Linux on the desktop may very well be considered the Holy Grail of Free Software, and many developers are willing to pursue the quest. One of the primary contenders to date is Ximian, a company that wants nothing less than to put the Free Software GNOME desktop on Linux computers everywhere.
We installed the Professional package of Ximian Desktop on a laptop running SuSE 7.2. To install the package, you need only mount the CD and run the go-gnome script.
The “Install Everything” option took about an hour to, well, install everything. If space is a problem, there are options available for a minimal Ximian installation and a “productivity only” install.
Magic Carpet Ride
Our tests of Red Carpet yielded some rather mixed results. The interface is intuitive, and the variety of applications and information provided by Red Carpet is pretty impressive. There are even “channels” to update software from CodeWeavers, VMware, and Opera Software, and Ximian is planning to add other vendors to Red Carpet.
However, Red Carpet failed a few times when trying to update various programs. Server congestion is also an issue unless you subscribe to the Red Carpet Express service, which runs $9.95 a month.
Additionally, Ximian is a bit slow in releasing packages for new distributions. More than a month after SuSE 7.3 was released, Ximian still didn’t have packages available for it.
Evolution, Nautilus, and More
Evolution is Ximian’s default mail client and personal organizer. Designed to compete with Microsoft Outlook, Evolution is a sleek, sexy, and easy-to-use application.
Evolution 1.0 was released as this review was being written and seems ready for production use. Transitioning from e-mail clients like Pine or Netscape will take some getting used to, but if you’re an Outlook Express fan, then you’ll probably feel right at home with Evolution.
Nautilus is the default file manager for Ximian GNOME. Although it looks fantastic, Nautilus crashed several times during testing. This is a definite weak spot in the product.
Other basic software that comes with Ximian includes GnuCash, Mozilla, GFTP, Grip, and the de facto Linux standard spreadsheet Gnumeric. Unfortunately, despite the fact that we performed the full-gonzo installation, Ximian didn’t actually install any of the GNOME games.
Overall, there’s little in the Ximian GNOME package that you couldn’t get freely over the Internet. The biggest advantage to Ximian GNOME is the convenience — downloading and compiling all the GNOME sources and keeping them up to date can be an arduous and time-consuming task without Ximian.
The convenience of having Ximian on CD is significant for anyone with a dial-up connection; however, if you’re a broadband user, you can probably install Ximian almost as quickly via the Internet.
While Ximian Desktop is a good distribution of GNOME, it will need some improvement before it ever becomes a “must-have.” LM
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