Lindows: A Real Linux Desktop Alternative to Windows

As a system administrator, I have used Windows on the desktop since 2.0 and used to run Windows XP at home for my family. I use Linux and Windows servers at work and prefer (Red Hat) Linux for its security, stability and usefulness in a company with a diminishing IT budget. More than a year ago I started experimenting with Linux as a desktop solution and after installing and using more than 7 different distros along with many various versions of those distros, I found a distro that is doing everything its suppose to do, right out of the box. I’m talking about the pleasantly suprising Lindows 4.0.Let me tell you about the other distros I tried first. In my latest round of beating myself up with new linux desktops, I installed the new beta from Red Hat and was pretty impressed with the install process, the automatic detection and setup of hardware on my Dell laptop, and the new X-based startup screen. Without getting into detail, it did a great job of doing all the above and worked flawlessly. Where it disappointed me was how it functioned after the install. My first task was to get access to the Internet through my built-in wireless card, success! It automatically detected and set it up. Next was to install browser plugins , Xine and Mplayer. Installing browser plugins in Linux has always required someone who knows Linux and is not for the novice user. One has to deal with using su commands to get proper permissions and some basic knowledge of running programs from command line. Then there is installing the Java VM which is even a bigger hassle.

Regular users will not accept this as easy-to-use or a feasible alternative to Windows. I experienced the same behavior, that required an experienced Linux user to configure the machine to handle Video files, DVD and browser blugins. I did get everything working but a novice user would have not done this. This is where Apt and Synaptic step into the picture. These two packages make the entire software installation issue with Linux much better, but it still lacks the finish and appeal that will lure windows users.

I tried Mandrake 9.1, Debian, Red Hat 8, Red Hat 9 , Red Hat 9.042 beta, Ark Linux .082 and several other small distros with the same frustrations as before. I even installed Ximian Desktop2 on some of these installs and really took a liking to this new desktop. Very well done, but still various problems that would annoy the average user, especially with modifying files across a network using Samba. You have to copy the file to your local system, change it, then save it back. This is unacceptable as even KDE will let you modify files across the network via Samba.

Next, I try the Desktop/LX Update 3 RC 1 from the Lycoris Development Team. This is a distro I have used and tested for several months with great expectations. Installation is smooth, easy, and everything works after the install process, including multimedia plug-ins, Java, and Xine, but USB mass storage detection and access didn’t work correctly, which worked in earlier versions but not in this version, which is one of the big complaints I have with Red Hat and Ark Linux. Wireless support was not part of the release, so I emailed the development group after finding a dead link to the package on the developers site. They responded that is would be included in IRIS, their software updating system. I browsed through IRIS and found no such package. I’m thinking at this point, “close but no cigar”. [UPDATE:] I would like to post a correction to the article about Desktop/LX Update 3 RC 1 from the Lycoris Development Team. I was asked to check my notes on that release and found that I had hit a mirror that was not fully updated. In fact, I had installed Update 3 RC0 build 119 which did have some issues. I have been informed the RC1 build 127 is the current release and has resolved many of the issues I tested, specifically dealing with removable media. There was no update though on the availability of a wireless tools package. [/UPDATE:]

After reading several reviews of Lindows 4.0, I take the plunge and order it with a one year subscription to the Click-and-Run system. I get instant access to the iso’s, download them, and an hour later I am installing Lindows 4.0. By the way, this is by far the simplest and fastest OS install I have ever used. In 10 minutes, as advertised, I am using lindows, it has detected all my hardware correctly, even the wireless 802.11b card, and I am online logging into the Click-and-Run system. This is great!

The Click-and-Run system for installing and finding software has hit the nail on the head for the novice users. It works very well and the software is fine-tuned for Lindows. I donnload the DVD player, Mplayer, Latest Mozilla version, Flash and IBM Java, not to mention a few games like Doom and Quake II.

In just a few minutes, I fire up the default web browser and go to a few Flash-powered sites, it works perfectly, no freezes like I had in Red Hat or Mandrake. I go to a few servers I administrate for a client running webmin and use the ssh and file manager Java apps. Again it works perfectly. I fire up Quake II, it work great. Then Doom, same result. I am astounded. I go back and load a few more utilities like CVS, SSH, wallpapers and screensavers no problems. I’m all smiles.

It has far exceeded any expectations I had for a Linux desktop and is even user friendly enough for a novice user to install, update and use. No command line configuration has been used, no rpm conflicts or dependancy issues. Just the expected functionality of a program working after being installed. It even detected my Toshiba PDR camera on USB as a mass storage device and gave me instant access to my photos. If you want to run Windows programs, you can buy and download Win4Lin and you can run all your windows apps and games with it in the Lindows environment. I have no need for this, as I was able to do everything I needed with Lindows and even installed OpenOffice and use it instead of Microsoft Office.

All in all, I spent $89.95 and replaced Windows XP on all 3 computers in my home saving me more than $500 a machine in Microsoft licenses for XP, Office, Money and other game software. Lindows an be installed on any and evry machine in your home without having to buy additional copies. If I spend $69 more, I can get Win4Lin and play my Windows games on Linux. I have to say that in my search to replace Windows with Linux at home, Lindows 4.0 is a clear winner and the only one my wife will use. Great job, keep it up!

[UPDATE:] I have had a few issues with Lindows 4.0 and various hardware. Scanners still seem to an issue, which if Linux is ever going to be a serious Deskop OS, needs better compliance and flexibility. Same goes for video capture from TV cards and DV source.

I have yet to find a good video capture and editing program for Linux/Lindows? My past experiences with bttv/xawtv on Red Hat, Mandrake and Lycoris continually locked up my machines and I tried this with two different TV capture cards, AverTV PVR and Hauppage Win-TV PCI. I’ll be testing Lindows with these this week and will post an update when I’m finished if desired. [UPDATE:]


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