LindowsOS: Robust Linux with More than Rookie Appeal

 
 
By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2003-07-08
 
 
 
Lindows.com Inc. is out to become the face of Linux for the average home user by sanding down the spots on the Linux desktop where new users tend to get splinters.

I recently took LindowsOS 4.0 out for a spin, and I think that Lindows.com has done a good job with it. While its unlikely that experienced Linux users would opt to drop their current distribution of choice to pick up LindowsOS, this operating system has a lot to offer for newbies—whether theyre new to Linux or to desktop computers in general.

For one thing, the $50 ($60 if you want physical media) LindowsOS starts users off with a very nice Flash-based tutorial, which describes, with sound and animation, the functions of everything that comes on the desktop.

Beyond its appeal to novices, LindowsOS also has a couple of things to teach bigger-name Linux distributions such as Red Hat Linux. I was particularly impressed by LindowsOS handling of USB thumb drives, those handy devices for plug-and-play ferrying of data too large for floppies. These devices work with every recent Linux distribution, but most require some command-line fiddling to get going. With LindowsOS, you plug one of these drives into a USB port, and an icon for the auto-mounted drive pops right up on the desktop—just as it should.

Along with the purchase price for LindowsOS comes a one-year subscription to Lindows Click-N-Run warehouse, which makes obtaining and installing Linux applications very easy. I liked being able to "Add to Desktop" or "Add to Autostart" the applications Id installed by hitting a button in the Click-N-Run interface.

The default mail and Web clients for LindowsOS are now based on Mozilla—the OS used to include Netscapes browser—and Gaim is now the default instant messaging client. Gaim also happens to be my own IM client of choice. I appreciate its support for multiple messaging services and for tabbed chat windows—a great way to juggle several chats at once.

Lindows.com cites a PC with 800MHz or higher processor and 128MB of RAM as the minimum hardware requirements for LindowsOS—the same processor and RAM configuration that grace the $200 Wal-Mart PC. I tested Version 4.0 on one of these systems, and found the 128MB of RAM was too little to deliver acceptable performance. 256MB should better fit the bill.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

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