April 10, 2002

LindowsOS sneak preview 2: Some good stuff, but I'm still root

- by Tina Gasperson -
On April 9, Michael Robertson announced the release of LindowsOS sneak preview
2. "Lindows.com is not about selling an operating system," the Lindows CEO
says in the press release. "It's not too different from needing a car. Nobody
says, 'I need an engine,' they say, 'I need a car,' and most times, what they
really mean is that they need transportation. It's the same with a computer." I
think I know what he's getting at.If I read him correctly, Robertson wants to be the Hyundai dealer, with economy
models made up of generic, but high-quality parts (Linux) and fitted with fancy
(but unnecessary) options like agate gear knobs, real wood dashboard panels, and
leather seats (for-pay Windows applications) that make the driver feel like he's
getting all the luxury of a pricey Cadillac for only part of the price. That is,
unless the driver already got his Cadillac and most of those fancy options for
free -- or unless he already knows how to build a car exactly the way he
likes it with those high-quality parts.

We first reviewed Lindows back in January, when the much-anticipated original sneak preview was released. Once again, the install process for Lindows is about as easy as they come.
Lindows has definitely done this part right. The hardest thing was clicking "I
accept" on the license agreement. This time around, you get to choose whether or
not you want a login password -- but you're still ushered in as root by default,
and the only way to add a user is through the console.

Everything on my HP Omnibook 4150 was recognized automatically -- PCMCIA,
CDROM, USB digicam, Linksys combo NIC/Modem, and even the video and sound
cards. And true to Linux, there was no fiddling with network stuff -- I was
online immediately. Setting up a printer was much easier, in fact, than it
usually is with Linux installs.

Once Lindows is all installed and you've rebooted, you're greeted with an
altered version of the KDE desktop -- not much has changed here from the first
sneak preview, except for a picturesque view of what looks to be the San Diego
skyline set as wallpaper and an AOL icon.

Click-n-Run is a big new feature of LindowsOS sneak preview 2. The press release touts it as "a powerful new tool that opens the door to a world of high-quality software solutions by allowing LindowsOS users to instantly zap software to their machines with one click." With it, you can
"click and run" various applications available from the Lindows Web site -- what the company calls its "warehouse."
One of those apps is (or will be) AOL 7.0 -- there's even an AOL icon on the desktop. But
that's "coming soon" and not available yet, according to Lindows. More things
that aren't available yet include promises of all kinds of games, Web
development applications, productivity stuff, antivirus (big hint), backup,
utilities, "home and education," and well, the list of things "yet to be" goes
on. The apps that are available now include slightly modded versions of KOffice
components: the word processor, the spreadsheet, KPresenter, and KOrganizer;
and a KDE instant messenger.

For a current Linux user, this is underwhelming. I can see a Windows convert
being enthused about getting these free apps -- although he might change his tune
when he finds out that he can't save in .doc or .xls format. And where are the
Windows apps? Despite the AOL teaser, no Windows applications of any kind come
with this Lindows release, and hardly any Linux applications are included. I
can't get any .exe files to install or run. Wine still "poofs" out on me.
Codeweavers CrossOver has it all over Lindows in this department.

One nice thing about LindowsOS SP2 is that Konqueror comes with lots of plugins
pre-installed. There's a page of links to test them at Lindows. Flash works
great with no lag time, the sound doesn't give me any problems, XMMS pops up
when you click on an MP3 or a .pls file online. The only screw-ups happened with
the Microsoft file viewers. I tried to view a .doc file online and the Excel
view opened up. Then I tried to view an .xls file, and KWrite wanted to open it.
These are things that are bound to get fixed before a final release.

For me, the best thing about Lindows is that it is based on Debian. I am falling
in love with apt-get. Other benefits for people already experienced with Linux --
not all that many. Looking at Lindows from the point-of-view of a person only
familiar with Windows, the benefits of Lindows would possibly be ease of
installation -- but not price. For something like 100% of home Windows users,
Windows is "free" because it comes with their computer. Why should they spend
$99 on Lindows? After seeing sneak preview 2, I'm still not sure.


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