Why surprised? I had expected Lindows.com's LindowsOS 4.0 to be simplistic, maybe stripped-down, aimed at making Windows users comfortable. But while the KDE-based user interface is clean and familiar, the power of Linux lurks just below the surface.
Lindows provides a full, complete Debian-based Linux operating system, albeit without the range of included application you find in distros like SuSE and Red Hat. Applications installed by default include OpenOffice, Mozilla, Gaim, K3b, and Xmms. The installation procedure is far simpler than that of Debian Woody or even the hard-disk install of Knoppix.
If you're a typical timid Windows user, you can take advantage of Lindows' Click-N-Run service, which lets you download any of more than 1,800 programs for $5 a month or $50 a year. Most are free, but you have to pay for items like StarOffice and Win4Lin. Click-N-Run handles downloading and installing each package, making it a reasonable option for users who get alarmed by an unexpected dialog box.
If you know a bit more about what you're doing, you don't need to pay for any extra services. Because Lindows is Debian, simple
apt-get commands grab and install extra applications. That's how I installed the Opera browser, X-Chat IRC client, and Pan newsreader.
Lindows installation was a breeze. You don't have to answer questions on screen after screen -- the software makes most of the decisions for you. That doesn't bother me, since most of the time I accept suggested defaults. You do need to specify a root password, and when the system boots for the first time you can add other users. In this latest Lindows, anyway, you are not forced to run as root all the time. I installed Lindows on a clean hard drive, but the documentation promises you can install on a drive that already contains Windows and dual-boot, as long as there's an empty 2GB partition available. The installation process detected all the hardware in my old 600MHz Micron computer perfectly.
You can buy Lindows for $50 as a download or $60 in a box. I played with the boxed version, which contains two CDs -- one for normal installation and one for running the software without copying any files to the hard drive, a la Knoppix.
An OS by any other name?
Lindows' biggest strength and biggest drawback may be its name. To the Linux community anything with a scent of Windows about it reeks. I think many Linux users are predisposed to a negative impression of Lindows for that reason.
On the other hand, to Windows users, "Lindows" may imply an operating system that can run both Windows and Linux applications. Out of the box, Lindows cannot, though applications like Win4Lin, Wine, and CrossOver Office can give it some Windows capabilities, just as they do with other distros. Lindows, however, makes a good Windows replacement for users who want their operating system vendor to do most of the work of installing new applications. While Lindows and Linux can't match the number of applications available for the Windows platform, it offers reasonable equivalents for most of the crucial ones.
Lindows is the philosophical opposite of Slackware. If Slackware is the distro for users who believe real Linux users don't need GUIs (OK, maybe I exaggerate a little) Lindows is the closest thing I've seen to a distro for users who are afraid of the command line.