I received LindowsOS 4.5 for free when Lindows offered it through OSNews.com. I decided to break the review into five scored sections: Installation, First Impression, Usability, Support and Long Term Use.
Notes: This is my first review of any kind. I consider myself very comfortable with Linux but not an expert. Please remember this review is my personal opinion and was not endorsed by Lindows.com. I used the following grading system:
A+ = 100, A = 95, B+ = 90, B = 85, C+ = 80, C = 75, D+ = 70, D = 65, F = 60
I installed Lindows on my main system which consists of an Intel 845 Motherboard with P4-2.26Ghz CPU, 1GB DDR400 Ram, two 17GB SCSI 160 HD’s connected to a Adaptec 160 SCSI Controller. CD’s are handled by two DVD drives. Sound consists of an onboard Soundcard as well as an onboard 10/100 Ethernet controller connected to an cable modem with router in between. Video consists of an Nvidia GeForce 2 with 32MB Ram. I also have a HP 8GB Internal Tape backup connected to the Adaptec SCSI Controller. Printing is handled by an Epson Stylus Photo 825 connected by USB. The printer also features an build-in Card Reader.
I was evaluating Lindows as an SOHO replacement for my personal use and possible for my family.
I have to admit at this point that my expectations were very low for Lindows from the start due to negatives attitudes towards it on other forums and my own troublesome experience trying to install it about a year or so ago. I was also very satisfied with my current distro of choice, Xandros 2.0. I have used many Linux Distros over the years and would rate Xandros and Lycoris as my two favorites for the SOHO market. So far I have not used any distro that just worked with my system without some searching on Google, browsing forums or reading the man pages. I expected Lindows to be no different.
Installation on most modern Linux distros is a non issue today and Lindows was no different. My SCSI drives were detected without any problems and with a few question keyboard clicks and mouseclicks I was on my way. I watched as the system quickly installed itself reading some of the Lindows advertisement and started wondering what Lindows would be like when the installation came to a sudden halt at 92% with an error message advising me to contact support. My first thought was a bad CD, so I started the install on my old Dell GX110 system and all went well, so the bad CD idea was ruled out. I suspected my printer being the culprit since it had issues with Xandros as well and after unplugging it and starting the install over again, all went well. Lindows installed on my system in less than 30 minutes which has to be the fastest install for me so far. I rebooted the system and was greeted with the Lindows login prompt. The boot up screen is very plain and boring. Lindows should take a look at Fedora or SUSE for some guidance on a nice graphical bootup screen. Score: 90
I logged in as root with the password I set during the installation and was greeted to a wizard allowing me to set the time, screen resolution and a regular user account (which I did) and a nicely done audio tutorial for new user. The only other tutorial I have seen that comes close to this was from Lycoris.
My first impression of the Desktop was positive with nice Icons, Fonts and Wallpaper all around.
The start menu was well laid out. Default applications are few but a non issue to me. I prefer a minimal system to which I can add just the apps I need and no more. One thing I did not like was the reference to CNR everywhere in the Programs menu.
This might be fine for user that need handholding all the time, but not for experienced user coming from other OS’s. I think the Wizard at the beginning could be tweaked to determine a users experience level to determine how much handholding the user needs. Everything seemed to be up and running at this point with Icons for my DVD drives and Floppy being on the desktop and working after testing them. Well it was time to see if the printer would work, so I plugged it in and I was greeted with a printer wizard which stepped me thru the installation and printed a test page. I now decided to reboot to see if the system would work with the printer attached, since this is were my problems with Xandros lay. The system will either not reboot or reboot but show the printer as not being connected. Well Lindows rebooted fine and printed another test page. I rebooted several more times and logged into the system as user as well and the printer just kept working. It even setup the card reader for me which worked fine also. Score: 95
Let’s see, Lycoris has Iris with very few and outdated applications and is free for user who purchased Desktop/LX. Xandros has Xandros Network which again has very few applications to offer but is included with the price of the distro. It’s easy to enable apt sources for Xandros and open up the wonderful world of Debian, but Xandros tends to become very unstable like this from my experience unless you start Apt-Pinning. Both Lycoris and Xandros are easy to maintain and update, but do not offer many applications beyond what is installed by default. What I’m looking for in a SOHO OS is easy updating and maintaining that does not require countless searching and configuring and offers a wealth of Software to choose from. Now many would say, why not Debian! Debian is great and I prefer Debian based systems. I feel comfortable using apt-get and synaptic, but Debian requires much and I mean much manual effort to get everything on my system (hardware) to work and some thing just will not work.
CNR is not perfect by all means, but it is bar none the best system I have used to install software and maintain my system. Applications are not the newest, which is fine if you need stability, but they are logically organized and have detailed info about them.
Security updates are listed by importance as well as quick links to online help. Issues I had with CNR were minor, like the inability to install software which you have licenses for without having to purchase them like Win4lin.
It would have been much easier for me to install Win4lin thru CNR punch in my license key and complete the install, but it was not possible from what I could see. Xandros offers Win4lin and does not make you purchase the software first. Also CNR would not work when I was logged in initially as a regular user until I adjusted the rights to the executable. This is most likely a bug which I reported to Lindows. Once I adjusted the rights all worked fine. Another thing that I did not like, is that installed applications still show up in the isles as well as updates that are already installed. This can be very confusing at first until you realize this is how it works.
I know, why pay for free software! I will say this, $4.95 per month is a small price to pay for convenience for many users. I do not mind paying $4.95 per month for what CNR has to offer since it does offer much more than just software but also peace of mind. CNR I assume requires a dedicated staff to keep it current and updated and if Lindows plans on succeeding in the Linux market, it will have to charge for it’s services. Many software companies are going in this direction, Linux based as well as Windows. Would I pay more than $4.95? Most likely not but again some or maybe even many would. Let’s hope they keep it at $4.95! 🙂 Score 95
Free support seems to be on par with most mayor distros out there. I cannot attest to their response times since I have not required any help, but the community forum itself seems very busy and members seem more than happy to offer advise. One thing I did notice is that Lindows Staff is ever present in the forums and responding to issues. This is very good and comforting to new users. Online help is very good and offers an extensive knowledge base. They also offer a fee based support for an yearly fee of $59.95 which is a bargain for those needing lots of help and handholding. Score 100
Long Term Impression
I have now used Lindows for a little over one week and found Lindows to be the best Linux Distro so far for me. It’s not perfect but everything works, even my Tape Backup which makes Lindows the first distro to configure it out of the box with the Stormix Backup Software available thru CNR. Lindows feels faster than both Xandros and Lycoris Desktop/LX. Bootup speed could use some improvements, but is a non issue for me since I keep my system up and running 24/7. Lindows does need some toning down with advertising it’s name throughout. I fixed the menu issue by editing the menus and hiding the CNR menus. I can live with the wallpapers displaying the Lindows Logo (Great Wallpapers by the way in CNR), but it could be a little overkill for some. All application I installed either thru CNR or downloaded from other sources have worked flawless. Apt-Get works but comes with no sources enabled. Easily fixed by the experienced user who needs to tinker. I installed Win4lin, Crossover Plugin and StarOffice 7 and all worked as advertised in Lindows. I was also very impressed with SIP Phone, which works great over my Cable connection. 🙂 The only other thing I would like to see is a GUI VPN client. I installed and configured the pptp-Linux client and it works fine, but it’s console based. How about it Lindows! Score 100
To make it short, I have found the perfect SOHO distro for ME! I emphasize ME because there are some that will criticize my decision, but that’s OK. I still enjoy using some of my other favorites such as Xandros, Lycoris and Libranet, but Lindows is the first that does it all without spending days sometimes weeks getting everything to work. I think if you keep an open mind when trying Lindows most will appreciate Lindows. Those wishing not to pay for CNR, just enable your favorite apt-get sources and install away. I think some pinning will be necessary but it might be less vulnerable than Xandros to tinkering since it does not use it’s own file manager but instead stick to konqueror. Lindows overall grade:
Lindows 4.5 Developer Edition: 96/100
About the Author
Michael Valentine has been involved with Computers since 1983 when he received his first Computer, a Commodore C64.
He is a System Administrator for a mayor International IT Company. He started using Linux in 1998 in search of something more stable for SOHO use at home and has not looked back to Windows since.