January 18, 2004

Can a Geek Love Xandros?

With its many superb, user-friendly enhancements, Xandros Desktop has justly become known as one of the top products for Windows-to-Linux migration, suitable for any non-technical user. But how about the rest of us? Some of the more experienced among the readers can surely configure CUPS with Samba by editing configuration files with closed eyes. This kind of exercise is useful and fun the first few times, but it can quickly become a mundane task if it has to repeated often. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a distribution that could do it near-automatically? In other words, wouldn't it be nice if we just used Xandros? And despite our natural resistance to employ GUI for any kind of configuration, could we still love Xandros? Robert Storey investigates...Debian is an industrial-strength distro known for its stability, superb package management, large software archive, a terrible installer, and a lot of powerful but esoteric commands such as: "dpkg-reconfigure etherconf, dpkg --get-selections, apt-get upgrade, grep-status emacs" and so on.

There have been several commercial attempts to cloak Debian's mighty engine in a nice sleek-looking exterior. Xandros Desktop OS is one of the slickest attempts yet at putting a point-and-click interface on the untamed beast - think of it as Debian with pizazz.

Xandros version 2.0 was released in December, 2003, and not surprisingly, a flood of reviews hit the web soon thereafter. Most of these reviews have focused on the ease-of-use factor, which is Xandros' trump card.

Which creates a dilemma for reviewers like me. For the past few weeks I've been reading over and over about how Xandros has added so many Windows-like features ("root" is called "Administrator", the modem is on COM1 rather than ttyS0, and there is even a "drive C:"). I was starting to get bored even before I received my Xandros CDs in the mail (which took a long time given my remote location). One reviewer wrote that "geeks should look elsewhere" - as a certified geek, I found that depressing.

So rather than simply repeat what has been said ad nauseum ("Xandros is so easy to use, just like Windows - Wow!") I've decided to take a different approach. I'm going to throw everything I can at Xandros, including "not recommended" things that could possibly break it. That means installing Debian Unstable packages, running it as a server, stripping off the graphical bootup system, even running a different window manager than KDE, and so on. "Geeks should look elsewhere" - hah! Damn the "kernel panic" messages, full speed ahead. I realize that this is unconventional, but hey, it's my computer and my review, and I don't have anything better to do this weekend, so why not?

Link: distrowatch.com


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