Once I got the installation finished on my primary system I started looking around. The flavor and general feel of Xandros in terms of graphics, icons, menu layout, and so forth seemed quite professional and polished to me. It doesn't glitter as much as Lindows, but it is plenty shiny enough for my purposes.
No, I am not including any screenshots in this article either. Go check the Xandros site if you want to see what it looks like. To me, it looks like KDE. I have seen KDE before.
What about function?
Xandros has been pushing a few specialties. They are emphasizing
- easy setup (quite true, if your hardware is compatible),
- easy networking with high levels of compatibility with Windows networks,
- the ability to run some Windows programs,
- the ease of Xandros Networks for upgrades and installation,
- and they are pushing Xandros File Manager as being the greatest thing since sliced bread, especially if you want to toast a CD-R.
Lets look at networking first. Ordinarily I don't bother much with networking. I have a hub and I can handle setting up a LAN in either Windows or Linux if I want to. Most of the time I don't bother. I have two systems less than 6 feet apart, plus my wife's system over by the window. Sneakernet works fine. But I have been playing with the idea lately of setting up a LAN so the kids and I can play multiplayer DM games. I figured now was as good a time as any to try it out.
Here I must compliment Xandros. They are far and away the easiest Linux distro I have ever used in a LAN. Not quite as simple as Windows, but very close. I can report that for my setup, Xandros was completely compatible with the Windows box. It also provided seamless reciprocity with the Windows shares. Using the Windows computer I had no way of telling that I wasn't accessing the shares on another Windows system.
Good enough. I have tinkered with the network settings in an idle way for the other distros but never bothered to finish setting them up. After Xandros I estimate that Libranet is the next easiest for me, followed by Lindows and finally MEPIS. None of them offer much of a challenge to setting up a network if you know what needs to be done. Neutral ratings on this subject because I simply don't need it. But any of them will work well enough to be useable. I merely include this description because Xandros pushes it as one of their strongest points.
Xandros did make one mistake with networking that they acknowledge to be the result of an oversight. Apparently Xandros 1.1 included the ability to mesh seamlessly with Windows NT domain networks. Xandros 2.0 dropped that utility, intending to switch it over to their upcoming Business version. This caused a major whirlwind of complaints on the user forums. Xandros did admit that they goofed and offered any user of 2.0 who needed compatibility with Win NT domains a free upgrade.
They acknowledged the oversight and made a forthright effort to fix it. But they still rushed things.
Running Windows Programs
The Deluxe version of Xandros 2.0 comes with a specialized copy of Codeweavers CrossOver package, both Office and Plugins. For those that have never tried it, Codeweavers uses WINE plus a few extra bells and whistles to make it easy to use some Microsoft programs in Linux. The version that comes with Xandros is tied right into the operating system so that if you click a MS Windows executable, Codeweavers is launched by default.
The ability to run Windows programs is another selling point that has minimal relevance for me. I already own a copy of Crossover Office 1.1, but I stopped using it because I outgrew the need for most Windows programs. If and when I ever get into a tight spot and feel compelled to use a Windows program I can easily set up a dual boot arrangement and use the real McCoy.
But since it came with the system I gave it a try. Again, I cannot do any comparison with the other distros in this regard because none of them included this. In fact, the other three distros (MEPIS, Libranet and Lindows) did not seem overly concerned with Windows compatibility at all, except for making a recent copy of Wine available if someone wanted it.
This is somewhat shortsighted I think. Like it or hate it, Microsoft is universal. You can't get away from it, so you might as well play as nice as possible with it. But that is my subjective opinion.
Codeweavers worked as expected. It ran MS Office and Adobe Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro quite well. Codeweavers did have the potentially annoying habit of trying to automatically install any and all Windows disks that you stuck into either drive, but such is life and the feature can easily be disabled. I call Codeweavers a neutral aspect as far as my use goes. But for someone who really needs to run a few specialized Windows programs, and who cannot or will not setup a dual boot system, this is a good alternative.
Compatibility with MS Windows -
1) Xandros (Codeweavers included)
2) Libranet (wine included + adminmenu)
3) MEPIS (wine included)
4) Lindows (requires wine download)