Shells gives you a powerful 1-click virtual desktop environment in the cloud!
Collaborating and partnering with more than 10 Linux distributors to create a seamless virtual desktop experience, Alex is CEO of shells.com, a new virtual desktop cloud computing solution that simplifies the virtual desktop experience.
The platform allows anyone to access their cloud computer from any device with a browser so you can have a Linux desktop on your Apple iPad or Windows computer on your XBox!
The team are also the previous founders and operators of Private Internet Access, one of the best and most trusted VPNs in the world. This discussion thread from Alex Lee, Justin Roberti, Golda Velez, Zlatan Todoric and Akasha Rose took place on the official #amas slogging channel, and has been edited for readability.
Good morning all! Thanks Akasha for the introduction and I can’t wait to speak with the Slogging community! I also have our VP of Technology Zlatan Todoric here!
Alex Lee if the first virtual desktop apps for mobile were quite unstable and seemed to bog down the device – are you alleviating these issues by virtually hosting the operating system? How do you deal with the lag since all of the requests I’m assuming are on a virtually hosted operating system?
Are all client computers mirrored in the cloud? How do you ensure data security?
Does this specifically mean a way to open up the use of Linux to a larger user base?
Is it also a cloud storage solution?
Finally, are you planning to do the same for mobile devices or are they already available?
Justin Roberti Excellent questions to start the discussion. The operating systems are hosted in the cloud. With the continuous improvement of internet speeds and especially mobile connections (4G, LTE, 5G), a much better experience can be expected in addition to some adjustments that we have made to reduce the amount of resources required.
Virtual machines are all in the cloud, so data is all stored securely on our servers and access is secured using state of the art encryption. Users are also encouraged to enable 2-factor authentication (which you should do on all accounts!).
When we first started, we definitely saw this as a great option for people who were on the Linux fence to definitely try it out with our product since we have over 14 Linux distros now, but it’s also just open the office. experience to a larger user base as you can access it from any device with the appropriate browser (or app) and internet connection.
Yes, by default we are a cloud storage solution, but we are working to make the product more transparent and deliver something similar to what you would see with a Dropbox. I like to call us a Dropbox on steroids because you can store but also create, edit, modify your files.
You can already access our service via mobile devices. Here is a nice little snapshot I took the other day of my Shells machine on my Galaxy Flip 🙂
Thanks Alex Lee. what kind of specifications do you need for the device as a user? If the industry moves to a remotely hosted operating system, will everyone switch to basic netbooks or will these devices not have the RAM to handle the operation of the operating system? Or would it lead to personal / business computers with high RAM and less internal storage (a direction they are already going)?
Alex Lee just to clarify, can users use your service to run Android-only apps on PC, for example?
Justin Roberti Love the interest! Our product is accessible from the browser so that most modern browsers can handle our product. For example, I went to buy a $ 200 Chromebook with 2GB RAM and I use this device to access my Shells machines. Our product definitely creates the ability to converge devices and use one low-level device for all your computing needs.
Yes, Android-only apps are now accessible from a PC or even if you want to access Android-only apps from an iPad, this is now a viable option.
Alex Lee So, in the gig economy that destroyed two laptops in catastrophic spills this year, it looks like it could be of great benefit to those of us who are our own IT departments – by replacing these machines for 200 instead of $ 1200 or Suite. Correct? Is this one of the intended use cases?
Alex Lee, how do you manage licenses for non-Linux operating systems? Does the user have to provide the license?
Justin Roberti It is certainly an attractive solution to be able to use cheaper hardware alternatives or increase the longevity of older devices. For Windows, we offer the option of activating your operating system by providing licenses that can be paid monthly or annually.
Alex Lee, can you post a link to the WP or a backgrounder?
We don’t have an updated info sheet to provide just yet, but it’s something I can bring you later for sure!
Alex Lee, it looks like it would be a good choice for education … but schools and even most businesses have switched to Google docs … which does most but not all of what MS Suite does. Is this your biggest contest? What advantages can you offer over Google’s free solution?
I still miss what I could do with the local versions of PPT but think I’m in the minority.
I don’t really consider Google docs to be our biggest competition. Google docs of course has its advantages, but we really focus on providing a ‘full desktop experience’, whether that’s access to the more powerful MS suite or the ability to create whatever you want to build or modify what you want to change.
Alex Lee, how many clients are you currently managing? Are you focusing on businesses or individuals? What do you anticipate as your user base will grow by the end of 2021?
We have servers (which are our own hardware) in 6 locations (Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Amsterdam and Tokyo). We hope to reach 80% of the capacity of these slots while adding more hardware and slots in the process by the end of the year! But of course I would like to go beyond that too. 🙂
Alex Lee how many current users?
Somewhere around 600 right now. We just started in February.
It’s beautiful, you might think that a graphical browser could manage a shell! Is the browser involved in line-by-line rendering? Can you just tunnel ssh to anywhere or just to your cloud? Or maybe I misunderstood – it’s quite a ubuntu-desktop experience in the browser?
Hello everyone. We present them through QEMU, then use Spice for a remote desktop experience. We currently offer Windows 2019 Desktop Experience, Windows 7, Ubuntu 20.04 and Ubuntu 21.04, Debian Buster, 3 Manjaro editions, 4 openSUSE editions, Linux Mint, KDE neon user and testing, Kubuntu and Xubuntu. We also have Ubuntu and Debian servers and soon Android. Other Linux distributions are coming as well.
You can do it all in the browser, from any device capable of running a modern browser or you can also use our client apps (for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android).
Welcome Zlatan Todoric, VP of Technology for Shell (I just thought I would declare it because I think it hasn’t been declared yet).
Zlatan Todoric is there a lite client download on the user side in order to be able to communicate with your remote OS on Shell?
You don’t need the client at all, you can do everything in the browser. That said, the client itself is very light in nature (the desktop client is written in Go and the mobile client is in Flutter but we plan to move them to Swift and Kotlin).
BTW, to come to your first question Justin Roberti – virtual desktop apps for mobile (or vice versa), were unstable or heavy because virtualization (or emulation and in some cases full core) was performed on the device itself. In our case, everything is offloaded to the cloud, so all you need is a decent internet connection and enough power to open an average memory-hungry tab (average devices these days can handle 100 open tabs) .
For ssh – you can tunnel it. We also have a system in place for the ssh key (which is a requirement for servers) and by default we disable the password for ssh (as an added security step).
Fine – I would just like it to ssh from my phone.
You can already do it 🙂
Alex Lee and Zlatan Todoric – what do you define as the digital divide and how is your department bridging it?
I define the digital divide as essentially the gap between those who have access to the technology that allows them to achieve their dreams or succeed and those who do not.
Our service can bridge this gap in a number of ways, ranging from being able to provide a desktop computing experience to someone who may not be able to afford a cheap smartphone or tablet to upgrade an old or dated device that has its limitations, whether it is accessing Windows or just does not have the system requirements to perform the configuration desired by the user.
We are currently working closely with some schools and providing a unique environment for classrooms. We recently visited a high school and a classroom of 20 had 5 different models of Chromebooks and HP laptops of all different ages and types. Our product can help provide that consistent environment at settings like this.
What do you think the future of Linux holds? He has come a long way in the past two decades.
Linux in one way or another has dominated different areas over time – be it supercomputers, phones, or servers. The cloud desktop is the next step in the evolution of the desktop experience, much like the talk about cloud servers was ten years ago. There is a famous “The Year of Linux Desktops” joke, but with the cloud we are seeing an evolution to that level because it is easier and safer than ever to test the most advanced systems. Microsoft even has Linux in their offering and with WSL they are showing the model that way.
All – Thanks for the questions in the AMA. Here is a special link for a reduced price for those who want to try our product! Thanks again and don’t hesitate to ask us more questions! https://www.shells.com/l/en-US/pricing?special=slogging
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