posted by James LaRue on Mon 14th Jun 2004 06:35 UTC

"Cobind, Page 2/2"
And that is? The XFce panel includes three tools for using the Internet:
*web browser - Firefox 0.8.
*email - Thunderbird 0.6
*instant messaging - GAIM .78-1.FC

It presents three tools for office work:
* word processing - Abiword 2.0.1
* spreadsheet - Gnumeric 1.2.1
* managing your money - GnuCash 1.8.8

It offers three tools for multimedia:
* Video player - Mplayer 0.9
* Music Player - xmms 1.2.10
* CD Burner - K3b 0.11.9

It offers three system tools:
* Window settings - XFce settings manager
* Software Manager - Cobind's own "yumi," a graphical front-end to yum, Fedora Core 1's tool for installing and removing software, as well as handling dependencies.
* A manual -- a disk version of XFce's web page manual.

In addition, there's an icon for gnome terminal, for file management (Nautilus), for the Gedit text editor, for locking the screen, for logging out, and for a system clock.

In general, all of these load and run very quickly. Nor is there much overlap between tools.

At first, it seemed to me that a couple of more monolithic packages-- the Mozilla and OpenOffice suites, for instance -- would have been simpler yet. But after using the built-in choices for awhile, I've changed my mind. Abiword, Firefox, and the others are a good match for the clean interface and speed of XFce. Moreover, they do most of what you really need to do.

That means you might miss some feature important to you. On the other hand, I've come to prefer Firefox to Mozilla, and Thunderbird to Mozilla Mail, because of what they add, not what they take away.

It happens that I came to the Linux world via Red Hat, beginning with Red Hat 8.0, and working up to Fedora Core 1 before branching out to other distributions. As Cobind is based on Fedora Core 1, there are many touches that make Cobind familiar. Even though XFce is the window manager, it uses Nautilus and the GTK+ tool kit. There are familiar icons for "home" and "start here" and "trash." The redhat-config tools are all at hand, too.

Trouble

A few things are a little troublesome in the release.

I haven't tried to compile anything from source. While loading up the machine with a bunch of other applications is both possible and relatively easy, it also seems against the point. But Fedora's yum is there, and I tested it on sndconfig, JPilot, and even Openoffice.org. Yum is now very comparable to Debian's apt. It took just two commands: "yum update" and "yum install openoffice.org", to pack that complex package onto my computer. I messed with yumi, but found it a little buggy. It was far slower than yum, and crashed twice.

My attempt to launch the manual gave me an error message: "Unable to execute mozilla. Online help is not available." However, the XFce manuals are easily Googled.

There are legal difficulties around the use of various browser and multimedia plugins. And that's a problem for the new Linux user. The good news is that what operates out of the box with Linux is always improving. Most things -- both new hardware and bundled applications -- "just work." The bad news is, when something doesn't work, it is a royal pain to fix.

Cobind bundles in Mplayer. Installing plugins for Shockwave, RealPlayer, and Java remains a sudden plunge into complexity -- a real issue for Cobind's intended users.

Neither Red Hat's sound card detection nor sndconfig (a utility for older cards) could coax a peep out of my equipment. But frankly, on this machine, that's not an issue for me. For some, it might be.

Games: There aren't any. This makes it an excellent choice for the young student.

Conclusions

The surprising thing has been just how much of a pleasure Cobind is to use. Most things snap to the screen. The software feels modern and smoothly integrated. I haven't had this much fun with a new distribution in a long time. For just a second version (with first only a month or two old), Cobind is remarkably stable and polished.

In sum, Cobind has breathed new life into an old machine, turning it into an excellent bedroom computer -- ideal for quick browsing, email, or a letter.

Thoreau once wrote, "We become the tools of our tools." Cobind just might be a step toward a simpler, and happier, life.

About the author:
James LaRue is the director of the Douglas Public Library District, headquartered in Castle Rock, Colorado. He has been using Linux since August of 2002, and is the process of moving his library system to Open Source.

Table of contents
  1. "Cobind, Page 1/2"
  2. "Cobind, Page 2/2"
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