Review: Lindows 2.0 has beautiful skin, iffy personality
Suffer not the newbies
Lindows 2.0 looks cool, I have to admit. The company has stopped aping KDE and gotten a desktop look that is more its own. Lindows has made scant concessions to the knowledgeable, allowing for a somewhat more advanced setup configuration. I'm still concerned for the newbies, though.
The latest release of Lindows recognized all the hardware on an eMachine T1090 and an IBM ThinkPad T20. (Though the sound card wouldn't work on the T20 -- not surprising because it won't work on any other distribution I've tried.) It installed so quickly I was worried something had gone wrong, especially considering it asks for one whole gigabyte of hard drive space. It took less than five minutes to install, compared to 15 or 20 minutes for a medium-sized installation of Mandrake.
Because Lindows is marketed to the disgruntled Windows user, I figured I'd try to do it justice and install it on a Windows ME system. I put the CD in, it "auto-started" and told me I didn't have one gigabyte available on the "C:" drive. The only option was to exit. Why couldn't I select a different drive letter? There's plenty of space on the D partition. But there was no way to do that.
So, trying to think like a Windows user, I simply re-booted. Now I was presented with a splash screen and a few lines of text telling me that Lindows was booting the kernel and detecting hardware. Cool fade to black, and then a screen offering me options: wipe the hard drive and boot into Lindows only, or wipe the D: partition (and all its valuable data) and dual boot, or re-boot into Windows and run a "friendly" installation of Lindows. Which I couldn't do because it only recognized the C partition. By now, if I was a Windows person, I'd be calling Lindows to get my money back.
Or maybe, if I were adventurous, I'd go ahead and erase Windows; after all, Lindows is better, right? All the ease of use of Windows with none of the headaches of licensing and upgrades. I wasn't at liberty to erase Windows from the computer I was working with, so I found an eMachine with a spare partition and put Lindows 2.0 on it.
This whole Lindows thing is odd. Like calling it Lindows 2.0 when there hasn't even been a general release yet. Or paying to get stuff like KOffice. Sure, you can also get StarOffice 6.0, but since OpenOffice is a viable and freely available alternative, it doesn't make a difference. However, I suppose I can see how Windows people could appreciate the "Click-N-Run" idea. If they ever figured out how to use apt (which isn't hard at all, honest), they could probably bypass that and get their applications for free. Maybe that's why apt seemed to be missing from Lindows 2.0 when I tried it.
Anyway, Lindows accurately detected all the hardware on the eMachine and loaded up quickly. There's not much that comes with the Lindows installation -- again, don't know why it takes one gigabyte of space. Getting online was a no-brainer -- Lindows recognized and configured my network connection with no interference from me, and Netscape (not Konqueror anymore) opened right up. But getting to the fabled "Click-N-Run" warehouse was a different story. It just wouldn't work for me. The icon in the taskbar gave me a connection error, and visiting the old-fashioned way (putting a URL in the browser and "surfing" to it) didn't help much because although I was able to view descriptions of the programs available, the "clickable" icons at the site, the ones you're supposed to click once to get a fully installed application, didn't do anything.
Neither could I load the support pages for members or insiders; only the general consumption FAQ would come up for me. While perusing that FAQ, I saw an interesting question: "How long will I be an insider?" The answer was surprising: If you signed up and paid to be an "insider" anytime before the first general release (which is supposed to come later this year after the typical round of pushbacks), you get two years of access to all updates of Lindows and the Click-N-Run Warehouse. However, the zinger is that, after the general release, new insiders will only get one year, and they'll have to pay a whopping $299 for the privilege.
Another FAQ, "Can I allow my friends to have a copy of any software I obtain?" brings a bothersome answer: "The Lindows.com Insider program is designed to be exclusive to the individual that signs up. As an Insider member, we ask that you not distribute copies of the LindowsOS to other individuals and that you abide by the end user license agreement that comes with our software." Lindows, please don't forget that much of what you're selling is covered under the GPL, which even by the terms of your own end user license, allows redistribution.
My overall impression of Lindows 2.0 is that the outward appearance has improved quite a bit and the install is incredibly easy, but the basic problem still remains: too many glitches for the former Windows user, and too dumbed-down for Linux users. And we're still root.
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