posted by Adam S on Tue 4th Nov 2003 18:20 UTC
IconWhat sets LindowsOS 4.0 apart from the crowd is not what is shares with standard Linux approach, but what it doesn't. LindowsOS has been reviewed many times over, mostly with favorable results - but this is not just another review. This piece will tell you not only about my experience with LindowsOS 4.0, but also what you need to know to arm yourself with the knowledge to make the decision whether LindowsOS is right for you.

LindowsOS (hereafter, casually, "Lindows") is a project aimed a users of Microsoft Windows. Unlike other Linux distributions, Lindows assumes no previous experience with Linux, no experience with installing alternative OSes, and little knowledge of computers. Lindows is based on Debian Linux, and under the hood, is still exactly that. Familiar users will be able to edit /etc/apt/sources.list and use apt-get to install and manage their packages. You can still go to the command line and administer your system like any Linux box. But why would you want to? This is no ordinary Linux, and shouldn't be treated as such. Lindows is much, much more, and at the same time - much, much less.

Click for a larger version I've installed various Linux and BSD systems close to 100 times, and Lindows installation is the easiest I've ever experienced. It's blazingly fast, about 7 minutes on my system, and requires very little attention. In fact, to a seasoned Linux user, or even one with casual experience, it's nearly disconcerting. There's very little in the way of options - even if you chose not to "TAKE OVER ENTIRE DISK," you simply select a partition, give the computer a name and a "system password" (which is the root password, but never referred to as such), and choose continue. Since my test system contains other OS'es, I admit that even though I knew I chose the right partition, I worried that Lindows might somehow decide to install somewhere on its own. While I see this as a negative, the truth is that to someone investigating Linux for the first time, this might be the only way to go without confusing them. I am quite positive that virtually no one I knew who isn't in the IT field knows anything about partitioning their hard disk(s), and I am confident that such an option would end with a phone call to me. So to summarize installation without getting into the details covered a hundred times over elsewhere, it'd dead simple for a newbie and possibly scary in its lack of interactivity for anyone else.

Booting into Lindows for the first time is fairly standard. Assuming you are dual booting, you'll find it will present you with a somewhat boring graphical LiLo boot menu asking you which OS to boot. Selecting LindowsOS, you'll see no kernel messages, just a progress bar a la Windows, and shortly thereafter, receive a login box and login as root. Behind the attractive Lindows splash screen you'll find a crowded KDE desktop reminiscent of Mandrake in the 7.x and 8.x days. Within a few seconds, you'll see a popup of a license agreement and a first time wizard. By accepting the Lindows license, you'll have an "Advanced" button that will present a configuration menu that will allow you to add a new user.

A few versions ago, had some impressions about running as root by default. However, a lot has changed in the last year, and I no longer feel this is acceptable or appropriate. Lindows is now competing with Windows XP, which is a multiuser system, and even the XP install prompts you for user creation. Computer users are becoming smarter and are capable of understanding the difference between an administrator and a regular user. Further, security is growing ever more important and the user savvy enough to venture into Linux territory is arguably even more willing to learn and possibly make concessions like su'ing or logging in as root for configuration changes. Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, and the like all prompt you to create a new user during the install process. Lindows should do the same, regardless of aim. That said, I've already explained that Lindows is set apart from other distributions, and this is a large part of that. They have made a judgment call, and sacrificed what they believe is a minimal security risk for simplicity. I respect their aim, but disagree.

Click for a larger version The heart of what sets Lindows apart from other distros is the attempt to be simple and user friendly. In my opinion, they have succeeded in places and fallen short in others. It's very easy, while reviewing OSes, to say "So-and-so found this correctly and this one didn't!" Unfortunately, hardware detection in Linux is a huge stepping stone, as every hardware configuration tool is eons behind its Windows counterpart. My test system has the GeForce Quadro 4, which is admittedly a semi-obscure card that many distros have had problems detecting properly. That said, Mandrake 9.1 and Fedora Core had no problems, but Lindows did. While TuxRacer, a free download played effortlessly, I was unable, without digging into the config files, to change the resolution from 1024x768. I have a 17" viewable monitor, so my default display resolution is generally 1280x1024, but Lindows kept me locked at 1024x768.

While this is an issue, it's also the resolution of most monitors, and so it's a fair evaluation point. Focusing less on my particular issue with my video card, my experience at this resolution was less than enjoyable. Strangely, nearly everything, even the core application "Click-N-Run," which I'll cover shortly, required sideways scrolling. Working on the basis that the standard Lindows user is not downloading and installing nVidia drivers (and probably doesn't know what drivers are), this is a problem. It's fair for, say, Slackware developers to expect their users to dig around in X11 configuration files, but this is not a realistic goal for a Lindows user. So hardware detection is dead important and earned at least one check minus.

Table of contents
  1. "LindowsOS 4.0 Examined, Page 1"
  2. "LindowsOS 4.0 Examined, Page 2"
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