posted by Adam S on Wed 25th Sep 2002 02:21 UTC
IconThe Linux community has been buzzing about LindowsOS since its original announcement over a year ago. With Michael Robertson, founder of mp3.com, at the helm, it was heralded as a Linux that could seamlessly run all of your Windows applications. As details became available, the skepticism of the community grew and with the LindowsOS general release only months away, no one is quite sure what to make of Lindows.com and their product, LindowsOS. We tested Lindows 2.0 and we today present the most in-depth review ever written for this much-talked OS, accompanied by a number of shots.

Understanding LindowsOS has been a challenge for many and the reason is simple: most of us are Linux people viewing LindowsOS as a Linux distribution. It's much easier to appreciate the product when you approach it from a different viewpoint. LindowsOS is not made for Linux people, although they may like it, it's made for Windows converts. Remember, as you read, that you are probably *not* the demographic that Lindows.com is after, but also remember that you might like what you see. Also, the community seems to have ignored, similarly to the OpenOffice.org debacle, that there is no "Lindows." Lindows.com is the name of the company and LindowsOS is their flagship product.

Installation

Default Lindows LindowsOS installed in about 8 minutes on my Pentium III 700. It took so little time and asked so few questions I was positive the install had failed. However, I'm just about positive that anyone who might want to use a computer could complete it painlessly. There was no user setup, no application choice - just a computer name, a time zone, a "system password," and a few other simple points and five minutes later I had a booting LindowsOS.

Having replaced Red Hat's (null) beta, I found I could not partition very well with the Lindows installer. You have three choices at install. Take over Entire Hard Disk will, of course, dedicate your entire hard drive to LindowsOS. There's an option for side-by-side install with Windows which was grayed out for me. Thirdly, you have the Advanced Install. Don't be fooled, advanced installation is still simpler than I imagined. It simply displayed existing partitions and let me choose which I wanted to use. I was unable to delete and combine my current Linux partitions, so I had to boot to my good ol Win98 start disk and fdisk the /, /usr, /var, /home, /tmp, and swap partitions. It could have been accomplished the same using Windows 2000/XP's "Disk Management" took in the MMC. Only after the space was consistent could I choose to install LindowsOS on the partition I wanted. These tasks were simple, and I'd imagine anyone who already has a second OS installed would have no trouble repeating the same actions. Most Windows users will never have to repeat that.

It was interesting, though not surprising, to see that LindowsOS suppresses ALL kernel messages from the user while booting. It uses general terms like "detecting hardware..." and "loading LindowsOS...," although I did see "Booting kernel..." amongst the information.

The LindowsOS bootloader had no trouble entering my Windows .net Server RC1 into the boot menu. It's an attractive white screen with simple, clear text that allows you to boot LindowsOS in regular or safe mode as well as some other options. I noted that it simply took over control of the MBR without asking. This wasn't a problem for me, and I'd imagine wouldn't be for most, since the Windows boot.ini is much less friendly anyway. That said, it worked without a problem. I was, however, displeased that it labelled the Windows partition "hda1." Only those familiar with Linux would understand this being a partition on an IDE hard drive - I'd have preferred a message with a prompt, maybe "LindowsOS has detected another Operating System on your computer - what would you like to call it?" Overall, installation is the simplest of anything I've ever installed. If anything, my only complaint is that it might be too simple.

Defaults

ClicknRun, menus The LindowsOS desktop is not radical. It's KDE, plain and simple. It's got a kicker with custom icons, a desktop with useful icons, and a super logical menu. The first thing I'll say about LindowsOS that will elicit a reaction is that it's the best menu structure I've seen in any OS. It's idiot proof - not too complex but not dumbed down. It's logical and clearcut, as you can see in the image below. I had some trouble detecting my network shares, however, I was able to browse them without a problem, as I'll discuss later.

LindowsOS uses the Keramik theme by default, which is gorgeous. I find the KDE defaults to be generally unattractive and tough to use. LindowsOS makes some simple changes that a Windows user would appreciate. Single click has been disabled in favor of the double-click, which, productive or not, is the nature of most PC users. The icons on the kicker don't grow on hover a la stock KDE3 or Mac OS X.

There are a number of icons on the default desktop. Most notably, you'll find a "C: drive." Having installed this on a drive that has a Windows partition, a double click yielded Program Files, Windows, and some other directories. What is interesting is that this is NOT a mount of a Windows drive - it is a symlink structure that points to the equivalents in Linux. I find this confusing as a Linux user, and yet, refreshing as a Windows refugee. If I don't know where to go for very typical things, I can navigate a "C: drive" to find it.

Other icons, Printers, which is a CUPS utility, Floppy, Network File Shares, My Documents, and My Computer are Windows carry-overs that make the Linux transition comfortable. Furthermore, they would make the environment comfortable for a *new* computer user. Someone I know mentioned that the desktop looked cluttered for a distribution that prides itself on its simplicity. I have to disagree overall, with a single exception. I haven't really figured out the different between Network File Shares and Network Browser. I imagine that one is a browser and one is a sort of "favorites" of network places. Neither works particularly well for me at this point.

Table of contents
  1. "Introduction, Installation, Defaults"
  2. "Configuration, Software Installation"
  3. "Run as Root, General Use, Windows Interaction: SMB/WINE"
  4. "Some Other Points, Conclusion"
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