I decided to write this review to provide a quick inside to the new Linspire 5.0 released on March 15th, 2005. The review will determine the use of Linspire 5.0 in a SOHO (Small Office Home Office) Environment. The download was free for me since I’m a current CNR subscriber. UPDATE: Another Linspire review, and the Linspire 5.0 Live CD is now available for free download.
I will not post any Screen Shots, but instead offer users to visit OSDir.com and look at the screenshots provided by them from start to finish. These folks offer a wonderful service and deserve as much credit as possible in providing this for us. I am a Linspire Insider, but will do a very honest and open review about Linspire 5.0. I have also provided many hyperlinks to other areas of interest in this review, so please check them out.
1) Test System and Hardware Support
Dell D800 Laptop, with Pentium M 2.0Ghz CPU, 1GB Memory, 15.4 WUXGA LCD, NVIDIA GeForce FX Go5650 AGP Video, 60GB 7200RPM Hard Drive, 8x DVD+RW, Wireless 1350 802.11b/g, Intel GHz Network Card, and 56k Modem. As you can see this is a very modern and up to date test system, and should really demonstrate Linspire’s ability to perform in a SOHO Environment for which I intend to use it for.
Everything worked for me on this system, the LCD was not adjusted correctly at first but was easily adjusted with the Linspire Display Tool to its default setting of 1920×1600. I plugged in my Maxtor USB2 160GB External HD with a Fat32 Partition and it worked, my Lexar 1GB JumpDrive Traveler worked, my HP All-In-One Officejet 4215 worked once I installed the HP Drivers from CNR !
and Kooka for Scanner support also available from CNR, my Kensington USB Wireless PocketMouse was a go, in other words full support for my Hardware. I did not try the Modem for this test, but since it’s a WinModem there is a chance it won’t work.
Score: 10 out of 10
As with most modern Linux Distribution the install process is rather eventless and straightforward. You first get greeted by a grub boot menu with the choice to:
A) Install or Update Linspire
C) Advanced Options
I choose the install option and a nice Boot Screen greeted me next. No info is displayed, except for a progress bar moving on the bottom. Pressing the ESC Key will display the action going on behind the Boot Screen for those needing to see or know this. Once the Install Screen comes up Linspire asks very few questions, and a total of 7 Mouse Clicks and 3 question need to be answered if you choose a standard install which I did. The install went very fast on my 3Ghz Test PC, 11 Minutes to be exact. This is the fastest install of any Distribution or Operating System to date for me.
Score: 10 out of 10
3) First Boot
The first thing I noticed was the huge improvement in boot up speed, still slow when I compare it to Xandros 3 or SUSE 9.2, but vastly improved. Hopefully as Linspire tweaks 5.0 over time boot up speed will also decrease. The Welcome Screen is nicely done and the KDE Splash Screen is the nicest one I have seen so far. During the initial boot your greeted to a Setup Wizard which let’s you setup a Non Root User, Adj!
ust Time, Screen Settings, Network Settings and so on. I assume this could have been accomplished during the initial install, but I guess it’s a matter of preference. I like it the Linspire way since it makes the install process a breeze for the average computer user. To many questions during the install process can cause confusion and unnecessary support calls. Once you finish with the advanced settings you get greeted by a Flash Tutorial that is very well done, and surely appreciated by new users to Linspire. I just clicked on the Exit Tutorial and logged out and back in to my non root user account. So to dispel one common rumor about Linspire, “NO YOU ARE NOT FORCED TO RUN AS ROOT”! You have a choice and I made mine. I would like to see more emphasis from Linspire to encourage users not to run as r!
oot like a warning message of the importance to use a Non Root User Account.
Score: 9 out of 10
4) Initial Feel and Look of the Desktop
I guess it depends on the user how they feel about Linspire’s Initial Look. For some it’s to flashy for some it’s not. I think they found a nice middle ground with the setup and I like it. There were a few things I changes like Wallpaper (I like scenic wallpaper), removed some Desktop Icons (hate clutter) and changed some settings in the Control Center. But overall, it still looks pretty much the same as stock, so yes I like it.
The menus are clearly laid out and easy to navigate, support options are easy to find on the task bar and easy to identify (Life vest Icon).
Score: 10 out of 10
CNR does what it promises, one click installs and uninstalls. During the initial release period CNR was getting hammered, and there were many complaints, but a week later and all is fine with CNR. There are still some outdated applications left in CNR, some that still won’t install (Win4Lin, Point2Play), and some that place icons in the wrong menu area like Pingus which should belong to the Games section. I also noticed that some have duplicate menu entries like Gimp and NMap. This is easily fixed by editing the menus, but needs to be corrected. I believe in a month or so Linspire should have most of these issues sorted out and things will be running very smooth. For those reading this review and running Linspire 5.0 and noticed similar menu issues, do Linspire a favor and submit a Diagnostic Report.
Score: 8 out of 10
This is another area that Linspire shines, but many new users fail to take advantage of. Linspire offers excellent and fast support (from my experience) and really seems to care about their product. Users with problems have the following options, and I might have missed a few:
Is there room for improvement; yes would always be my answer. Every support system has problems, none are perfect. If you do find a problem, please let them know or they can’t fix it.
Score: 9 out of 10
7) What’s New and Improved?
The short answer would be much, see here for a quick look. Some of the best features I like are the Network Profiles that can be setup now; like I have 2 for home called Home-Wired/Home-Wireless and two for work call Work-Wired/Work-Wireless. All I have to do now is click on the one I want and everything gets setup just the way I need it. Great feature. You can also now see other wireless hotspots available around you and connect to them as well. Another feature I enjoy is LSongs, which features ShoutCast for Internet Radio, access to the new MP3tunes Music Store, and many other features. It works well for me and suits my needs. LPhoto is another very welcome feature that offers support for many Digital Cameras let’s you do minor adjustments on images like red eye removal for example. Reiser 4, not officially supported, but wow what a speed difference. I did the install with Reiser 3 first and then Reiser 4 afterwards and the system is more responsive, boots a little faster and just feels faster overall. No benchmarks to back this up, but try it yourself. Hibernate, yes it works, matter of fact this is the first Distro this has worked successfully for me. The process does not look pretty, but none the less it work. Linspire Internet Suite, I have to admit I would prefer Firefox, but the features offered with the suite are great. I use them constantly, Inline Spell Check, Hot Words, and Calendar…nice, very nice. Did I mention plugins, wow they are all there. No more CrossOver Office needed for basic Internet Plugins, I can go now to all my favorite sites such as Movies.com and watch trailers without worrying if they work…they all work, Windows Media, QuickTime, RealPlayer and so on. Hopefully they can incorporate these features into Firefox and we the users can enjoy the added speed advantage of Firefox. VPN, yes you read right, Linspire has an easy to use, GUI VPN client now. No more command line stuff here, which for a new user or one coming from Windows is a welcomed addition. They are not the first, this honor goes to Xandros, but it works just as well and easy. Job well done and thanks for listening! There are many more features I like but I would have to become long winded and who has time for that.
Score: 10 out of 10
8) What needs work?
It’s a short list, but here we go:
A) OpenOffice – It’s just plain ugly by default! Nothing matches the well designed Linspire Theme. It can be fixed a little by installing the optional OpenOffice.org-KDE fix from CNR, but it’s still ugly. Take a look at what Lycoris ProductivityPak has done with OpenOffice and that’s what it should look like. Hopefully they will offer 2.0 as soon as it becomes available. It could also use the OpenOffice.org Quickstarter feature to enhance startup times which are horrible by default.
B) Boot up Speed – Much better than 4.5 was, but still takes nearly a minute (53 seconds from grub to login) on this speedy Laptop. I would like to see sub 30 second boot times. One minute or more to boot a system is just too long…period!
C) CNR – More Applications are needed, many of the Warehouse Aisles are empty or near empty. Apps need to be updated more frequently. Apps need to be in the right menu once installed (9 out of 10 times they are). I would also like to see more Trial ware such as VMware Workstation, Win4Lin and so on. I prefer to try before I buy and so do many others out there.
D) Hardware – I know mine all worked, but doing a quick check on the Linspire Forums and you will see there are many others who have issues. But this goes to say with all Linux Distros, and is not so much a fault of Linux but the Manufacturers of the Hardware failing to make Linux Drivers.
Score: 7 out of 10
I was very impressed already with Linspire 4.5, but 5.0 is a huge improvement in usability, features, speed and productivity over 4.5. If Linspire can improve on this with their next version, all I can say is watch out Longhorn. Is Linspire on par with Windows XP, I would say yes to this and better, it’s more fun (Linux), cheaper ($50 a year for everything, including upgrades), secure (firewall, optional Antivirus, optional SurfSafe) and stable. Is it for everyone, I would have to say no. For someone coming from Slackware, Gentoo, Debian and some of the other less user friendly Distros out here, all the handholding would probably offend them. Keep in mind Linspire’s target market, new users and users coming from Windows. Now I’m not a !
new user and would consider myself a Linux Veteran as well as a Windows Veteran, but I do appreciate the ease of use, protection, and stability Linspire 5.0 offers to me and my whole Family. There are a few nearly equally qualified other choices like Xandros and SUSE, but I choose Linspire as my main OS at Home and for SOHO use. Do I still tinker with the other Distros out there…you bet, even Windows! ?
Final Score: 9.1 out of 10
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