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Try an online Gnome OS with Symbiose

It seems that the way data is managed and dealt with nowadays leaves less room for locally installed operating systems. If all of your data is already on the cloud, why would it matter for your operating system to be there too? What if all you needed to access everything is a browser?

Of course, all this isn’t anything new or something of the distant future, but so far we’ve seen very little remarkable examples of such technologies and of very limited capabilities. Symbiose comes as the only “Gnomish” WebOS to prove that its kind can be more than just a bold experiment, but does it succeed?

What is it?

Symbiose is a WebOS that can be run in a tab of your browser that utilizes what it seems like a lightweight version of Gnome for the DE and some of its applications that offer very basic capabilities compared to the desktop versions. The shell actually looks and works similar to GS versions of the past.



These are the tools offered by Symbiose. As happened in older versions of GS, the items are grouped in categories showed on the right. You can add/remove items to the dash by dragging them on it/out of it.

Symbiose search in the overview works perfectly fine and the workspace generation and management, and lock screen is working exactly as supposed. Other than that, Symbiose offers tools for configuring your system (very basic) and you can even login and save your configurations.


Searching in Applications overview


Changing wallpaper in Symbiose


Lock screen



What can you do with it?

There are no limits in what users would ask from a WebOS to do, so let’s just take into account what Symbiose is aiming for and what needs it actually manages to cover successfully.

Symbiose offers the ability to access the internet, edit and save your documents online and watch movies or listen to music. For this reason the system offers a basic media player, a light version of Firefox web browser, a light version of Nautilus files browser, lighter versions of gedit and LibreOffice writer, and some extending tools like the software center.

There are two scenarios you can use Symbiose with the first being just a usb stick with your data and a browser running Symbiose and the second being accessing your data by connecting to FTP server, dropbox or Google Drive from within Symbiose. Both aren’t working exactly as intended though…

Local data

Symbiose generally works faster than you would expect, but it fails miserably when it comes on accessing and managing data on locally connected drives. It seems that to use any kind of data you will have to upload them to Symbiose and this takes far too long for things like movies and other large files. Moreover, you will have to create an account and login in order to be able to upload anything you want to keep online, but when trying as a user the files explorer window doesn’t appear at all!


Cloud data

Connecting to dropbox was a simple task in Symbiose and the file manager did display my contents, but I still couldn’t actually play the .mp3 file found inside using the default and only media player of the system. The documents were somewhat accessible by gedit, but Google documents app and LibreOffice writer failed to open .txt and .doc files. I wish all of the above to be just codecs missing, but still an informing message would be helpful especially since the terminal is not actually working at all…


So, what can you do with it? Almost nothing of what it promises but lets not forget that Symbiose is still under heavy development and the current version (1.0 beta3) is not considered to be stable yet. Using the system will reveal more weird little problems that highlight the immature current state of Symbiose.

The good part though is that Symbiose is free software and looks and works very similar to Gnome Shell. The developers have done an astonishing job in making this webOS work fast and familiar, and I am sure that the active community around the project will lead it into being actually useful. Much work needs to be done until 1.0 is ready and the best you can do is to use it, help with bug reports and get involved in the development!

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  • That_guy!

    Not impressed. sorry. you can do this so easily with Debian 7 with gnome. waste of time to make “gnome os’ distro :-(

    • Michael Mistretta

      They even stole Canonical’s website design..

    • Bill_Toulas

      There are many ways to do things (in Symbiose you can’t do much really), but this is webOS html5 mimicking Gnome, so it is unique by nature…

      • That_guy!

        even so, all it’s doing is adding yet another Linux distro to the already over bloated list of niche creations. I’m all for choice but there Is such a thing as Too Much choice. Linux users and developers should focus more on quality and not quantity when it comes to creating a ‘new’ distro. IMHO we need to cut the fat and scale back to only a handful and then work to improve them instead of making a copy with tweaks (like most are).

        • Howard Roark

          Are u an ass? U call it a linux distro? U couldn’t understand web os, really!! Go home & educate yourself first, before littering forums & blogs with your ill-informed & comments! Huh!!!

          • David G

            No, the only ass here is you. This ‘gnome os” is yet another attempt at something that the Jolicloud team and Google already have done, and it fails by comparison. I’m also tired of the “fat”. Linux distros need to get leaned down to just a few if anyone seriously expects the Linux platform to ever take off in consumer space the way Windows and OSX have. All too often newbies are confused because they don’t know what to download since there are thousands of re-spins out there. And considering I deploy and maintain Linux servers and workstations for a living, I know quite a bit more than you do buddyboy.
            I understood the article, you however failed at reading. Nor do you even remotely know what Linux is. Go back to trolling school boy and let the adults continue to talk.

    • Emersion

      Just for fun ! ;-)

    • Howard Roark

      Chutiya sala! Huh!

  • IsacDaavid

    Of course there are reasons making people not want a “cloud” OS, namely the NSA

    • Howard Roark

      Yeah, really? Get yourself a reality check first! And have u heard of chrome Os? Or joliOS? These are pretty succesful cloud OS’s!

      • IsacDaavid

        A literature character calls me up to get real. Nice try Mr. Howard Troll.

        Chrome OS is a modded Gentoo, which is by no means a “Cloud operating system”. Web clients and operating systems are totally different things, so the term “cloud OS” doesn’t even make sense. The Google “Services as a Software Substitute” aren’t part of Chrome OS and can be accessed from everywhere; and I really doubt those servers are running Chrome OS.

        • David G

          Don’t mind the troll. that little kid is just angry that we’re questioning his pet project.

  • Dread Knight

    I gave it a try, went to Firefox and I couldn’t even manage to enter a website I wanted, because that default search engine is crap and I couldn’t type in the address box of the browser, which is lame.
    Thought it was a trick to get money by searching but it appears to be a bug when you’re fullscreen.

    • Bill_Toulas

      I confirm that you can’t type anything when in full screen mode

  • FredrikHedstrom

    Well much negativity here. I installed it on my NAS and played around with it. Browsing worked – fixing up accounts and not much more. Guess its still a beta but it looks good, and it was quite much faster than my old interface on the NAS. I think is a nice project for example using as a GUI on a NAS or just fast webaccess on your computer at home with a nice GUI. Lets hope there is some development and I’ll continue using it!