By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2004-01-21 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 LindowsOS 4.5. Xandros Desktop OS 2.0 Of the two Linux desktop operating systems we tested for this review, we were more impressed with Xandros Desktop OS 2.0, which shipped last month.

IT managers serious about making the switch from Windows have nothing to fear regarding Xandros ability to integrate into a Windows- centric computing environment. Xandros is based on Debian GNU/Linux. Version 2.0 employs a Xandros-enhanced KDE 3.1.4 interface and an underlying 2.4.22 Linux kernel, which makes for an elegant, intuitive interface—and a look and feel that will likely be familiar to most Windows users.

Xandros Desktop OS 2.0 includes OpenOffice.orgs office suite, the Mozilla 1.4 Web browser and a slew of other applications. Among these are Kopete, a KDE instant messaging client that lets users interact with America Online Inc.s Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger and ICQ. And, using the included Xandros Configuration Manager, we easily connected the test machine to the Labs Windows network.

Xandros comes in two versions. We tested the $89 Deluxe Edition, which includes a Xandros edition of CodeWeavers Inc.s CrossOver Office 2.1.0 that allows users to run Microsoft Office and other Windows software, a CrossOver plug-in for enhanced Web browsing, the ability to allocate install space from a Windows XP (NT File System) partition, and 60 days of e-mail support. The Standard Edition, which doesnt include these features, lists for $39.95 and includes 30 days of e-mail support.

We had no problems installing Office 2000 and Adobe Systems Inc.s Photoshop on a Xandros test desktop. We did notice a slight drag in the interface of Microsofts Internet Explorer 6.0 browser when we surfed the Internet using a minimized window.

Adding the desktop to a Windows Workgroup was simple, and accessing Windows files and resources on the test network was seamless.

Xandros has taken a cue from Lindows.coms Click-N-Run warehouse feature with the addition of Xandros Networks. This feature provides updated drivers, security updates and applications. All downloads from the service are free for registered users.

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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