Linux examined: Xandros Professional

Xandros, a commercial Linux distro, tries to be user-friendly, and for the most part, it succeeds.

Xandros Desktop Professional includes the window tile effect

Xandros Desktop Professional includes the window tile effect

Interestingly, the install does include some of the usual suspects, such as Firefox and Evolution, the integrated mail, address book and calendaring app. You also get a copy of CrossOver Linux, an app that allows you to install Windows software on a Linux system, which makes one wonder if they expect most of their potential users would rather install Microsoft Office than use the open-source alternatives.

Incidentally, Xandros does a good job of making a number of tasks more friendly than usual for Linux. For example, it has a printer driver installation wizard that walks you through the process, and seems to know about most common printers, such as the pair of networked Brother laser printers I used it with.

The Xandros Network

The Xandros Network is a very interesting component of the distribution. It combines a number of functions that most distributions keep separate: package management, updates and news from Xandros. The package management component, where you install new applications, looks pretty much like that for any other distribution. However, the update section is another place where Xandros has gone for a Windows look and feel, with highly readable descriptions of the updates, divided up into security updates, normal updates, driver updates and service packs (yes, Xandros has even borrowed the Service Pack nomenclature from Microsoft).

One thing that Xandros offers that most distributions don't is a store, integrated into the Network, that lets you purchase, download and install commercial Linux software.

Unfortunately, there really aren't that many packages available -- the store mainly offers the pro version of CrossOver and the StarOffice productivity suite, along with Xandros' antivirus software. For an additional US$40, you can purchase a Xandros Network Pro membership, which lets you download a number of interesting games and tools.

The current Network may become irrelevant, however, due to the Linspire purchase. One of the major reasons that Xandros gave for acquiring Linspire was to integrate Linspire's Click and Run (CNR) technology into Xandros. CNR offers a much wider variety of commercial software as well as the usual open-source fare, and is available on multiple distributions, including Fedora and Ubuntu. As of this writing, CNR is still not available for Xandros, despite an announced July 2008 date, but I would expect it to become available soon.

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