posted by Nathan J. Hill on Tue 24th Oct 2006 10:43 UTC

"Review: Freespire 1.0, 2/2"

The lacks

  • Korean language support: What would have worked here? An input language system that you didn't have to download, install, and configure. Just make the damn OS come with one and all the language files out of the box. Alternately, make it one nice download - the Korean language pack, for instance. (I later discovered that some of this stuff is a Linux-wide problem. Ubuntu has similar challenges.)

  • User-Friendly Help: Make your website and wiki overflow with great tutorials, step-by-step instructions, and helpful tips. I know, I know -- you are a volunteer community. It makes it hard. Still, I had to resort to the command line a lot to get things working with the wireless card, input manager, and other little things. That simply would not work for an average user.

  • CNR: Click-N-Run apps seem like a way to make installing software more user-friendly, but there are let downs. It's hard to search for anything useful. Furthermore, many of the apps are the same ol' open source stuff. Sure, they are free, but many of them don't have the same style of interface of the OS. Maybe some quality control here? Also, in the basic distro, there are some things that I had to download that come standard in other distros (like Ubuntu). Overall, CNR is simply overrated.

  • Installation: Admit it - installation doesn't end after installing the files to the hard drive. Approach installation in a new way and provide automated processes to troubleshoot, detect hardware problems, and correct them after the basic system setup is over. Wouldn't it be a nice new feature?

    The likes

  • FreeSpire Looks Good: I like the custom look and feel of FreeSpire. It's a great start and certainly makes someone (like my fiancee) a little more curious to see how everything works.

  • Multimedia: I like the fact that FreeSpire uses non-open source technologies. It makes it a user-friendly possibility for average users who are migrating from a mainstream system. You get to keep those mp3 files and watch DVDs. However, I didn't even get to use it much because of the other critical problems above.

  • Installation: Yeah, it was pretty simple and cloaked in a good GUI. I like that, and think they are on the right track, especially if they can fix the few bugs I mentioned above.

    Conclusion

    In the end, FreeSpire 1.0 did not make the grade for my fiancee's laptop. Sure, it was a good effort -- there were many things that seemed pretty promising. And let's face it -- my fiancee had some very specific needs for her computing experience. This means that other users may find those annoyances not so lacking. I encourage you to try.

    I have a degree in Computer Science, and I love tinkering around on the command line and downloading interesting open source applications to mess with. My fiancee doesn't. Keeping this in mind, I find it difficult to recommend any operating system that requires that level of maintenance or modification to get it to run properly. Maybe I've been spoiled by Mac OS X, which just works out of the box, but I don't think it's too much to ask, even of an open source operating system.

    In the end, we tried Ubuntu for a brief while on her laptop. It worked better (still with some silly bugs and annoyances, including a Korean input manager that worked half the time). Finally giving up, we went to the local AppleStore and got her a MacBook. Since then, she's put up her first webpage, organized her photos, and caught back up on her work. So, maybe there is a happy ending here after all.

    About the author:
    Nathan J. Hill is the author of Eldritch Ass Kicking, the roleplaying game of arcane action and old men with sticks. He is a writer and student in Washington, DC. You can find out more about Nathan's work on his website.


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    Table of contents
    1. "Review: Freespire 1.0, 1/2"
    2. "Review: Freespire 1.0, 2/2"
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