Setting Up an Online Desktop

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As more and more services are moving off your desktop and on to the Internet, what features does the next generation of desktop systems need to be relevant? If the developers of the GNOME Online Desktop are right, the desktop will serve primarily as a tool for interconnecting your online services, applications, and friends.

The GNOME Online Desktop (http://live.gnome.org/OnlineDesktop) was added as an experimental feature to Fedora 8 and improved for later releases. The centerpiece of the project is an experimental sidebar called Big Board

(http://live.gnome.org/BigBoard). From Big Board, you consolidate icons and menus to connect to your online photo services (like Flickr), retail accounts (such as Amazon), movie rentals (such as Netflix), and others. It also, however, keeps track of the files and applications you use locally.

You can use Mugshot (http: //www.mugshot.org) to tie together connections to your online friends and activities. Mugshot lets you create the connections to your online accounts in a way that allows them to be used either from the Mugshot site or from your Online Desktop sidebar.

To get started with Online Desktop in Fedora, simply select the user you want to log in as and choose Sessions ^ Online Desktop Demo from the login screen. Then type your password. After that, you can set up online accounts with the Mugshot and GNOME projects. Then begin configuring the services you want on your Online Desktop. (If Online Desktop isn't installed yet, type yum install online-desktop* to install it.)

A GNOME desktop configured with the Online Desktop feature appears. The following steps take you through the setup of your Online Desktop:

1. Register with GNOME.org — Select Enable Online Desktop from the sidebar. A Web browser will open, taking you to the GNOME.org site where you can create a GNOME Online account. You may need to type firefox into the sidebar to get this to work.

2. Sign-up at GNOME.org — Follow the instructions for creating an account, and log in to that account once you have a user name and password. This account is used to store information about the applications you use, to incorporate into Online Desktop.

3. Create GNOME.org Account — Begin adding information to your account. This information includes your name, picture, e-mail account, IM account, and GNOME online services.

4. Sign-up at Mugshot.org — Use your Web browser to visit the Mugshot.org site and create your own Mugshot account. This account stores information about your online services, as well as information about other people and groups with online accounts you can connect to. All that information can be added to your Online Desktop.

5. Add Personal Information — Open the link to your account information and add your name, a short "About Me" description, and a picture to represent yourself.

6. Configure Online Accounts — Set up connections to your personal online services accounts. Figure 3-16 shows an example of the Mugshot screen for adding your online service accounts. Click the heart icon to configure a feature you love, or click the X to announce why it's a feature you hate. Here are some of the features you can add:

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Figure 3-16: Configure online accounts in Mugshot to display on your Online Desktop

• Amazon — Create links to your Amazon profile, reviews, and wishlist.

• Del.icio.us — Save and organize a collection of favorite Web sites.

• Digg — Connect to your account on Digg.com to view and vote on popular stories.

• Facebook — Get to your Facebook social network site.

• Flickr — Visit your online digital image collection at Flickr.com.

• Lots of Others! — Besides those just mentioned, Mugshot lets you create connections to your accounts with Google, MySpace, Netflix, Picasa, Rhapsody, YouTube and others.

7. Add People— From your Mugshot account, select Active People to get to a link where you can invite friends. Once you invite a friend and the friend accepts, the person is added to the People section of your sidebar.

8. Add Groups — From your Mugshot account, select Active Groups to see available Mugshot groups. Select Join Group to add it to a list of groups that you follow.

When you've completed these configuration steps, your Online Desktop should be ready to use. Figure 3-17 shows an example of an Online Desktop and related Mugshot information.

Figure 3-17: Get to your online services and friends using Online Desktop configured with Mugshot

After logging in to Mugshot, you'll see the following information, starting from the top of the Big Board sidebar in Figure 3-17:

• User Information — The user name and face image appears in the top box of the My Desktop sidebar. Select that box to logout of the desktop, visit the Mugshot account page, view system preferences, or minimize the sidebar.

• Tiny Icons — The tiny icons below the User Information represent the online services you have configured for your Mugshot account. Beginning with the top-left icon in this example, the icons represent Digg, Picasa, Amazon, Netflix, Del.icio.us, my home URL, Reddit, Twitter, and Flickr.

• Search Box — Type a term into the search box (flash memory appears in this example) and press Enter. A pop-up lets you select to search for that term at Amazon.com, Answers.com, Creative Commons, eBay, Google, or Yahoo.

• Files — See the files that you have opened recently under the Files box. Select More to search or browse for local files.

• Applications — Your most-used applications appear in the Applications box, ready for you to start at any time. Select More to search for an application or see statistics about the types of applications you use most.

• People —The people you added to your Mugshot account appear, with their names and icons, in the People box. Click on a photo or name to go to that person's Mugshot page.

• Calendar — Connect to your online Google calendar from this box.

• Mugshot Home — In the example, a Web browser is open to my Mugshot home page. From the Mugshot home page, you can access the same services that are loaded on your Online Desktop, as well as configure all the features that are picked up by your Online Desktop.

• Mugshot Stacker — Click the Mugshot icon in the panel to see the Mugshot stacker. That stacker shows information about your activities, as well as activities of others you have added to your People list. In this example, you can see that I joined a group, left another group, and added a movie to my Netflix queue.

Because Online Desktop is still under development, expect to have many more features and services available by the time you read this text. In particular, work is being done to integrate online applications, so you will be able to work with Web applications to use your documents, spreadsheets, and other important information.

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