Linux-powered "instant-on" environments are the new hot technology. ASUS and DeviceVM led the way with Splashtop, and now the venerable BIOS vendor Phoenix has released Hyperspace, which has some significant differences.
Waiting for a laptop or
desktop to boot has to be one of the biggest time wasters for the majority of
computer users no matter what the operating system. You would think with faster
CPUs that the problem would just go away, but it hasn't. In fact, if anything,
it has gotten worse. Larger amounts of system memory have only added to the
amount of time it takes the average computer to go from powered down to ready
The ultimate goal of
computer manufacturers and users alike is to get as close to "instant
on" as possible. While that goal is still a good way off for most
operating systems, it has been achieved for a minimal operating environment and
made commercially available from two vendors. Both vendors take different
approaches to the problem and also take a very different approach to how they
sell their products.
Splashtop is a product from DeviceVM and was
the first to really grab the attention of the laptop crowd. It comes
pre-installed on laptops from Asus, Lenovo and VoodooPC. It's also available on
a large number of Asus motherboards and the Asus Eee Box B202. For the
developer crowd there is a list of the components used in Splashtop on their website along with the statement that they
are building an SDK to make development for the platform easier.
The key to Splashtop's
speed is a special piece of code loaded into the system BIOS. That's the main
reason you don't see Splashtop offered as a stand-alone product. In addition to
the BIOS code there's a small amount of disk space dedicated to the rest of the
Splashtop software. Booting into the Splashtop environment gives you a number
of options including a Web browser, music player, photo manager, chat client
is a competitive product from Phoenix Technologies, the company that makes the
BIOS for a large number of the computers and laptops on the market today.
Hyperspace differs from Splashtop in that it will install on a local hard drive
in a separate partition. It comes in two different versions specifically for
computers with hardware virtualization support and those without.
The initial release of
Hyperspace has only a web browser application along with support for a number
of wireless cards. Phoenix has a list of systems they've tested on their
along with the basic system requirements.
You can download the installer which will run a test on your machine
and let you know whether it's compatible or not. When I tested it on my Dell
XPS M1330 laptop, it informed me that it was not compatible. I'll have to wait
to test it on other hardware.
Hyperspace has a neat
feature for machines with hardware virtualization that should really appeal to
the productivity conscious. It will boot a host operating system, such as
Windows Vista, behind the scenes while you use the Hyperspace environment and
allow you to switch over to it once it has finished booting. Now you can
actually do something productive while you wait for Windows to boot.
One of the biggest
differences in the two products is price. For starters, you can't buy Splashtop
except as a part of a motherboard from Asus or a full up system. Hyperspace is
available as a product, but the pricing model is by subscription -- meaning you
have to pay a yearly fee or it ceases to work. Phoenix Technologies does plan
to offer Hyperspace with a 3-year option that should keep you going until it's
time for a replacement.
Linux definitely has the
upper hand when it comes to quick booting environments. The options are
somewhat limited at this time, but that will only get better over time. Expect
the developer community to get involved once the companies deliver on their SDK
This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.