Linspire Five-O is a great way to migrate users from Windows. Just be prepared to part with your hard-earned cash.
With a fresh name and a new look, Linspire (formerly Lindows) recently released Linspire Linux Version Five-O. Five-O is based on kernel 2.6.10. and KDE, and is designed for new desktop users looking for a low-cost alternative to Windows. At $99.95 for the Linspire software and its subscriptions service, the price certainly beats the best prices offered by Redmond. Installation is a snap, and Linspire closely resembles Windows– two features that are perfect for the software’s primary audience. However, experienced Linux users will likely not be inspired by Linspire. There are cheaper and better distributions for the power hungry– and budget-challenged.
Time to Test
My test system was an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ with 896 MB of RAM, a Silicon Image SATA controller, and an NVIDIA GeForce 5600 Ultra graphics card. All hardware was detected by the install CD without a hitch.
Linspire’s installation routine is very slick and easy to use. Installing the operating system on a fresh hard drive is simple, and when you boot the system for the first time, the Linspire Setup Wizard guides you through basic Linux setup tasks, such as setting your date and time. Next, an” Advanced Settings” screen lets you set an administrative password and create new users.
After setup is complete, the Linspire desktop, with KDE 3.4 and XOrg 6.8.1, is launched. The desktop bears a striking resemblance to Windows, including a” Launch” menu with access to all of the pre-installed applications. The desktop is also populated with icons– lots of icons– most of which are trying to upsell Linspire products and services. Linspire offers the VirusSafe virus scanner, which stops you from forwarding Windows viruses to your friends; the SurfSafe Internet filter, designed to filter out” bad” websites; and the Click-and-Run (CnR) package manager.
While the former two packages are unnecessary costs for most Linspire users, CnR, which costs $50 per year after your 15-day trial expires, is a necessity to get the most out of the distribution. CnR is the only supported way to install more applications on a Linspire system. And because an out-of-the-box Linspire install doesn’t include a graphics editor, FTP client, or a DVD player, you will need more applications. A CnR subscription is also required for software updates, including security fixes.
In its favor, CnR has an excellent front end, and makes it simple to install new applications. And Linspire offers a number of unique software suites. Linspire Internet Suite is an Internet browser and email client based on Mozilla 1.6 that includes several new features, such as spell check in web forms and” HotWords,” which highlights certain words for easy web search.
PhoneGaim is a modified version of the Gaim instant messenger with Voice over IP (VoIP) technology embedded. (While the added features are nice, every time the application is loaded, a nag screen pops up until you create a SIPphone account– a major annoyance to a user who doesn’t want VoIP.) Linspire also includes a few of its own creations: Nvu is a web publishing application based on Mozilla Composer; LSongs is a music player with an interface similar to iTunes; and LPhoto is a photo organizer similar to iPhoto. LSongs, LPhoto, and Nvu are all open source applications, available for use on other Linux distributions in addition to Linspire.
Click and Run to the Bank
However, CnR doesn’t include all available Linux applications, and you must pay a surcharge for some specific applications, such as Staroffice and Win4Lin. In fact, if you insert certain program CDs into a Linspire system, a popup appears, suggesting that you install the Linspire-branded version of the application instead of the version you already own.
And while CnR does include a large library of software, its lack of organization and a good search tool can make it daunting to find a specific application. Also, CnR is mainly a repository of free software, making the $50 per year price tag seem a bit steep.
There are other shortcomings in Linspire. One glaring omission in the installer is the option to repartition your system. You must already have free space partitioned before you begin the install or wipe out your hard drive. It is also odd that creating non- root accounts are left to an” Advanced Settings” screen; instead, the Setup Wizard should require you to create at least one account with common user privileges.
Bottom Line: Shop Around
Although Linspire has given back quite a bit to the desktop Linux community and is a strong distribution, it may not be a good value for your money. At a cost of $99 for the operating system and a one year Click-and-Run subscription, the cost of owning Linspire is quite high– especially when compared to a distribution like Debian, which is free and has a trove of tools and applications available via APT.
Linspire does have its place, though. If you are looking for a new Linux laptop or desktop, you’ll likely find Linspire pre-installed, as the company has partnered with several white box computer makers to provide Linspire on new systems.
Is Linspire ready for the average home user? Yes. Are other distributions just as capable and far less costly? Definitely.