Pros: Great, fast, and simple install; Click-N-Run adds software easily; low price (or free for download); stable operating system
Cons: Windows application support is missing in base package; WINE can be added, but supports few Windows applications; probably not for Linux Magazine readers
If you want a hardcore desktop Linux system, try out SuSE 8.1. If you want an easy-to-use desktop Unix operating system, Mac OS X 10.2 is for you. If you want a top-notch Linux desktop with Windows compatibility, give Xandros a try. But, if you want something in the middle — not too techie, but not Windows — then the $119 LindowsOS 3.0 (http://www.lindows.com) is for you.
Well, unless you want to run Windows programs. Even though LindowsOS 3.0 is supposed to run Windows apps, it can’t. More on that in a minute.
An Impressive Start
LindowsOS 3.0 is available for free if you download it (approximately 407 MB) or you can order a copy of it with a 30-day money back guarantee. (You can also download the source code, but don’t expect to get much, if any, support from Lindows.)
Once you’ve got LindowsOS, installation is a breeze. In fact (whether you ultimately like LindowsOS or not), you’ll find that LindowsOS installs more quickly and easily than any other desktop system. On an HP Pavilion, LindowsOS installed and ran in less then ten minutes without one request for arcane, or for that matter, commonplace information. LindowsOS is what a plug-and-play operating system should be! Even counting the download time over a 1.5 Mbps SDSL connection, LindowsOS was up and running before a Windows XP Home installation from a CD-ROM completed.
Once installed, you’ll be looking at a KDE interface (based on the Keramik theme) that looks and acts a lot like Windows 98. In our tests, LindowsOS automatically connected to our LAN and the Internet. In minutes, we were browsing the Web with Netscape 7, chatting with friends using the Netscape IM client (AIM compatible), and hunting for more software with the Click-N-Run online software installer.
On the HP system and on a Microtel box designed for Walmart.com (see the review of the Walmart.com PC on the preceding page), LindowsOS ran quite well. That’s not too surprising. At heart, LindowsOS is based on tried and true Debian Linux, running the 2.4.19 kernel and ReiserFS.
But No Windows Here
While we found LindowsOS to be a good, stable Linux desktop distribution, one of it’s most-promising features is completely missing: you can’t run Windows applications on LindowsOS. When LindowsOS first came out, the company shouted from the rooftops that you could run Windows applications on Lindows. Ha! You can forget about that! WINE is no longer included in the base LindowsOS 3.0 package.
Why not? The company’s answer is simply that, “LindowsOS will not run Microsoft Windows applications at a level of quality we’re satisfied with.” Well, they got that right.
But do you really need Windows applications? We don’t think so. The Click-N-Run software gives you access to most of the best Linux software, including Adobe Acrobat, Free Office, RealPlayer, and GnuCash.
Of course, you don’t need Click-N-Run either to get any of those applications — all are readily available for downloading from the Internet. But installing software on Linux, even with Debian’s apt-get and Red Hat’s rpmfind, requires that you really know Linux. With Click-N-Run, you don’t have to know anything. It’s not quite “Linux Applications for Dummies,” but it’s pretty darn close.
Bottom Line: Shop Around
Despite all the hype for and against it, we found LindowsOS to be a stable operating system and appropriate for someone who has an older machine and just wants to run Linux without knowing much about it.
If you really want Windows with your Linux, run NeTraverse Win4Lin (http://www.netraverse.com). Or, if you want the least amount of fuss with getting Windows and Linux to work in harmony, try Xandros (http://www.xandros.com) with Win4Lin already installed. LindowsOS doesn’t do Windows.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is a long-time Unix guru and technology writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.