I installed Xandros because I wanted an easy to use Linux distribution for home (I use Gentoo Linux at work. I don’t have broadband Internet access at home so I needed something that wouldn’t a lot of downloading to get going. I purchased the download edition of Xandros Deluxe 2.0 and had no problem downloading (from work) and burning the ISO’s. I’ve been using it for about a week now and I’m fairly happy with it.
If you are a less experienced user you should consider purchasing the boxed version of Xandros. It comes with a 350 page User Guide.
Before we get started here are my system specs :
- AMD Duron 1300mhz
- 512 MB of RAM / 60GB Hard Drive
- ATI Radeon 8500 LE
- 17″ HP Monitor
- USB Mouse / PS2 Keyboard
- Generic cd-r Drive
- Generic dvd Drive
The Xandros install gives you two different install options, simple and advanced.
I chose advanced because I had Windows installed on my machine and didn’t
want to erase it. Overall the install was extremely easy. There were only
two small areas of the install that gave me trouble.
Issue 1 – Disk Partitioning
The first problem I ran into was when I was assigning names to windows partitions.
I manually setup my Linux partitions, but when I tried to assign partition
names to my Windows partitions I was only given the option to format them.
I finally decided that I could just edit the fstab once I got everything
installed. Once I finished installing Xandros I was surprised to find out
that Xandros has recognized and manually mounted my drives for me. The show
up in the file system as C: & D: just like they do in Windows and are mounted
under /disks. Xandros actually has a really nice convention that puts my
windows drives under /disks as “C” and “D”. These disks automatically show
up in the file manager.
Issue 2 – Dual Boot
The other thing I couldn’t find during the install procedure was any way to
setup my machine to dual boot. I figured that I would just have to do this
manually as well. It turns out that Xandros did this for me… Nice! (for
those who are interested, Xandros uses Lilo)
Other than these two issues (or non-issues) the install went just fine and
was very easy. I’ve installed RH 8 & 9 and Fedora Core 1 on this machine and
have had similar results (i.e. no major problems). Since Linux has always installed
very easily on this machine I really can’t comment on how well Xandros deals
with strange hardware configurations.
On a non-technical note I would like to mention that during the install process
Xandros made a specific mention to the fact that it uses the open source desktop
environment KDE. This was a very welcome site showing that Xandros appreciates
the open source community. It’s nice to see that a commerical distribution
recognizes the importance of open source.
What Xandros does well
Xandros does have a few extras that make really nice to work with. Here are
a few things that work really well…
I have a compact flash card that I was able to (with much reading) setup in
Fedora. It connects to my pct through a usb reader. In Xandros when you connect
the usb reader to the pc it automatically mounts the flash card and displays
it in the file manager. For some reason my disk shows up twice, but still
works just fine. I’m able to copy files to/from it just like if it was a
floppy disk. To eject the flash card you just hit the ‘eject’ button in the
Crossover Plugin & Office
Crossover office works well. I’m not going to comment much on it since I haven’t
installed many Windows applications yet and this isn’t a Xandros specific
product. The only application I’ve installed is IE 6 and it works fine. It’s
a tad slow, but I am just amazed that it is possible to put IE 6 on Linux.
Windows File Systems
The Xandros file manager allows me to see both my FAT and NTFS Windows partitions.
The NTFS partition is read-only, but I can read/write to the FAT partition.
This was all done automatically and works well.
The control center is the same management tool that comes with KDE. It looks
like Xandros has customized it some. Since I don’t use KDE I can’t say exactly
what Xandros changed, but this tool works very well. I used it to setup my
printer, work group for samba, modem (ppp) connection and edit my screen
I have a HP Deskjet 812C printer that I share on a 200mhz machine that I put E-smith on.
Xandros allowed me to easily connect to the printer and I had it working within
I was VERY easily able to setup and connect to samba shares on my E-smith server. I just set the workgroup and had this up and working within about 30 seconds
as well. I’m sure that sharing would work just as easily with Windows systems.
Xandros has a really easy to use cd-burning tool build into it’s file manager.
Less experienced users will find it very helpful. More advanced users may
still want to install something like k3b, but I still haven’t used k3b even
though I installed it.
Where Xandros disappoints
Despite all the good things about Xandros there are still a few things that
bothered me. Here are some issues I had with Xandros:
The most disappointingly part of Xandros is that there are no Gnome applications
installed by default. Not only are there no Gnome applications installed,
but when you do install one it looks completely different than KDE applications.
They look terrible by default. I sure hope that when UserLinux is
created the allow both Gnome and KDE applications to run instead of limiting
our choices. Xandros should have setup it up so that both KDE and Gnome applications
could run under their desktop.
Not enough Applications
I use a few Linux applications on a regular basic. On every other Linux distribution
that I have installed I have been able to install most of these applications
during the install process. In Xandros I couldn’t install a lot of the applications
without adding an extra source in my sources.list file.
Less experienced Linux users might be happy to find out that Xandros seemed
to pick one of each type of application instead of having a ton of choices
like other distributions do. Experienced users should be able to add additional
Here are the applications that I use and was able to install through the Xandros
Network, but weren’t installed by default.
Here are the applications I use that I couldn’t install in Linux by default:
- gaim – I usually use gaim for instant messaging, but I actually started
using Kopete since it was installed by default. I was very impress with how
well it works.
In order to be able to add the following like to the “/etc/apt/sources.list” file.
deb http://mirrors.kernel.org/debian stable main contrib non-free
After editing my sources.list file and then running apt-get I was able to
install all the programs Xandros didn’t have that I needed. I actually needed
to run ‘gnome-control-center’ to pick a new theme for Gnome applications. The
Xandros Network had an option to use an unsupported Debian repository, but
I figured that if I was going to do something unsupported I would choose my
Manually editing your sources file isn’t supported, but there are ways to
try to make sure you don’t damage your system using a method called pinholing.
One of my least favorite parts of Xandros was their “Xandros Network” application.
This is the application you use to download security updates. Every time you
start the program it opens a progress bar that says “Rebuilding software database”.
One major annoyance I had with the program is that I had a really hard time
getting it to use both of my Xandros CD’s as apt sources. Each time I tried
to use both CD’s as sources and tried to update the package database the network
application would give an error after reading the first cd I put in. I finally
placed one cd in my cd drive and another in my dvd drive and was able to get
it to work.
For newer users the Xandros Network application should work fairly well. It
seemed a little clunky to me, but it did work without any problems for me.
More advanced users can install Synaptic if they want to.
I found the icons installed by default in Xandros to be really ugly. I downloaded
the “Crystal Icon” set from kde-look.com and now I’m happy with them. The
OpenOffice.org icons were actually much better than the default icons and
I really liked these icons. Xandros did a good job there.
The login screen is really ugly as well. I decided to not fix this, but it
is something that should be updated in the future since it shouldn’t take
much to fix and would make the distribution seem nicer.
Overall I found Xandros to be one of the most user-friendly Linux distributions available. Xandros did a good job narrowing the focus and coming out with something that is actually usable. As a more advanced user I found a few things that annoyed me, but I think that less experienced Linux users will enjoy it.
Xandros should have a 30 day demo coming out sometime soon. If you are short on cash you might want to wait so you can try it before you purchase it. If not you can get the personal edition for $40. The deluxe version costs $99.95, but is being offered for $89.00 for a limited time.
I would give Xandros a 7/10 as a desktop operating system. I rated it down 1 points because it needs to be a little more polish graphically and 2 points because it completely ignores Gnome applications.
About the Author
Short biography: I graduated from the University of Montana with a B.S. in Computer Science. I enjoy trying out all sorts of operating systems including
any Linux distribution I can get my hands on. After graduating college I started my own web design company in Missoula, Montana. I write database back ends for the websites we build.
Computer Experience: My first computer was a Macintosh LC II. It didn’t do much, but it put a soft spot in my heart from Macs. I was a Macintosh user
until I discovered Linux in 1996. A little while after I found Linux I was hooked and I eventually bought a PC and switched almost entirely to Linux (I use Windows to play games). Since I switched to Linux I have tried just about every version of Linux I could get my hands on. I’ve tried various versions Redhat, Gentoo, E-Smith, IPCop, Debian, Libranet, Suse and Xandros.
Personal Website: http://www.hiddenspiral.net