Xandros Propels Desktop Linux

With its Microsoft Explorer look and feel, Xandros' new operating system aims to prove Linux is ready for the desktop.

December 9, 2002

2 Min Read
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One for Many

Both RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) and Debian packages can be installed with the click of a button and the "switch user" feature lets you change users without logging the first user off, leaving the original user's applications and desktop running while another user logs in and does his or her thing.

Although Ximian's messaging client, Evolution, is not installed by default, both it and KDE Mail can be added free via Xandros Networks, a Web-based software-management application. Xandros can co-exist with Windows or replace your existing Windows or Linux installation. I chose to go with the latter option. Xandros offers fewer customization options than other Linux distros, simplifying the installation. The "first-time" wizard set up my printers and other peripherals. And after the configuration of my wireless card, made effortless by the Xandros Control Center, I hooked up a remote printer hosted on a Windows machine.

With Xandros' Network Neighborhood-like functionality, you can join a Windows domain or workgroup. Moving around in the file manager will be a breeze for Windows users: The interface is virtually identical--only the icons differ.

The CrossOver applications included for binary compatibility with some Windows-based apps are a boon. I installed Office 2000 (Office XP is not supported) and wrote half this article in Word and completed it in StarOffice 6.0. OpenOffice is included and Star-Office is an affordable alternative.Imperfections

a USB Driver that worked perfectly on Red Hat 8.0 (2.4.18 kernel) and on Xandros' 2.4.19-x1 kernel, failed to load because of kernel version differences. This problem can be solved with some work, but the distro appears to be targeted at users who won't be compiling kernel-level drivers.

Additionally, from Evolution I could open attachments in OpenOffice and Microsoft Office, but the control center wouldn't let me associate "msword" files with StarOffice.

Despite these quirks, and even with the additional cost of Star-Office, Xandros is much less expensive than a comparable Microsoft Windows and Office solution.

The real issue in moving to a Linux-based desktop is not the maturity or usability of the solutions available, as Xandros proves. It is binary compatibility with custom-developed apps: CrossOver is a reliable tool to achieve compatibility, but it's not a panacea.Technology editor Lori MacVittie has been a software developer and a network administrator. Write to her at [email protected].

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