by Dustin Sklavos
The MojoPac is a new tool which aims to knock our precious laptops off their mighty perches in the consumer and professional markets.
Of course, I jest.
Do not be fooled by the physical MojoPac; the true MojoPac exists inside, in the software. And what is MojoPac, really?
The desktop on the review unit. (view large image)
In short, a mobile desktop. Not desktop as in computer, desktop as in that thing you see when you boot your computer. Right now, I’m reviewing the MojoPac on the MojoPac, typing this review on Notepad from within the MojoPac desktop environment. It fits the slogan: “Take your PC with you in your pocket.”
The MojoPac software gets installed on a portable USB drive (minimum 128MB, works on both flash and hard disks), and then when that drive is plugged into a Windows XP PC, it automatically opens a login screen. Enter your login and your password, and after a brief loading period, your desktop gets loaded into RAM.
Treat it as an actual desktop, because more or less that’s what it is, and it exists almost entirely independently of the host computer. It’ll pick up the host computer’s window settings (especially if you’ve patched your uxtheme.dll like I have), but the wallpaper will be its own, and the drives it lists will be its own. From here, you can install your own applications and more or less, it’s YOUR computer. It just happens to be running on someone else’s hardware. On anyone else’s hardware.
My review unit is a Western Digital 60GB 5400rpm external notebook hard disk. Note that the MojoPac can be installed on any external drive with 128MB or more of space. You’ll probably want more.
The MojoPac’s control bar. (view large image)
In the MojoPac desktop environment is a red and silver bar at the top of the screen which offers the following options:
- MojoPac Logo: Takes you to the MojoPac homepage.
- Invite Friends: Takes you to the MojoPac homepage to invite people to try it.
- Switch to Host: This button lets you switch between the MojoPac desktop and the host computer’s actual desktop. Note that when you switch to the host computer, the bar remains at the top of the screen and allows you to switch back to the MojoPac.
- Mojo Feedback: Takes you to the MojoPac homepage to leave feedback.
- Settings: I thought this would be more interesting, but the only setting it allows you to change presently is the password.
From there is a green pie diagram that tells you how much free space you have on your MojoPac, and if you hover over it, it’ll tell you that you have “xx% – xxGB of Mojo Remaining.” Cute.
The question mark button opens the MojoPac help file, the “minimize” button lets you autohide the control bar similar to the autohide that can be enabled on the Windows taskbar. The “X” button exits you out of MojoPac.
It’s difficult to adequately describe the MojoPac’s desktop environment unless you’ve actually used it: it really is just like having your own desktop, it just happens to be portable.
The MojoPac’s import screen. (view large image)
When you log in, it also gives you the option of importing files and bookmarks from the host desktop, and it supports importing from Internet Explorer AND Firefox. In fact, my MojoPac Firefox install has exactly the settings the host originally had. This process is actually pretty easy to go through, and the MojoPac will warn you if you’re importing a lot of stuff by telling you that you’re importing a “HUGE” amount of data and that it may take a while.
And once you’re on your MojoPac desktop, well, you’re on your new portable desktop!
I tried running the MojoPac on my HP Pavilion dv6258se. Its specifications are as follows:
- AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 (1.8 GHz)
- 2GB DDR2-667 RAM
- nVidia GeForce Go 6150
- 120GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Disk
- Windows XP Professional SP2
It was on my laptop that I noticed the first quirk of the MojoPac: if autoplay is disabled on the host computer, the MojoPac will need to be manually booted.
While using the MojoPac, I found performance to be a bit sluggish, but that’s to be expected – it’s running off of a USB 2.0 hard disk.
There’s no latency as far as input goes and writing this review on it so far has been fairly uneventful, but there were a couple of hiccups.
First, trying to run the Call of Duty 2 demo resulted in a blue screen and honestly, I’m not totally surprised. While most applications can jump from configuration to configuration fairly easily, game configurations tend to be tied to graphics hardware which can differ wildly from computer to computer.
Second, and most curiously, since running the MojoPac the notebook itself has been having a lot of hiccups while running Firefox, even after the MojoPac has been disconnected. Interestingly, though, running Firefox from the MojoPac worked perfectly fine.
One curiosity while using the MojoPac: the Alt+Tab shortcut doesn’t work. Ctrl+Alt+Del, however, pulls up a task manager that displays only what’s running within the MojoPac desktop environment.
As for everything else? Fairly routine, but the latency whenever loading a program is a bit…irritating. Again, though, this is to be expected. After all, it’s running off a USB 2.0 drive.
One of the nice things about the MojoPac is that when a window pops up on the host machine (but not on the MojoPac desktop), a bubble will actually pop up in the system tray to inform you about it, and will even tell you the name on the window so you know if it’s something you need to switch back to.
Unfortunately, the MojoPac is a great concept with a couple of serious limitations.
First, it MUST be used on a Windows XP 32-bit machine. I tried loading it on my XP x64 desktop at home, but it just wasn’t having it. Now granted, XP 32-bit is the most common operating system out there, but this is just a heads up if you’re a nutbar like me and run a 64-bit system. It also doesn’t currently run on Windows Vista, but a Vista version is due within the next couple of months.
Second, and probably most devastating, the MojoPac REQUIRES administrator privileges on the host computer. In lay terms, this means that while it should run perfectly fine bouncing between your own home computers and your friends’ computers, publically available computers such as the ones in my university library simply won’t run it. Likewise, many businesses lock the users out of administrator privileges on their systems (for good security reasons), and so MojoPac will be a no-go for these users as well.
Thus, if you’re in the market for the MojoPac, it’s important to know what it can and can’t do. The second limitation above can be very restricting and seriously hamper its use in academic institutions. While some computer labs in universities do have administrator privileges available by default, these are usually in advanced labs and they’re few and far between.
I also can’t stress enough the limitations caused by basically running a Windows XP desktop on top of a Windows XP desktop. While performance is for the most part untouched, some tasks (opening the Control Panel for example) can take unusually long to load, so getting everything customized on the first go around might be a small headache.
Is MojoPac for you? Possibly. The ability to actually take your desktop with you wherever you go is enticing, and if you have a pretty good idea of where you’re going to be using it, it might be up your alley.
The makers of the MojoPac seem to be targeting two specific demographics with the product: gamers and professionals. For the gamers, the MojoPac seems like a fairly solid idea: bring your games – and your saves – right along with you. Go beyond this thought process, though: while this might be good for LAN parties, it bears mentioning that you’ll still need a host computer, so you have to ask whether or not it’s worth spending up to get a laptop. Granted, that’s a massive spending up, but it’s also moving from a portable desktop to a full-fledged computer.
Professionals, I suspect, will get a lot more mileage out of the MojoPac. Using the MojoPac allows you to keep important files all in one place, accessible only on one system, and more than that, it keeps your files on the drive itself. It also allows you to bring your installs of Office and other professional applications with you, along with your mailbox, which may be one of the most important features.
Ultimately while I’m very fond of the MojoPac, I have some difficulty finding use for it. I have a laptop and a desktop, and important files get moved between the two either on a flash drive or over my network. As a student, I use my laptop to take notes and as a mobile workstation. While in a pinch I could probably find a host computer on campus for that second purpose, the need for a host computer sort of limits it.
I think it’s a great product – with limitations that need to be recognized – that’s going to wind up spending some time searching for a demographic. Having an OS and desktop you can take with you – one that won’t need defragging or frequent reformatting like a full-on installation often can – is very attractive.
It’s worth going to their site and giving it a shot, but the question I do have to ask here is…
Who is this really for? I’d love to hear the opinions from the people on the forums.