(Hardware note: Main system = P3 1 gig, 384 meg RAM, 56K USR internal faxmodem, onboard i810 video disabled in BIOS, 32 meg Radeon 7200 PCI video card. Secondary system = P3 450, 128 meg RAM, 4 meg ATI Rage agp, Lucent winmodem. Also note that I am on a dialup internet connection.)
The specific distinction of a "SOHO" environment is important for understanding the approach I take to these articles. The needs of a SOHO user are slightly more complex and technical than those of a typical home user who just wants to surf and read email. The SOHO user also needs to be a little more adaptable than the standard mega-corp drone who only uses three or four programs all day long.
Rather than a "review", it might be more appropriate to consider these articles as "asessments". I am not making an itemized checklist of anything. I am not even paying much attention to which kernel or applications are included. What I am trying to do is assess these distros in terms of their general applicability to the real world needs of the SOHO user.
A SOHO operator needs to be sysadmin, beancounter, hardware tech, salesman, CEO, janitor, and anything else that comes along. The two things that must be kept in mind when discussing the SOHO operator are *limited time* and *limited budget*.
When you are literally doing everything that there is to do, and trying to coordinate all of it while you are emptying the trash cans, there aren't enough hours in a week to get your daily work done. Just a fact of life that has to be dealt with. You deal with it by streamlining as much as possible, You pick hardware that is easy to maintain, you pick software that is easy to use and dependable. You set up routines that let you automate the grunt work as much as you can.
When you are a SOHO operation you are generally working on a tight budget with tight deadlines. Another fact of life. So you buy the cheapest hardware that you can get which will get the job done. And if you buy software, you buy what you need with the understanding that you will not be upgrading every year. Probably not even every couple of years. You either use free software, or you spend whatever you have to spend in order to get something that will keep you operational for as long as possible.
I started this series with Lindows 4.0, then went to Libranet 2.8.1, then MEPIS 2003.10, then a quick second look at Lindows when they released version 4.5, and now I am winding things up with the newly released Xandros 2,0. Along the way I have tried to describe my experiences with each distro, the good and the bad. I have been cussed & criticized by some people for daring to mention flaws in their pet distro. I have been accused of favoritism for mentioning that a particular distro excelled in some particular area.
I honestly do not have an axe to grind here. All of these distros offer both advantages and disadvantages for me. None of them are a perfect fit, but I never expected a perfect fit. I am trying to pin down the best options available to me. I want to set up my chosen distro(s) on my two systems and leave them there for a while.
In previous articles I have been going through the list of distros step by step. The logical and engineering-type approach to finishing this series would be to also go through Xandros step by step, then have a separate section at the end for conclusions. Naturally, I am not going to do it that way.
What I plan to do instead is to meander slowly through Xandros, pausing frequently to make comparisons between Xandros and the other three distros. By the end of this journey I hope to finish up at a point where the most reasonable choice for each of my two systems is self-evident. To make things easier to follow (and to give people more amunition to argue with me) I will rank the distros in various categories from best to worst as I go along.
On the one hand, Xandros will be put into the position of competing against all of the other distros at once (just like reality). On the other hand, Xandros will get as fair an evaluation as I am capable of doing and really have a chance to prove itself against all of them at once.
I think this will make it easier to follow. I have abandoned the +/- scoring system since I was only using it for my own subjective reference, and it won't make any real difference in the final decision.