Webian Shell: Prototype Web-Based Shell
Webian Shell is a web-based shell that is designed to run full-screen and function as the primary user interface for your computer. At the moment, it's still at the proof of concept stage, but 0.1 is runnable without making any modifications to your system. As it features some interesting ideas, it's worth having a play around with.
The Linux version of Webian is, for the moment, supplied as a tar.gz archive containing the executable and the supporting files. Builds are available for Windows and Mac.
Under the hood, this project makes use of Mozilla Chromeless, a project that eschews the standard web browser user interface. By the way, the “chrome” in the name refers not to Google Chrome but rather the user interface portion of Mozilla web browsers. As it consists of only a rendering engine, the idea is that the navigation interface can be implemented using web standards within the browser itself. Indeed, the Chromeless website lists Webian as one of the first projects to run with the idea.
The task switcher.
When run, Webian takes over the entire screen. The idea is that a stripped down web browser becomes the interface to the computer on a setup that relies entirely on cloud-based rather than locally installed applications. The tabs themselves are iconified and run along the bottom of the screen, aping the user interface style of other popular desktops.
The Webian start page. It doesn't do much yet.
For the moment, Webian is incomplete. For example, some sites don't render properly and apparently Google's cloud applications don't work due to a bug. Web navigation doesn't seem to be very usable as there are no forward and back controls and there was no bookmarking that I could find. The start page that exists does not yet really do anything.
Using Webian to browse some web content.
Shortcomings due to the incomplete nature of the project aside, it is possible to get an idea of how how setup like this could work. Once things are a little bit further along, one thing I'd like to see is a bootable ISO image that makes use of Webian. This would be particularly good if it were partnered with some sort of remote storage for configuration and customization. So far this project looks intriguing and it's fairly close to being a usable product already. If you have some ideas about how it should work, there's a forum for such discussions on the website.
The Webian Website
UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.
August 27, 2015
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