Shells provides you with a 1-click, powerful virtual desktop environment in the cloud!
Collaborating and partnering with over 10 Linux distributors to make a seamless virtual desktop experience, Alex is CEO of shells.com, a new virtual desktop cloud computing solution that is simplifying the virtual desktop experience.
The platform lets anyone access their cloud computer from any device with a browser so you can have a Linux desktop on your Apple iPad or your Windows computer on your XBox!
The team are also the previous founders and operators of Private Internet Access, one of the world’s best and most trusted VPNs. This Slogging thread by Alex Lee, Justin Roberti, Golda Velez, Zlatan Todoric and Akasha Rose occurred in slogging's official #amas channel, and has been edited for readability.
Hello everyone! Thanks, Akasha for the introduction and looking forward to talking with the Slogging community! I also have our VP of Tech Zlatan Todoric on here too!
Alex Lee so early virtual desktop apps for mobile were pretty unstable and seemed to bog down the device -- are you mitigating those issues by virtually hosting the OS? How do you handle lag since all requests I assume are hitting a virtually hosted OS?
Are all client computers mirrored on the cloud? How do you ensure data security?
Is this meant as specifically a way to open up Linux usage to a wider user base?
Is it also a cloud storage solution?
Lastly, are you considering doing the same for mobile devices, or are they already available?
Justin Roberti Great questions to kick off the discussion. The operating systems are hosted in the cloud. With the continued enhancement of internet speeds and especially mobile connections (4G, LTE, 5G), a much better experience can be expected in addition to some adjustments we have made to reduce the amount of resources required.
The virtual computers are all in the cloud so the 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 folks who were on the fence about Linux to definitely give it a try through our product since we do offer over 14 Linux distros now, but its also to just open up the desktop experience to a wider user base as you can access from any device with the proper browser (or app) and an internet connection.
Yeah, by default we are a cloud storage solution, but we are working to make the product more seamless and offer something similar to what you would see with a Dropbox. I like to refer to us as a Dropbox on steroids as you can store but also create, edit, modify your files.
You can already access our service through mobile devices. Here is a nice little snapshot I took the other day of my Shells machine on my Galaxy Flip 🙂
Alex Lee thank you. what kind of specs do you need for the device as a user? If the industry moves toward remotely hosted OS', will everyone be moving to basic netbooks or do those devices not have the RAM to handle running the OS? Or would this lead to home/work computers with high RAM and less internal storage (a direction they are already going)?
Alex Lee just to clarify, are users able to use your service to run Android-only apps on a PC for example?
Justin Roberti Love the interest! Our product can be accessed from the browser so most modern browsers can handle our product. For example, I went and purchased a $200 Chromebook with 2GB RAM and I have been using this device to access my Shells machines. Our product definitely creates the option to converge devices and utilize a low-level device for all of your computing needs.
Yes, Android only apps can now be accessed 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, as part of the gig economy who destroyed two laptops by catastrophic spills this year, it sounds like this could be of great benefit to those of us who are our own IT department-- replacing these machines for 200 instead of $1200 or more. Correct? Is this one of the intended use cases?
Alex Lee, how do you handle licensing for non-Linux OS? Does the user need to provide the license?
Justin Roberti Definitely that is an appealing solution to be able to use either cheaper hardware alternatives or increase the longevity of older devices. For Windows, we offer the ability to activate your OS by providing licensing which can be paid by the month or by the year.
Alex Lee, can you post a link to the WP or backgrounder?
We don't have an updated backgrounder to provide right now, but this is something that I can get to you later for sure!
Alex Lee, it seems like this would be a good fit for education... but schools and even most businesses have switched over to Google docs .. which does most but not all of what MS Suite does. Is that your biggest competition? What advantages can you provide over the free Google solution?
I still miss what I could do with local versions of PPT but I think I'm in the minority.
I don't really look at Google docs as our biggest competition. Google docs has its benefits for sure, but we are really focused on providing the "full desktop experience" whether that is having access to the more powerful MS Suite or being able to create what you want to create or change what you want to change.
Alex Lee, how many clients are you currently running? Are you focusing on enterprise or retail users? What are you projecting as your user growth by end of 2021?
We have servers (which is our own hardware) in 6 locations (Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Amsterdam, and Tokyo). We hope to get to 80% capacity of these locations while adding more hardware and locations in the process by the end of the year! But of course, I would love to go beyond that too. 🙂
Alex Lee how many current users?
Somewhere around 600 right now. We just started up in February.
This is lovely, one would think a graphical browser could handle a shell! Is the browser involved in rendering line by line? Can you just tunnel ssh to anywhere or only to your cloud? Or maybe I misunderstood - this is a whole ubuntu-desktop experience in the browser?
Hi all. We bring them up via QEMU and then use Spice for 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. More Linux distros are coming too.
You can do it all in the browser, from any device that can handle modern browser or you can use our client apps too (for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android).
Welcome Zlatan Todoric VP of Technology for Shell (I just thought I'd state that since I think it hasn't be stated yet).
Zlatan Todoric is there a lite client download on the user end in order to be able to communicate with your remote OS on Shell?
You don't need the client at all, you can just do it all in the browser. That said, the client itself is very light in nature (desktop one is written in Go and the mobile ones in Flutter but we plan to move them to Swift and Kotlin).
BTW, coming to your first question Justin Roberti - the virtual desktop apps for mobile (or vice versa), were unstable or heavy because virtualization (or emulation and in some instances full core) were done on the device itself. In our case, everything is offloaded to the cloud so you need just a decent internet connection and enough power to have one medium memory-hungry tab opened (average devices nowadays can handle 100 open tabs).
For ssh - you can tunnel it. We also have a system in place for ssh key (which is a requirement for servers) and by default, we disable the password for ssh (as an increased step in security).
Nice - I would want it just for ssh from my phone.
You can already do that :)
Alex Lee and Zlatan Todoric - what do you define as the digital divide, and how is your service closing it?
I define the digital divide as basically the gap between those who have access to technology that enables them to go and achieve their dreams or be successful and those that do not have access.
Our service can close that gap in a variety of ways from being able to provide a desktop computing experience to someone who may only be able to afford a cheap smartphone or tablet to enhance an old or dated device which has its limitations whether it be access to Windows or just does not have the requirements to run the user's desired configuration.
We are working closely with some schools right now and providing a single environment to classrooms. We visited a high school recently and a classroom of 20 had 5 different models of Chromebooks and HP laptops of all different ages and types. Our product can help to provide that consistent environment to settings like this.
What do you think the future for Linux holds? It's come a long way in the last couple of decades.
Linux in one way or another dominated different fields over time - be it supercomputers or phones or servers. Cloud desktop is the next step in the evolution of desktop experience, in the same way that the talk about cloud servers was a decade ago. There is a famous joke "The year of Linux Desktops" but with the cloud, we are seeing the move towards there as now it is easier and secure more than ever to test the most advanced systems out there. Microsoft is even having Linux in their offering and with WSL they are showing the pattern in that way.
All - Thanks for the questions in the AMA. Here is a special link for a discounted rate for those that want to try our product! Thanks again and don't hesitate to ask us any other questions! https://www.shells.com/l/en-US/pricing?special=slogging
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