MojoPac - Desktop virtualization software


Updated: March 21, 2008

Since the large-capacity portable USB devices have become easily available for a comfortable price, the idea of carrying lots of data and even applications on a thumb-sized drive in a pocket sounds really enticing. Some of the more popular software specially geared toward this use are the Portable Apps and Pendrive Linux. There are some small disadvantages to these two concepts.

Portable Apps can be used on a Windows computer only. While they allow the user to carry along a plethora of goodies, like Firefox, GIMP, OpenOffice, and others, the applications on the thumb drive must be self-contained; in other words, applications that must write to the Windows registry cannot be installed on a USB drive and used independently of the platform they were installed on. Furthermore, Portable Apps allow full interaction between the programs on the USB drive and the host machine, creating a potential privacy/security issue.

Pendrive Linux can be used to boot natively from a USB drive, enjoying full hardware support, or run emulated via QEMU in Windows. The first approach is not always practical, because the user might require Windows or not be able to control the setup (e.g. boot off the USB drive). The second approach is highly useful, allowing using both the host and the guest operating systems simultaneously, but the user will not enjoy full graphical support.

Recently, Windows users have gained another candidate - Mojopac.

Teaser

Overview

MojoPac is a very interesting and handy piece of software, with a different approach. First, it installs on a USB device, but runs on actual hardware, allowing the users to take full advantage of the computer power at their disposal. Second, it's a virtualization package, completely separating the host PC from the MojoPac environment, adding to privacy and security - indeed, the Mojo environment looks like any other Windows desktop.

The combination of the full separation between host and guest and the full utilization of the hardware turns Mojo into a very useful and powerful virtualization software.

The benefits of this setup are numerous:

Until recently, MojoPac has been payware only - and thus no candidate for review on Dedoimedo. But since the company has launched a freeware version for home users, it has lured me into sharing the very pleasant and powerful experience with Mojo.

Who is it for?

This question has been answered. You can find all the needed information on the Mojopac website. In general, MojoPac can be useful for students, frequent travelers, software testers, privacy paranoids, geeks, and just about anyone who likes the flexibility and mobility of portable virtualization. You can also see these demos for a more detailed impression.

Installation

MojoPac is very simple to install. Plus, the site offers detailed step-by-step instructions.
Once you're done with the installation, you can start using Mojo. To start MojoPac, plug-in the USB device and run Start.exe. If Autoplay is enabled on the machine, Mojo might start by itself. You will have to provide your username and password.

MojoPac login

After a minute or so, depending on the speed of the device, the MojoPac will load.

MojoPac desktop

The panel on top of the screen allows you to configure your MojoPac, purchase the Deluxe version, invite other people to use MojoPac, and most importantly, switch between host and Mojo. A single click on the central Switch to Host will bring up the host desktop (and vice versa).

For all practical purposes, MojoPac is a self-contained environment. If you ignore the top panel, you can assume you're working on a completely different platform than your own installation - which uses your hardware.

If you launch the Task Manager, you will see that none of your regular processes are active - they all run inside the virtualized bubble. The best part, this is fully transparent to the users, who need not bother about any sort of system configurations, save maybe firewall permissions in the host machine.

MojoPac task manager

Now, let's see what MojoPac offers us.

3D support

This is probably one of the most important aspects of MojoPac, the ability to utilize your graphic card to the fullest. I will demonstrate this with uBrowser and Project Looking Glass 3D software.

uBrowser

uBrowser is an open-source browser rendering webpages onto geometric surfaces, using OpenGL and Gecko engine. The browser is self-contained and does not require an installation.

Here's what the browser looks like: the pages are shown in the black field; on the right, 3D controls are available. By default, the pages are displayed as in any other browser.

MojoPac uBrowser 1

But if you play with Type or Rotation commands, you can start enjoying the 3D gadgets. Here, you can see web pages rendered onto a Cube, dedoimedo.com alongside the openSUSE and Ubuntu homepages. Remember, we're inside Mojo. There's no trace of this anywhere on the host computer.

MojoPac uBrowser 2

Here, Dedoimedo is rendered onto a ball surface, with some very cool warping taking place.

MojoPac uBrowser 3

Flag Type will make the web pages undulate, just like a flag under a breeze.

MojoPac uBrowser 4

You can also use bookmarks, as well.

MojoPac uBrowser 5

Project Looking Glass

Project Looking Glass aims at creating fully interactive desktops, using java technology. Desktop objects are not merely 2D entities on top of a multi-faceted desktop; they are in fact 3D objects that also have depth. The project is still very young, but looks really promising. First, we will install the program (it will run on Linux and Solaris, too).

MojoPac installing LG3D

And then, we shall launch it. I have removed the default MojoPac wallpaper to make it easier to focus on Project Looking Glass window. Below, you can see me changing desktop wallpaper.

MojoPac LG3D 1

Music discs a-la jukebox, a ping pong game, and a desktop search utility are several of the built-in applications in the package, at this time.

MojoPac LG3D 2

You can also maximize the window for a better effect.

MojoPac LG3D 3

Installing applications inside MojoPac

This is another strong side of Mojo. The environment includes a virtual Program Files folder, a virtual registry, and anything else that a Windows application might need to install completely. In this regard, MojoPac is very similar to Pendrivelinux. Below, you can see a demonstration of a Firefox installation (the regular, not a portable version).

MojoPac Firefox install

MojoPac Firefox running

Conclusion

MojoPac is a very useful tool for Windows power users. It allows safe and hassle-free testing of programs and games and offers security and privacy through the separation of MojoPac space and programs from the host. The full 3D support is a real bonus.

Alongside an array of powerful portable solutions, like UBCD4WIN, Portable Apps and Pendrivelinux, you will really be able to enjoy computing anywhere you go.

Cheers.

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