By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2004-01-19 Print this article Print

As Linux fans converge on New York for LinuxWorld this week, its easy to see that the Linux faithful have much to be excited about. Although the open-source operating system has flourished on enterprise servers during the last few years, the desktop market has failed to really mount a serious attack on Microsoft Corp.s dominant Windows franchise—until now. The recent releases of two desktop operating systems—Xandros Inc.s Xandros Desktop OS 2.0 and Lindows.com Inc.s LindowsOS 4.5—show just how far Linux has come on the desktop.

In terms of cost, features and ease of use, eWEEK Labs found Xandros Desktop OS 2.0 and LindowsOS 4.5 to be worthy contenders as Windows desktop replacements for those organizations looking to loosen Microsofts grip on their computing environments.

Xandros Desktop OS 2.0 and LindowsOS 4.5 are easy to install and enable users to easily create and share files and interact with users on other platforms almost seamlessly out of the box. However, both products provide much hand-holding, so savvier users would likely prefer Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 desktop, which enables users to extensively customize the look and feel of the operating system.

Beyond straight office work, both operating systems are equipped with multimedia features, including the ability to play MPEG files, Macromedia Inc. Flash movies, streaming video and a variety of audio files. Neither packages Web browser had problems with Java applications in our tests.

Although Xandros Desktop OS 2.0 edged LindowsOS 4.5 in our tests, we believe both desktop Linux systems are worthy of serious consideration for those unfamiliar with Linux.

See eWEEK Labs review of Xandros Desktop OS 2.0.

LindowsOS 4.5

Lindows.com is best known for its legal spats with Microsoft over its name. Thats too bad because the companys Debian-based operating system deserves some recognition of its own.

LindowsOS 4.5, which began shipping last month, is priced at $49.95 for a digital download or $59.95 on an installation CD.

The LindowsOS interface is based on KDE. Network and file browsing is handled by Konqueror, and the default Web browser is Mozilla-based.

We were most impressed with the ease of installing the latest release of LindowsOS; the desktop walked us through the process, allowing us to easily choose the installation (novice or expert), computer name and password.

When we completed the installation, a setup wizard appeared and allowed us to set the system time. It should be noted that, on installation, the user is running as "root," and the system password is the "root password." IT managers should immediately add a normal user name and password to ensure security.

Connecting to the Internet was a breeze with Xandros, but LindowsOS does it even better—after installation, we connected to the Internet without having to configure anything.

Although LindowsOS comes with OpenOffice.orgs OpenOffice application suite, a Web browser and an e-mail client, few other applications are included. A firewall, however, is installed by default, which we liked.

Many applications that are included with Xandros are missing from LindowsOS. For example, we had to use LindowsOS Click-N-Run software service to download and install the open-source Gpaint graphics tool that enabled us to take screen shots. In the future, wed like to see more applications installed with the operating system.

LindowsOS Click-N-Run application, which comes preinstalled, made short work of installing Gpaint and an assortment of other applications, including RealNetworks Inc.s RealPlayer. A three-month trial subscription to the Click-N-Run service is included with the purchase of the operating system, and a one-year subscription to the service costs $49.95.

Wed like to note, however, that by paying for the service, customers are paying for convenience. Most of the 1,800-plus software titles that can be obtained via Click-N-Run are free and readily available on the Internet.

The Click-N-Run feature is nice for novices, but it may be more of a hindrance to experienced users. When we tried to install downloaded code for the open-source GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), we got errors regarding a missing compiler. Returning to Click-N-Run, we had to download and run GCC, a Linux-based C compiler, in order to install GIMP.

LindowsOS was easy to use in every other respect. We were able to attach and detach USB (Universal Serial Bus) thumb drives, a keyboard and a mouse with no problem. We also had no problems managing Windows file types.

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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