posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Oct 2006 22:08 UTC

"Xandros Desktop 4.0, page 2/2"
After installation, the first thing you'll notice is how... Outdated Xandros looks. Seriously. They selected Keramik as default window border, which in itself already feels as if it was made in the stone age. The various Xandros-specific artwork images also feel very outdated, making the entire distribution feel like a blast from the past. I'd be overdoing it if I'd say it reminded me of Mandrake 8.0, but it is not far from it. If I were testing the corporate version of their distribution, I could understand it a little better; however, this is their flagship home operating system, yet it looks like Windows ME beaten with the ugly stick. I think SLED 10, among others, has shown us by now that there is no reason for Linux distributions to look like wet cardboard. Of course you can configure KDE to look exactly how you want it, but I want good defaults. Defaults matter.

However, what Xandros lacks in looks, it makes up with the Xandros File Manager. As said, it looks outdated, but it is such a breath of fresh air to have Windows networking taken care of, to have Windows partitions mounted and working with Windows drive designations, to have shared Windows printers detected, all out of the box. This is simply perfect for Windows converts (and for the rest of us too), and the likes of Ubuntu and OpenSUSE can learn a great deal from how the Xandros File Manager works. Xandros deserves a lot of praise for this.

To apply updates and install new applications, Xandros comes with its own apt frontend named Xandros Networks. In order to apply for updates, you first need to register at Xandros' website, after which you get an activation code; this code is then entered into Xandros Networks. Xandros Networks is in effect very similar to Linspire's CNR. Xandros Networks is fairly limited, as the amount of applications is small. Of course Xandros is 'just' Debian underneath, so you can easily add more repositories; however, that is besides the point. I expected more applications on offer from the official, supported repositories.

Xandros also comes with a Security Suite, modeled after the Windows variant. It includes access to firewal settings, the antivirus program, a system file protector, and the update applet. Using this Suite, you can configure all security-related setting. Better put-- you must configure security related settings, as it will nag continiously if you do not. It can be turned off, of course, but again: defaults matter.

I also tested Versora Progression Desktop. Versora is a utility which collects settings of various programs and of Windows itself while you are running Windows; it will turn this into one big file, which you then need to transfer over to the Linux side, where Versora will apply those settings to various Linux programs. Versora works well, is easy to use; however, I did encounter a few irregularities. The most important one: Versora does not seem to transfer rules and filters from Outlook (in my case, 2003) to Thunderbird. This is a major downside, as my set of rules and filters is huge, and it sucks to have to enter them all manually. I had hoped Versora would ease the pain.

Conclusion

Xandros 4 is a difficult distribution to form an opinion about, simply because it is so contradictory in nature. It outshines any other distribution when it comes to Windows compatibility, and it has the best file manager of any distribution I've ever seen. The installation is easy, and the hardware recognition is outstanding, and having my bcm43xx chipset work right out of the box is very, very welcome. The downsides, however, are not to be downplayed. The distribution looks like used toiletpaper, the amount of applications in Xandros Networks is too small, and the security center can be annoying.

Is your grandmother still running Windows 9x/ME? If so, Xandros 4 might be a perfect choice, as it gives them a solid Linux distribution, which will play nice with all their Windows files and even programs (through Crossover Office). The inclusion of Versora also facilitates the switch.

However, for more experienced users like you (I guess?) and me, Xandros is simply not the best distribution you can get.


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Table of contents
  1. "Xandros Desktop 4.0, page 1/2"
  2. "Xandros Desktop 4.0, page 2/2"
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