posted by Barry Smith on Mon 5th Jan 2004 06:39 UTC

"Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 7"
Xandros File Manager

To read the marketing hype, the Xandros File Manager is the crown jewel in the Xandros offering. It's Konqueror.

Basically, it is Konqueror with a modified window layout, a more pleasant arrangement, the adaptation of some Windows conventions to the drive designations, and a few applications intergrated into the file list. It is a nice, user friendly, efficient, effective and pretty little file manager. From my viewpoint, what Xandros has done is to take Konqueror and mold it into a workable imitation of the Windows Explorer file manager, while adding a few Linux-specific advantages. It's nice. It's not a 'wow" experience to me, but it gets the job done. I must admit it is handy having all my drives, printers, network shares (when I had them) all neatly laid out in one place.

I acknowledge that I may simply be too ignorant to properly appreciate all the technical genius that went into producing this marvel. To my unsophisticated gaze, it looks like that same breed of multi-pane file managers that I have been using for twenty years. But I am not a programmer. I am willing to bet that most of Xandros' target customers would not know the difference either.

On the down side, Xandros is one of those distros that tries to protect the user from all those nasty configuration files and system folders. You can still use the Xandros File Manager to access the root filesystem and everything else, but not without searching for it. You either have to physically click on the address bar and type in (for example) "/etc/X11" to access that particular folder, or you must go to the menu and choose "all file systems" and then click on the "/" folder to jump to the standard Linux file system. For a user at my level this is moderately annoying, but I can live with it.

Xandros File Manager also includes specific modifications to make it simple and painless to rip and burn CDs. Personally, I have never had any great difficulty using K3B on the desktop, but to each their own. For the target market that Xandros is shooting for, this makes sense. And it doesn't actually interfere with anything, so no problem.

Ratings for file management, in descending order -

1) Xandros,
2) Lindows & Libranet & MEPIS (tied)

Hardware compatibility

I touched on some of this under installation, but there are several more aspects to cover. (Before anyone asks, the infamous IBM webcam worked fine in Xandros).

Printer setup in Xandros was simple and easy, just like Lindows and Libranet and MEPIS. One thing I did notice during my brief foray into LAN-dom with Xandros was the ability to access network printers from either end. I may be wrong, but I don't think I have ever been able to use a Windows box to access a network shared printer that was hooked directly to a Linux box before. Of course, this may simply be evidence of my own ignorance of proper networking. I toss this out for whatever it might be worth to the readers. When I personally need to access a printer I simply stand up, unplug it from one box and plug it into the other box, then sit down and print. So printer sharing is not a deal breaker for me. I truly wonder how many SOHO users have a real need for a LAN? Or network printer sharing?

Talking about harware compatibility, I will begin with my secondary system. For that one there is no contest. Lindows wins hands down. Not one of the other three distros was able to handle my secondary hardware without problems.

MEPIS was unable to access the CD-ROM drive after installation without major reconfiguring. If a distro requires major reconfiguring right off the bat, what other problems are lurking down the road? No way, I am not about to risk it.

For Libranet, I am ready to believe that the problem I encountered with Grub on my secondary system was more Grub's fault than Libranet's. But the fact remains that the version of Grub installed by Libranet attacked my poor bewildered hard drive without warning or provocation. This forced me to subject my little HD to major software surgery as well as several hours of intensive therapy & counseling before it settled down and started working again. Uh-uh, not again.

Xandros had the same problem that MEPIS had. Same problem, same solution, same objection to using it on that system.

Lindows is the one for my secondary system. Permanently. It is the only reasonable option. This is not to say that I would necessarily have chosen one of the others for this system. I might, or I might have picked Lindows anyway. But in this case Lindows prevails by virtue of being the only distro that I can depend on not to eat my hardware. Besides, any company that can scare Microsoft badly enough to provoke them into blind panic is worth supporting.

For the primary system things are not so clear cut.

Lindows is out of it. Conceivably there may be some esoteric way of using secret cheat codes and major arcana to force a VESA installation of Lindows (maybe a shift key?), but if there is a way Lindows never bothered to provide documentation about it. So I couldn't use Lindows on my primary system even if I wanted to. Not without diving under the desk again and I am just too fat to do that anymore.

For the other three, all of them required a VESA installation. After which, all of them were perfectly happy to use the KNOPPIX version of XF86Config-4 that I have been forced to archive as my golden solution. Why Knoppix (a free non-commercial distro) was able to recognize and configure this hardware last year, whereas none of the commercial distros (costing anywhere from $10-$100 US) can duplicate that feat even today, is one of life's little mysteries.

Once installed, Xandros did the best job of the three at actually finding out what video was on the system and coping with it, followed by Libranet. MEPIS needed more tweaking. MEPIS did not recognize my USR modem, but it was no problem to setup a symbolic link to ttyS4. Both Libranet and Xandros were able to detect and auto-configure my USR modem with the GUI based tools. So they are even on that point. None of the three had any issues with my DVD-ROM or CD-RW drives. All three distros recognized and configured my mainstream sound card. All three distros recognized my network card without problems. And so on and so forth, etc.

When it comes to hardware on the primary system, I guess I am going to be forced into making a subjective judgement based on my "feel" of the system. I know this is unfair, but I don't have anything else to go by. Based on an entirely subjective opinion, I will say that Xandros "felt" the smoothest. This is difficult to explain, but Libranet felt faster & snappier, while Xandros felt smoother. I can't put it any better than that. MEPIS felt....let me try an analogy.

If these three distros were cars, MEPIS would be an SUV, Libranet would be a hotrod, and Xandros would be a luxury sedan. That is strictly based on my subjective and biased opinion of the intangible "feel" of the distro. No two people will have the same reaction of course. But I am making this selection based on my needs, so a subjective judgement call is all I got.

Ratings for hardware compatibility

Primary system -
Lindows (out of the running)

Secondary system -
MEPIS & Xandros (tied & out of the running)

Table of contents
  1. "Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 1"
  2. "Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 2"
  3. "Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 3"
  4. "Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 4"
  5. "Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 5"
  6. "Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 6"
  7. "Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 7"
  8. "Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, Page 8"
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