Lindows.com offered LindowsOS Developer Edition free for one day, GoogleDay (Whatever that is, I don’t know, google’s birthday perhaps?) so I decided to test it. My favorite distribution this far has been (and still is) Slackware Linux, which has always, well, just worked. I’ve been using Linux for some years now, I use Solaris at work (I work as software designer). Trying out Lindows after Slackware was totally different world, and here’s some of my toughts after trying out Lindows.
Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo A7600 laptop, Mobile Athlon XP 2400, 512mb ram, DVD/CDRW Combo drive, Ati Radeon 320 IGP
The installer is easy, as it asked only hostname and root password. Nothing special about it. The only annoyance is that the installer does not let you repartition your hard drive. It’s either wipe everything or wipe selected partition. The installer also doesn’t handle free unpartitioned space, which I found a little strange.
After installing, a nice lilo menu is shown. It’s funny that the Lindows installer added Windows XP into my lilo menu, but not my another Linux installation (Slackware).
Bootup is slow, very slow. Never seen as slow boot up with any OS. Taking a closer look to see what happens in bootup, I was kind of shocked when I notified that Lindows tries to modprobe every module out there in bootup instead of saving the configuration and modprobing only stuff that is needed. Someone could call this “hardware detection”, I call this a quick and dirty hack. I found it strange that sshd was also started. For a desktop environment, I just wonder why. Hardware was detected well anyway, and everything worked out of the box. For ACPI/APM I cannot tell exacly did it work or not, since trying to put my laptop to sleep mode, Lindows tells me you need Laptop edition to do that. My NTFS partitions were automatically mounted as read only under /disks, however, my other Linux partitions were not. Not A big “bug” since Lindows is, after all, aimed at Windows users.
It was also nice that Lindows somehow managed to use the Ati driver instead of the Vesa driver for my video card. I guess 3D acceleration is still not working for my card (couldn’t CNR TuxRacer for test).
After installing, the first time wizard pops up and lets you do basic things, like accept license, add users and stuff like that. I, however, chose not to create a user, I chose to run as root. Just because most of the newbie users who get it preinstalled and so on, will probably run it as root. I was interested in seeing if there are some lurking problems or risks with that option for new users.
The keyboard was automatically set as US layout. I changed that to finnish layout using KDE’s Control center. My suggestion would be to add KDE’s normal welcome wizard to Lindows too which allows setup of local things like this. I presume there are also Lindows users outside the US.
Connecting… or not
One nice thing I noticed was that the Atmel wlan drivers were included and my SMC 2632w V3 pcmcia wlan card “worked” out of box. Well, not quite. After couple hours of clicking Network properties from control panel, I was still not connected. After trying out pretty much every possible combination of settings, still not connected, not even access point found.
I added my settings manually to /etc/pcmcia/wireless.opts as they are in my Slackware installation. No luck. This tool does not allow you to create wlan schemas, and schema support has been removed from cardctl, or at least my experience of adding typical schema stuff to wireless.opts (something,*,*,* … ;;) caused parse errors when running cardctl and after errors, and halted the whole system. I started taking a look to PCMCIA scripts,
and so on. Those seem to be heavily modified, and anyone familiar with standard /etc/pcmcia/wireless & config won’t be familiar with these strange scripts. No matter in what form I entered to wlan key, it still didn’t work. I tried to add it manually too to /etc/pcmcia/wireless.opts, like I have it in my slackware installation. Didn’t help. I just gave up hope of getting wlan working and stuck in and ethernet cable to get at least something done with Lindows. Oh well, tied down to my desk and chair. Not really ideal usage for laptop. I also have different essids & keys at home and work so I really miss ability for wlan schemas.
Well, first time I started Click’n’Run, it started downloading an update for itself, and after update was complete, CNR crashed. To be fair, all software crashes sometimes. I didn’t mind that much. I relaunched click’n’run and searched for ksnapshot to get screenshots. CNR installed it very smoothly. For this 30 seconds I was impressed. Well. Next I tried to install Quanta which I use and need for my work. I searched for Quanta and tried to install it. Boom! Not installing quanta. What the heck,? I got redirected to page telling I should get CNR membership. Same thing with Gimp and with many other *free* programs I tried to install..
Kind of strange that Developer edition doesn’t allow me to install Quanta, which, well, totally prevents me from developing. Anyway, I got the gist of CNR. It is nice, indeed, if I would only be allowed to install some software. Most of the needed software is shipped with developer edition anyway, so that isn’t a huge issue, but if you’re missing [insert your favorite software here] you need either to compile it from source, or buy CNR membership.
Lindows has done pretty good work with default desktop. I especially liked the wallpaper collection they ship with. Professional, clean wallpapers. Some may not like them, but I did. Lindows also uses modified Geramik theme (Keramik for both, QT and GTK) which makes QT and GTK apps look the same. This is good. Some people already hate Keramik, but since Lindows is targeted for newcomers, they will most likely find it much more attractive than W9X or W2K interfaces. Compared XP interface, if it’s better or worse, it’s just matter of taste. One thing I noticed was that one of my favorite little KDE enhancements was missing. Dropshadows from the menu! Apparently Lindows is based on on KDE 3.0 since I couldn’t find it under style either.
Samba was configured properly with no extra work. It found all Windows network shares. Screenshot from my Mandrake workstation shares (I don’t have any folders shared there though) only, better to not show share names inside company’s intranet.
Default application choices
Default browser & mail client is the Mozilla suite, which is fine choice. File manager is Konqueror. My computer shows symlinks to my documents, desktop, programs, network shares and to system root. Displaying link to system root, is, in my opinion a bit dangerous. Especially if you run as root, you can delete important files by mistake. Default CD burning application is K3B which is probably the best CD/DVD burning software out there for Linux. K3B was set up correctly. A nice thing that many other distros haven’t managed to do is to add maximum speed choice to K3B.
Default text editor seems to be Kwrite, which is fine choice. Programmers probably might like Kate more. Usual stuff, XMMS as MP3 player. Mplayer is not installed by default in this edition, and cannot be CNR’ed either without CNR membership. A small flaw in my opinion. But all together, all default choices were good choices for newcomers: best of the Linux apps out there.
As this is Developer’s edition, I expected to see some developer’s goodies. A good selection of tools are installed: Kdevelop, Emacs, Vim, Kate. But no Quanta+ which I miss.
As Lindows is a KDE based distribution, I expected to see Kopete as instant messenger but instead it has Gaim (worse choice in my opinion, if you do KDE based desktop, other KDE apps give better integration into system than GTK based ones).
Lindows has integrated the configuration tools into KDE control center, which, in my opinion, is a very good choice instead of having separate config tool like Mandrake’s Control center. One nice thing was the Wireless configuration tool, shame just that it didn’t work out for me.
Some small, but nice enchantments
Lindows has added direct link to the autostart folder to the Lindows menu, which is nice in my opinion. Very few people know about KDE’s autostart folder which is hidden in ~/.kde/Autostart. This folder even has nice text document explaining how Autostart works
The Lindows menu has “CNR more” link for each software category. I think this is useful especially for newcomers who don’t have any clue about Linux software. They can just browser through menus and install more software related to software category.
Java and Flash plugins were installed and worked with Mozilla without any extra work. Realplayer plugin, however, was not installed. This is available in CNR I guess but not available unless you subscribe for it.
Lindows has also added quick link to Xkill to start menu (Terminate application).
Overall, Lindows is a fine KDE-based distribution for newcomers. It has some nice enhancements which make it easy to use. Despite the Wlan problem (that I still haven’t managed to solve), I’m pretty impressed with it. Indeed recommended for newbies to give it a shot. If I somehow manage to resolve the wlan problem, quite possibly I will buy the laptop edition. Time will tell.