HP 2140 today. Let’s take a look.
Presto only installs and runs on a machine that already has Microsoft Windows XP or Vista. Its claim to fame is that it allows you to start a computer that is completely off, and be up and working in mere seconds. As their marketing describes it –
Why wait? Get Presto — start e-mailing, surfing, chatting and editing documents, seconds after you turn on your PC. Shut down instantly.
With Presto you can even start up your computer in seconds or shut down instantly, like magic. Send e-mail, chat, Skype, listen to music, surf the Internet or download apps — before Windows XP or Vista even boots. Browse the web securely using Firefox, chat using instant messaging, make free Skype to Skype calls, listen to music and watch videos, view and edit documents created in Microsoft office, download games and other apps from the Presto application store.
Downloading and installing Presto occurs from with in the Windows environment. I downloaded the application of about 500 MB and installed it with ease.
It installed just any other application installs in XP and when I was done it simply invited me to reboot my computer. This time, however, when the computer began to boot I was given the choice to either boot into Windows XP or into Presto. (A nice configuration that occurs automatically is that if you don’t indicate that you want to boot into Presto within a few seconds it automatically boots XP.
Since part of the claim to fame for Presto is that it boots far more quickly than XP and decided to do a little test. Here’s a quick video showing first booting into XP and then booting into Presto. The results speak for themselves.
As far as using Presto — it’s not a bad experience. It allows you to configure the launch bar and includes the ability to automatically hide it regardless of where you place it on your screen. This is a huge benefit on a 10 inch screen. In addition, since Presto is basically a Linux-based OS layer, there are a good number of free applications that can be downloaded. I loaded a decent IM client, Skype, and OpenOffice. There’s no question that browsing in Presto is a quicker process. In other words, for much of the work that one would do on a netbook Presto is an excellent option and a $20 it’s likely a worthwhile investment for anyone running XP or Vista on the netbook. It’s probably not the best option if you’re going to be doing a lot more work than that but then again, net books aren’t intended to be workhorse computers in the first place.
Presto gives a 14 day trial. A license key is just $19.95 per machine with a discount if you purchase a number of copies.
The major downside for me is that one of the main uses I have for the netbook, and the reason I have kept it this long, is to run Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 on a light, portable device. (It still beats MacSpeech Dictate by a mile!) Obviously, that requires booting into XP. The nice thing about having Presto on the HP 2140 is that I now have a choice. If I want to do some light browsing, I can boot into Presto. If I want to check my e-mail, I can boot into Presto. If I want to quickly check my RSS feed… Presto. And want to dictate something with excellent accuracy thanks to Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 10 (w I can boot into the XP side of things.
Then again, if I’m looking to do light browsing, check my e-mail, or catch up on my RSS feeds, I’ll probably just use my iPhone.