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Old 11-18-2002, 01:36 PM   #1
masinick
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Xandros is a great Debian distribution for desktop users


I've been a big fan of Debian distributions now for over a year. I get a lot of use and utility, personally, out of the Libranet system, a small, Vancouver, BC based operation that produces ready to go Linux software using current Linux software. They call their software a complete system, and it is. It's fast, effective, efficient, and its even relatively easy to install. But one thing it doesn't come with is a lot of prepackaged documentation. Another thing it doesn't come with is a desktop environment catering to the complete newbie to Linux who is familiar with Windows but not with UNIX and not with Linux. Is there a desktop operating system that runs Linux that can meet the needs of such people? Moreover, is there a Debian-based system that meets the desktop user's needs? Yes to both questions.

There is now a Debian-based operating system that is very polished and can be installed in about 20 minutes on the typical system, and it runs stable software. This software runs the KDE desktop, but the appearance and features are not the usual, out of the box KDE software, nor are they the latest and greatest KDE release, but they are a nicely tailored, well thought out, well documented selection of KDE and other software specifically designed for the desktop software user.

This software is the recently released Xandros software.

In addition to a customized version of the KDE 2.2.2 desktop software, Xandros comes with Mozilla 1.0.1 and Evolution 1.0.8, and you can download new software. Xandros provides easy ways to install or upgrade software from theri own Web site, or you can use the traditional Debian mechanisms to point to your own sources and install software if needed.

So what Xandros provides is a very clean, efficient, and effective desktop operating system that right out of the box is ready to be used as a desktop system. It is not the most current software possible, though it does have a few fairly current software titles. What it really is is one of the best packaged and laid out desktop Linux systems you can get.

How does it compare to other desktop systems and to other Linux systems in particular? Well, I'm not going to attempt to compare it to anything other than Linux systems, but as a desktop Linux system, if what you're looking for is a well polished desktop system that works and is well documented, you can't do any better than this one.

I also happen to really like Lycoris Desktop/LX. The Lycoris software requires no expertise to install, and it contains many useful, easy to use software applications, and it, too, works right out of the box. Comparing Desktop/.LX to Xandros, Desktop/LX is less than a third of the price, it's been on the market for around a year, and it works nicely. Desktop/LX lacks a lot of documentation and it comes with less software. Xandros and Desktop/LX are quite comparable when it comes to well designed user interfaces. For the extra price you pay with Xandros, you get more software included with the system, including an enhanced version of Wine from CodeWeavers that allows the Xandros Desktop to run some Windows applications (in particular, Microsoft Office 2000 and Internet Explorer). You also get a very complete set of user documentation.

How does Xandros compare to the Debian software that I like from Libranet? Well, Libranet comes with a lot more software, but there are some advantages and disadvantages to each approach. Those who want a lot of software choices and a really strong development environment will appreciate Libranet because it comes prepackaged with many fairly current software applications in each software category. It also runs very fast and effectively, and it offers many different window manager and desktop choices right out of the box. If that's what you like, then Libranet makes a better choice because it's really strong in those areas. But if you want a really polished desktop system with the ability to run Windows office applications, and you want complete documentation, then Xandros makes more sense for you.

I've mentioned Xandros, Lycoris, and Libranet so far in this review. These are three of my current favorite choices for Linux software. What about the others, such as the market leader, Red Hat, and the desktop download favorite, Mandrake?

Both Mandrake (9.0) and Red Hat (8.0) recently came out with new desktop software. My impressions are that both Mandrake and Red Hat make decent desktop software, but it can be more complicated to update when software packaging dependencies are involved. Xandros uses the Debian method of packaging, so it has the advantage of being easier to upgrrade. Though it is theoretically possible to continually upgrade either Mandrake or Red Hat using online updates, in practice, I've found it easier to buy their current software and install it each time there are significant changes, and perform periodic security updates between releases.

Both Mandrake and Red Hat have continued to polish and improve their desktop presentation, but each of them take a back seat to Lycoris and Xandros when it comes to desktop user design. Mandrake us a friendly, easy to install and use desktop operating system. It tends to be more leading edge than Xandros. As a result, you can get the latest software, at a cost that some components may contain occasional issues. Red Hat also provides quite current software in their desktop system and more stable software in their enterprise software offerings. Red Hat has taken the path of making their desktop interface more consistent, so they're heading in the same direction as Xandros, but in this area of user interface design, Xandros leads. Red Hat's advantage is that there is better support available for commercial software, such as Oracle's 9i database software. Xandros's advantage is a more polished desktop interface.

That's just a quick assessment of a few of the current desktop Linux distros that are on the market. Xandros stacks up rather well against the others, enough so that if you have $99 to spend on Linux software, it's well worth considering using Xandros. The only reasons to avoid Xandros would be if you really would rather use a GNOME desktop (in that case, choose Libranet, Mandrake, or Red Hat), if you prefer leading (or bleeding) edge software, or if $99 is too much to pay for a distro. Otherwise, give this distro a very high rating. I'd give it at least a 9 out of 10.
 
Old 11-18-2002, 09:27 PM   #2
macewan
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but agreeing to a licence just to use it? it just seems to dirty the idea of debian. like using lindows.

maybe if i wanted my wife to use it but me? i'll stick to pure debian. thanks.

might change my mind later. sorta sleepy now...
 
Old 11-18-2002, 09:36 PM   #3
masinick
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Quote:
Originally posted by macewan
but agreeing to a licence just to use it? it just seems to dirty the idea of debian. like using lindows.

maybe if i wanted my wife to use it but me? i'll stick to pure debian. thanks.

might change my mind later. sorta sleepy now...
Well, if you already have a Debian distro, there's no need to change. But this is a very nice commercial Debian implementation. Your wife certainly could run it. It uses Mozilla for plain Web browsing and Evolution for Email, so it wouldn't feel that different from what she may be used to using.
... and she could run Office, if she really wanted to...
 
Old 11-21-2002, 05:37 PM   #4
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Nice commercial announcement, but no thanks. I don't do Linuxes that require a payment and are preconfigured, and therefore optimized, to a specific set of software. Yeah, my Mandrake came with a custom kernel, but out of the box, I could set it up anyway I wanted, and that's the way it still is.

Xandros is too M$-ish.
 
Old 11-21-2002, 06:20 PM   #5
Cyclops
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Question Quick Question re Xandros

Just wondering... does Xandros provide a free download of the full version?

I'm wondering because I've decided to remain loyal only to those distros that do so. I enjoy playing around with the full versions of the various distros for free, then if I like them, I go ahead and purchase the official package as a way of showing support for each distro.

Unfortunately, I've been burned too many times already by purchasing those that don't offer free downloads, only to find that I don't care for the product.
 
Old 11-21-2002, 07:23 PM   #6
masinick
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Some people are looking for just that

Quote:
Originally posted by jglen490
Nice commercial announcement, but no thanks. I don't do Linuxes that require a payment and are preconfigured, and therefore optimized, to a specific set of software. Yeah, my Mandrake came with a custom kernel, but out of the box, I could set it up anyway I wanted, and that's the way it still is.

Xandros is too M$-ish.
I'm very glad that there are many choices and styles of distributions for Linux, even though the kernel is essentially the same in each distro (modified only to add or reduce the number of drivers, or optimize it for certain configurations). Linux itself is nothing more than the kernel, but Linux distributions may contain GNU software, BSD software, commercial software, or a blend of all three.

I think that Xandros does an outstanding job of what they do. I'm not suggesting that this distro is for everyone - you've made it very clear that it's not for you. I'm surprised that you don't use either Slackware or a pure Debian distro - there's no commercialization in them whatsoever. Mandrake happens to be one of my favorite distros, too.

I wrote a comparison review over at Ziff Davis Media's Extreme Tech Web site (http://www.extremetech.com) and there I gave Mandrake the highest rating of all the distros that I personally reviewed - a 9 out of 10. Jim Lynch reviewed Xandros and gave it a 9 out of 10, too. I later got my own copy of Xandros and concurred with Jim.

You might be quite surprised at some of the distros I like, but I pick them for completely different reasons. You see, I like distros that suit whatever niche they're made for very well. Mandrake fits the general purpose, easy to use, yet extensible desktop niche very well. Libranet fits the ready to use development system with great ability to update and modify niche. Xandros has the same packaging system (Debian) as Libranet, but Xandros focuses on top notch interoperability with Windows. Lycoris Desktop/LX forcuses on an inexpensive, easy to use and understand, automatically configured system. Each one of these distros meets their intended objective very well, so Mandrake, Libranet, Lycoris, and Xandros are among my favorites. My other favorite is Red Hat because they understand the needs of consumers and have developed an overall business around business and personal applications using predominantly open source applications, mixed with well engineered third party commercial applications supplied by others.

No reason we can't have many different models. What bothers me about Microsoft is not the way their product looks or feels - I think most of their products have great look and feel. What does bother me is the lack of choices and the market muscles to try to get everyone to do things the way that they want.

Not everyone is going to want Xandros. It is relatively high priced at $99 for a single desktop copy. I'd call that a premium product in the Linux desktop space. But it's very good at what it sets out to do, and that's why I rate it highly.

I rate Mandrake highly also, for similar reasons, but for completely different characteristics. Both do what they do very well. I like those kinds of choices.
 
Old 11-25-2002, 04:01 AM   #7
RyanA
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Quote:
I think that Xandros does an outstanding job of what they do.
I totally agree. In terms of ease of use, driver supportm familiaraty it's top notch and the software chosen for the default install Xandros is an excellent distro. It's software library is very small compared to most other distros, but that also works to it's advantage by not scaring it's users away.
 
Old 11-25-2002, 09:25 AM   #8
masinick
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Still have all of Debian sources available, too

Quote:
Originally posted by RyanA
I totally agree. In terms of ease of use, driver supportm familiaraty it's top notch and the software chosen for the default install Xandros is an excellent distro. It's software library is very small compared to most other distros, but that also works to it's advantage by not scaring it's users away.
The other thing I like about the idea is that though the stock distro comes with a carefully defined set of software applications (to avoid user confusion), the experienced user can still use Debian's stable, testing, and unstable software libraries, giving you the potential to run over 10,000 software packages.

The simplicity, combined with that unbeatable combination of stability and flexibility make this a winner.
 
Old 11-25-2002, 04:45 PM   #9
jglen490
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Quote:
The simplicity, combined with that unbeatable combination of stability and flexibility make this a winner.
The Debianites have always made this their mantra. So save yourself a few bucks and get Debian, or RH, or Slack, or Mandrake, or any of the other free/low cost and downloadable distros.

Choice is good, there's no doubt about it. I don't wish Xandros ill, because there are people whose livelihood depend on some measure of success, but Xandros and the others like it that hang their hat on some sort of identity with Windows apps are, IMHO, not representative of choice.
 
Old 11-25-2002, 07:41 PM   #10
masinick
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There is a market for this

Quote:
Originally posted by jglen490
The Debianites have always made this their mantra. So save yourself a few bucks and get Debian, or RH, or Slack, or Mandrake, or any of the other free/low cost and downloadable distros.

Choice is good, there's no doubt about it. I don't wish Xandros ill, because there are people whose livelihood depend on some measure of success, but Xandros and the others like it that hang their hat on some sort of identity with Windows apps are, IMHO, not representative of choice.
I believe that there is a market for this kind of product. Guys like us (myself included) don't absolutely have to have a product like Xandros because we can put together something like it ourselves. Even so, the user interface is extremely well done, so for those who can afford it, this distro is worth getting., if for no other reason than to see how you can take open software and couple it with excellent customization and user interface design and come up with an excellent finished product.

So many of us don't really pay much attention to those kinds of details, but they are the very things that attract and retain the commodity consumer, which is the reason, for better or for worse, that Microsoft has been so successful with their products.

Therefore I reiterate that Xandros has done a very good thing with this product. Again, the geeks among us may not want it or need it, but that takes nothing away from the usefulness of this software. I recommend it even for geeks who like good user interface design and want an easy to install system that they can then tweak (with Debian packages) even further.

BTW, I buy distros on occasion from the vendors I like (I believe I bought around 4 shrink wrapped versions this past year), not because I didn't know about other options, but to support the vendors I believe in. I bought Mandrake, Red Hat, Libranet, and Lycoris Desktop/LX this year. I also got consultant copies of Red Hat and Xandros at various times this year, and friends traded several versions with me, and I bought around a dozen cheap sets of CDs. I use about 8 distros on a system at a time to evaluate, test, debug, report to vendors, and write reviews. That's my way of contributing to the free and open software movements.
 
Old 11-26-2002, 08:37 AM   #11
jglen490
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Quote:
BTW, I buy distros on occasion from the vendors I like (I believe I bought around 4 shrink wrapped versions this past year), not because I didn't know about other options, but to support the vendors I believe in. I bought Mandrake, Red Hat, Libranet, and Lycoris Desktop/LX this year.
You're a good man for supporting Linux the way you do. I just disagree with your assessment that Xandros is good for choice and good for either open source or free software. I disagree because of their focus on being M$ compliant, and not just M$ compatible. Wine/winex/wine-like variants, all make M$ compatibility and M$ app use in Linux possible, and that's good where it's absolutely necessary. M$ is neither enhanced nor decreased by Xandros, yet Xandros insists on a M$-centric focus. Yes, you can take Xandros and make it work just like any other Debian-based distro, but then you may as well have started with Debian!

There are many more Linux/open source/free software products that are more worthy, IMHO, of support and advancement by corporate Linux entities. Products such as abiword, gnumeric, the KOffice suite all have the potential for usefulness and complete incorporation into corporate office usage. It would be better for a distro to say that it is focusing on the corporate office model and here are Linux products that will do corporate office work. The major Linux-oriented productivity programs and suites have some compatibility, with OpenOffice.org being very significantly compatible.

Again, i don't wish Xandros ill, but they are not the knights in shining armor for choice, and for Linux, that they want people to believe that they are.
 
Old 11-26-2002, 09:55 AM   #12
masinick
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Quote:
Originally posted by jglen490
You're a good man for supporting Linux the way you do. I just disagree with your assessment that Xandros is good for choice and good for either open source or free software. I disagree because of their focus on being M$ compliant, and not just M$ compatible. Wine/winex/wine-like variants, all make M$ compatibility and M$ app use in Linux possible, and that's good where it's absolutely necessary. M$ is neither enhanced nor decreased by Xandros, yet Xandros insists on a M$-centric focus. Yes, you can take Xandros and make it work just like any other Debian-based distro, but then you may as well have started with Debian!

There are many more Linux/open source/free software products that are more worthy, IMHO, of support and advancement by corporate Linux entities. Products such as abiword, gnumeric, the KOffice suite all have the potential for usefulness and complete incorporation into corporate office usage. It would be better for a distro to say that it is focusing on the corporate office model and here are Linux products that will do corporate office work. The major Linux-oriented productivity programs and suites have some compatibility, with OpenOffice.org being very significantly compatible.

Again, i don't wish Xandros ill, but they are not the knights in shining armor for choice, and for Linux, that they want people to believe that they are.
OK, I can see that we see things differently (and that's OK, believe me, complete and automatic agreement to everything is not a good thing, but politely and assertively stating our cases is). So if you will indulge me further in this conversation, I'd like to continue to share with you why I think this is a good thing, and why I think Xandros is making some useful contributions).

First of all, I applaud your idea that it's good to promote the use of native Linux tools. Like you, I prefer to use such tools whenever possible. So for guys like us, I most certainly agree that a distro like Libranet or even the core Debian packages alone make good ways to get into using Debian software. But the Debian project itself is all about freedom of choice, and that involves taking many different paths to come up with diverse solutions.

The space that Xandros appeals to most is clearly the area currently dominated by Windows-based applications. History shows that every time a new OS comes into existence and begins to make market penetration, the thing it needs to grow and bridge the gap is the ability to run the native applications of the other system until the user base becomes comfortable with the system, then they can be introduced to applications that are native to the platform, and migrate away from the old stuff.

I can still remember working at General Motors in the early 1980s, when practically everything we ran was, in some way, connected to IBM mainframe computer systems. Now at GM, we had our own network called GMNet that we used to transmit data around the world. That network connected high speed computers together (though high speed in those days was only 2780 or 3780 Bisync connections running at 4800 BPS!!!). We'd also connect to low speed teletype systems running as slowly as 10 BPS, if you can believe it!

Now when the PC came along, the first thing that box had to do in order to even become a part of all of this was that it had to, in some way, interoperate with what existed. We had to connect the data and workflow from one system to the other.

Today, where I see Xandros fitting into that picture is that they provide several application interoperability pieces that allow people to do work they way they're used to doing it, while also providing them the necessary framework to do it a different way.

So Xandros is not the final answer, but in my opinion, it's

1. A nice software system package in its own right, capable of doing many good things and

2. A bridge, providing access to the applications of the day, while having an open software packaging architecture that gives access to current and future developments.

In my view, being compliant, as you word it, or using and connecting to the current applications that are popular, as I see it, is both important and essential - if the aim is to provide a migration path for users of the prevailing platform to use Linux. Again, like you, I have no particular need of those applications myself - I use Open Office and things of that kind when I must exchange documents but I prefer native Linux formats and native applications by a long shot. I'm trying to look at what kinds of tools and bridges are needed to get to that next level, and I believe that this is one of them, hence my arguments.

I'd be interested in hearing what your views are concerning whether it's worthwhile interoperating with those applications you refer to as M$, and if so, what tools you use and recommend and why. If you don't believe that's worthwhile, please also explain what your alternative objectives would be and why you'd take a different approach. My ideas are certainly not the only ideas, and I love engaging in constructive discussions aimed and bringing out better ideas, so I look forward to hearing from you again.

Thanks for the great discussion!
 
Old 11-26-2002, 10:17 AM   #13
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I don't know why everybody should be forced to use linux app's.There is a lot of valuable data around that does not work with linux.If somebody gets presented with the choice to loose all the data or stick with whatever OS he got the decision is a no-brainer.There are a lot of distros out there that build on debian and some users seem to have strange ideas about making money.God some guy are even whining about companies like Suse not providing a free download of ISO's.The guys that develop all this neat stuff have to make a living,too.I am not sure this is true but from what I heard one of the debian developers is even the lead dev for lindows.How could he - lindows - satanas!! ;-)
 
Old 11-26-2002, 10:54 AM   #14
masinick
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Quote:
Originally posted by crashmeister
I don't know why everybody should be forced to use linux app's.There is a lot of valuable data around that does not work with linux.If somebody gets presented with the choice to loose all the data or stick with whatever OS he got the decision is a no-brainer.There are a lot of distros out there that build on debian and some users seem to have strange ideas about making money.God some guy are even whining about companies like Suse not providing a free download of ISO's.The guys that develop all this neat stuff have to make a living,too.I am not sure this is true but from what I heard one of the debian developers is even the lead dev for lindows.How could he - lindows - satanas!! ;-)
There are people who are Debian developers from virtually all of the major manufacturers. I went to this past summer's Debian Conference 2, held in Toronto, Ontario Canada, and there were MANY people there from Hewlett Packard (Bdale Garbee is the current Debian Project Leader, and he's from HP), a couple of people from Lindows.com (Cliff Beshers and Michael Cardenas were two of them, Michael Robertson also sponsored dinner on Saturday and paid for much of the conference's logistical details), several people from Progeny, and developers from all over the world, including one major developer named Henrique de Moraes Holschuh.from Brazil.

Debian promotes freedom of choice, and that includes the freedom to work with commercial developments as well as free developments. The core components of Debian are definitely the free components, no question about that.
 
Old 11-26-2002, 03:56 PM   #15
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Lighten up - i meant that satanas stuff as a joke.
 
  


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