Presto! In ten seconds, you've got an Internet desktop.

Presto! In ten seconds, you've got an Internet desktop.

Summary: Have you ever had the need to boot your laptop in a Starbucks, an airport lounge, or a buddy's house, but don't want to go through the agonizing multi-minute procedure of starting up your operating system with all of its managed software and utilities? If you're a corporate Windows user on the go, chances are your PC might take several minutes to get up and running if you just want to get onto the Internet, GMail, surf, Twitter, FaceBook, instant message, Skype, or what have you.

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Have you ever had the need to boot your laptop in a Starbucks, an airport lounge, or a buddy's house, but don't want to go through the agonizing multi-minute procedure of starting up your operating system with all of its managed software and utilities? If you're a corporate Windows user on the go, chances are your PC might take several minutes to get up and running if you just want to get onto the Internet, GMail, surf, Twitter, FaceBook, instant message, Skype, or what have you. Well, now there's a solution: Presto.

The Presto Linux desktop.

Presto is actually an ultra-stripped down Linux that has been optimized to boot on even the oldest PC laptop hardware in a matter of seconds. Unlike other Linux environments that require re-partitioning of your system, Presto actually is stored in the C:\Program Files\Presto directory on your native Windows NTFS file system and installs just like a regular Windows Program.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

When you reboot your PC, your BOOT.INI menu now gives you a choice of Windows or Presto. If you pick Presto, it boots your computer within seconds into a Linux OS that is optimized for Internet Browsing, Instant Messaging, and Skype VOIP. You can even access files such as Powerpoint and Word documents on your Windows hard disk and view them or even modify the files using the built-in OpenOffice software.

Presto includes Firefox, Instant Messaging, Skype and the ability to browse/view/and alter files on your NTFS drive.

The technology which Presto uses to co-exist with Windows on the NTFS file system has also been applied to other Linux operating systems, such as Ubuntu, which offers the free WUBI installer for Windows. However Presto is much more stripped down than Ubuntu, and is really geared for Windows-based netbooks, older laptop hardware, or for anyone who wants to get their system up and running quickly.

Presto installs in a matter of minutes and as soon as my Lenovo laptop rebooted, it instantly detected my wireless networks. Presto is also extensible through a special "Click and Run" web site that it uses in combination with the Application Store program pre-installed on the system. Need some games or other special programs, such as the GIMP image editing software? or Picasa? Just add it for free through the online App Store.

The Application Store allows you to add thousands of applications to Presto with just a simple click.

Unlike WUBI, Presto is commercial software -- it costs $19.99. But this is a no-brainer purchase for the busy traveller on the go.

Have you played with Presto yet? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Topics: Hardware, Browser, Windows, Software, Operating Systems, Open Source, Mobility, Linux, Laptops, Collaboration, Social Enterprise

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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117 comments
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  • Sounds mighty cool

    However, 20 dollars....

    If you don't mind some extra seconds during booting (about 40 to 50 seconds), then a bootable USB memory stick loaded with a live version of Fedora or Ubuntu, will provide the same functionality for free.

    With Unetbootin you can turn any 1 GB memory stick into a bootable fully functional operating system with loads of fine apps:
    http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/

    Additional advantage: you leave the hard disk of the laptop untouched. So if your company has a policy of regularly restoring a clean image of Windows, that's no problem.

    Have fun, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • USB Sticks

      Are great provided you don't lose 'em :)
      jperlow
    • Why 1g?

      I created a bootable usb stick on a 128mb stick for my son-in-law with Puppy Linux 4.2. The OS only takes up 100mb.
      Gerry_z
    • USB booting

      Darn! Beat me to it. What he said.
      rMatey
  • RE: Presto! In ten seconds, you've got an Internet desktop.

    Regardless of OS, why not just use the sleep or hibernate modes in the OS of your choice? I routinely pop open my laptop at which point it resumes from hibernate or sleep, resuming my last session and connecting to wireless within a few very tolerable seconds.
    djmik
    • ditto

      I do that daily. Just once in a while Windows will hang up and I have to do a complete reset. So this program seems pretty cool.
      nothingness
    • RE: Presto! In ten seconds, you've got an Internet desktop.

      An added benefit is that Linux isn't as susceptible as Windows to all the crap that's out there, and you won't be taking a chance on corrupting your Windows install.
      1djk1
  • Presto - 19.99, windows hibernation - free

    I hibernate windows on my laptop most of the time. Hibernated system starts in 10-20 seconds and I do not need to start any programs too as they are already running. Why would I ever want to pay $20 for something that I already have?

    Now if somebody could speed up BIOS startup then it would be really nice. That is worth 20 bucks.
    paul2011
    • Hibernation

      Hibernation is great in principle, but it is not always a good idea and is not always implemented correctly. Some laptops put out a significant amount of heat even when "hibernating" and I've noticed on a number of occasions when closing the lid on several laptops the system never completely goes into hibernation, it keeps on running in full waked up mode instead, this despite having the correct hibernation settings applied. So then you find a few hours later your battery has run out and your laptop is cooking in your backpack at about 150 degrees. Bad. Very bad.

      What this does is give you the option of a full power down, and then being able to boot the laptop up very quickly. No hibernation.
      jperlow
      • full waked up mode?

        is that a technical term? LOL.

        "Some laptops put out a significant amount of heat even when "hibernating" and I've noticed on a number of occasions when closing the lid on several laptops the system never completely goes into hibernation, it keeps on running in full waked up mode instead, this despite having the correct hibernation settings applied."

        Sounds like power management issues which are usually due to OEM's cutting costs. You find this a lot on laptops made in China... which is pretty much all of them.

        I feel that instead of patching the problems with $20 apps... the OEM's should be forced to put out a decent product. But getting everyone to boycott these greedy bastards will be hard.
        ShadowGIATL
        • My last Compaq laptop...

          ...took about 45-50 seconds to come out of hibernation. It ran XP, maybe Vista is faster but somehow I doubt it.
          914four
          • Well... depends on how old.

            Faster hardware generally means faster boot times. Also, in my experience, Vista does tend to boot faster then XP, especially if SP1 was slipstreamed into the install.

            Can't speak for everyone, but on average, most the Vista machines I have seen boot faster.

            That said, I have seen some pre SP1 Vista machines take forever to resume from hibernation. However, in the cases is saw, this was due to poorly engineered BIOS support for power management. MS addressed a some of these issues in SP1, and some OEMs with BIOS updates.

            You have to remember, MS only makes the OS, and other factors such as BIOS boot, and POST sequence play a part in boot time as well.
            ShadowGIATL
        • Deleted (posted in wrong place)

          Posted in wrong place.
          ShadowGIATL
      • Hibernation works perfectly for me, every time, but...

        ...it takes almost as long for a Vista laptop to come out of hibernation as it does to boot!

        So even I'd consider a fast-boot Linux distro.
        james.faction
    • When it works...

      http://www.google.com/search?q=windows+hibernate+problem&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=com.mandriva:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

      Now, let's ask the next question, it comes out of hibernate, but refuses to reconnect to the internet?

      This was (probably still is) a famous Vista problem, leading to a complete reboot in the end anyway. If it works for you, then that's great, but hibernate may not be reliable enough for many.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
      • Vista reconnect issues are from standby mode

        Vista never had a problem reconnecting when coming out of hibernation. You're thinking of standby mode, which is still a problem. I've expressly disabled standby mode on my laptop and every other machine running Vista I come across because of this issue.

        Hibernate works fine on Vista (for me at least), but it's frustratingly slow to resume from hibernation...

        Which is, I think, why there's a reason for instant-boot operating systems to be promoted like this. I suspect if Windows 7 sorts this out so that a laptop will resume from hibernation instantly (which is theoretically possible, all it does is dump the contents of RAM to disk), or for that matter sorts out boot times (which I hear they have to some extent) the market for things like Presto will all but disappear...
        james.faction
    • Puppy Linux, also free.

      I have Puppy Linux installed on a 2g usb stick. It boots in seconds and recognizes my Wireless N PCMCIA card. I'm on the internet before windows would even get to the start up screen. I can access all the files on my hard drive as well. If I want to, I could load it on the hard drive and dual boot it with Grub, but that would make boot up take a few seconds longer. It loads the entire OS into ram so it really flies.
      Gerry_z
      • What 10 seconds?!

        I built a Puppy flash for an Acer Aspire1.
        Seems to work (except the WIFI!), but it takes
        almost as long to boot up as XP! And now, I've
        burned 6 hrs trying to figure out how to
        configure the wifi. This is why Linux is not
        gaining the traction that it should! Nothing is
        simple and all the forums ASSUME you've were
        there when the thing was born! It seems like
        anything you want to do has to go back to the
        command line. Windows may be terrible, but it's
        super user friendly compared to Linux!
        ghayden
    • My MacBook Pro opens all windows and connects to wireless in 4 seconds!

      Sleep mode works extraordinarily well with my MacBook Pro. No restarts needed. Sleep mode is indicated by a flashing light at the front of the base of the laptop.
      No More Microsoft Software Ever!
      • Mine will do that also, but only...

        ...when the wireless network is the same that it was connected to when I closed the lid.
        914four