posted by Barry Smith on Tue 23rd Dec 2003 20:02 UTC

"Main Review - Lindows rides again"
I got a total of four ISO files for the Lindows 4.5 update. The standard installation CD, the OEM version installation CD, the typical Click-N-Run warehouse CD and an extra one called Lindows for Laptops. I suspect that the Lindows for Laptops was a preliminary release candidate or something, since it lacks a few things that the other two CDs have, and the other two CDs include everything that is in the Laptop edition. Or maybe they just wanted the Laptop edition to be lean and mean. The CNR disk provides a bunch of programs from the CNR warehouse to speed things up for the the dialup losers like me. Of course, it is encoded so that you can't get at them without using the CNR software. It would indeed be disgraceful if bootleg copies of Tuxracer started circulating around the internet.

I noticed a few improvements right away. One thing should make a lot of Linux purists very happy. Lindows has changed their installation routine to strongly suggest the use of a security (root) password. The installation program declares that while a security password is not absolutely necessary, it is strongly recommended. For my purposes, it doesn't matter but it is good to see that Lindows is listening to the constant stream of bitching & moaning & cursing & gnashing of teeth that has been going on concerning this issue since their first release. As usual, they were slow to respond. But respond they eventually did. That deserves a +1.

The online tutorial animations are slicker and appear to work faster. I don't know if the speed increase is due to the upgrade to XFree86 4.3, or if they optimized the tutorials. They look and sound quite professional. I always like to see this kind of online help system. I am beginning to truly believe that this type of approach is the only real substitute for documentation that we end users are going to get. The chances of the programmers writing documentation, or even producing a sufficiently detailed description of their work to allow someone else to write it, appears woefully small. But they are apparently willing to work on animations. Maybe they are considered "kewl", I don't know. At least there is SOME kind of help for the newcomer. Give them a +1 for the improved tutorials. Running score is now +1 +1 = +2.

At this point I ran into trouble. One of the biggest problems that I had with Lindows 4.0 was the failure to recognize or cope with my video on the primary system. The motherboad on my main system includes an onboard i810 video. For my purposes this onboard video was slow and crappy. So I switched the BIOS to use PCI video as the primary and plugged in a Radeon 7200 card.

I know, I know. Please don't berate me. When you are using three year old hardware, and two of the most common brands of video on the planet, a person must expect a brand new, ultra modern, fresh off the compiler operating system to have trouble dealing with it.

But my feelings were hurt when I realized the Lindows 4.5 had not fixed this problem. Did that mean that I had gone onto the Lindows user forums because of 4.0 to rant & rave and make an obsessive pain in the backside of myself for nothing? Was my cursing and screaming in vain? Apparently so.

I did the same thing with version 4.5 that I had done with 4.0. I reset the BIOS to use the onboard video, switched over the monitor plug, and I immediately had no more problems. I am confident that I could also have gone ahead and modified my /etc/XFconfig-4 file, just like I did with version 4.0, and make it work with my Radeon card. I could have done that. But I refuse to do that.

This system is three years old. It uses an onboard i810 and a PCI Radeon. Three years ago Mandrake was able to cope with this hardware configuration. Libranet never made me jump through these hoops just to get my video running. Knoppix had no problems with it. Lycoris had no problems with it. MEPIS recognized what was going on and offered me a VESA option. Only 2 distros have refused to even try to adjust to this hardware configuration. RedHat and Lindows. Oddly enough these two are probably the most generally well-known distros on the market today.

I don't know if this coincidence signifies anything or not, and I don't give a care. I refuse to contort myself under that desk one-more-time because an operating system is incapable of coping with my three year old mainstream hardware. I also refuse to believe that I am on the only person on the planet who disabled their onboard video so they could use a better card. Enough is enough. Lindows is out of the running as far as I am concerned when it comes to my primary computer. MEPIS is too raw for right now, so it looks like Libranet is the current front runner for the primary system. Libranet had no difficulties with my primary system's video, and it is the only distro to properly recognize my USR modem. So Libranet is looking good for the final stretch on my primary system.

Give Lindows a -1 (again) for failing to recognize my video, and a second -1 for failing to fix a problem that I know for a fact they were aware of. I know they were aware of the problem because I complained about it myself. I complained extensively. You might even say that I......never mind. They were aware of it.

Current score +2 -1 -1 = 0.

When it comes to my secondary system however, the whole situation does a complete 180 degree flip. Of all the distros that I have tried in this series, only Lindows had no difficulties at all with my secondary system. Only Lindows was able to recognize and auto configure all of the hardware on this system and have all of it work out of the box. Libranet had issues with my Lucent winmodem and the version of Grub that Libranet installed tried to eat my MBR. MEPIS had issues with automount.

But Lindows is in love with it. Lindows installed without a hiccup. Lindows recognized and auto configured my Lucent winmodem. Lindows even knows and loves my network card, the one that I don't even use because I don't bother with a LAN. The video on my secondary system holds no terrors for Lindows. My CD drive purrs with satisfaction and does the automount thing with ease and grace. NO hardware issues of any kind whatsoever. Give them a +1 just for the relief of finally settling on a distro that works. Current score +1.

One new thing I am not going to rate is the SIPphone software that Lindows now includes. It works, I set up a new account as an experiement. Since I am on dialup and the SIPphone software requires a broadband connection it does me no good, but I am sure a lot of business travelers will get a great benefit from it. Let them rate it, for me it is a neutral aspect.

One more new thing in Lindows 4.5 does help me. A lot. Lindows 4.5 now includes the software to allow use of the free version of NetZero on Linux. This is a huge deal for us dialup users. Even if we have a good ISp, it helps a LOT to have a backup option for emergency use. Give Lindows a big +1 and a pat on the back.

I am going to mention something that I should have mentioned before. Both MEPIS and Lindows offer free upgrades. Libranet and Xandros both charge for upgrades. I am giving Lindows a +1 for this and I wish I had thought to give MEPIS one as well. It matters. It matters very much to a destitute tightwad like me.

Unless a new distro offers some kind of significant advantage, it appears that my choice for the secondary system has been made. I am going to stick with the only distro (so far at least) that has both installed properly and refrained from trying to eat my secondary computer. Unless Xandros 2.0 shows itself to be significantly better, Lindows 4.5 is going to be the final choice for my secondary system.

This is all tentative until Xandros gets here. I retain the option of a last minute switch. But for now, Lindows is on my secondary system. And it will stay there unless some other distro proves itself to be drastically better. I am getting tired of this switching.

Final score +1 +1 +1 = +3 for Lindows 4.5. Status is finalist for the secondary system, pending evaluation of Xandros 2.0. Lindows is completely out of the running for my primary system. Finalist for the primary system is Libranet 2.8.1 pending review of Xandros 2.0. Stay tuned.

Next & Final Victim - Xandros 2.0 Deluxe.

Table of contents
  1. "Introduction & Explanation"
  2. "Main Review - Lindows rides again"
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