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The local Microcenter was selling machines with Linspire as well as
Linspire CDs so I decided to pick up a CD and give it a kick around.
"Linux" is no longer just an experimental operating system for bored
programmers to hack on, where incomplete and non-robust designs and implementations
are acceptable and often the norm. Many Linux distributions are now real
desktop operating systems that can compete squarely with Windows and MacOS.
Although I think there are still a few wrinkles that need to be ironed
My first step in testing Linspire was to install it. While I didn't
get any screen shots of the installation, it was very straightforward.
I just booted from the CD and installed it on a blank hard drive. It was
mostly just clicking "next", "next", "next" and then it chugged away for
a while until it was finished.
The only thing I didn't like about the setup was that during the first
boot part of the setup it displays the date/time settings using "24 hour"
time. In this country anyway 24 hour time is very seldom used. (So, what
time is it when your clock says 13 o'clock? Why, time to get a new one!)
This is the default Linspire desktop as it appears at first boot. It
automatically picks a higher resolution (1280*1024). For the rest of screen
shots I will use a lower resolution and turn off the background to minimize
the file sizes of the pictures.
Linspire uses the KDE 3.3.2 desktop and is configured to look and feel
similar to Microsoft Windows.
The "K Menu", as it is called (although it is branded with the Linspire
"L" and the word "Launch") contains the general assortment of options a
Windows user would expect. This menu uses a more space conservative approach
over that of Windows XP and places recently use applications at the top
of the menu. (Although that places the application icons further from the
To the right of that are application and menu buttons that launch the
help center, File manager, web browser, e-mail, and an instant messenger.
The final icon is a desktop show/hide button.
Next to that is the panel task bar where buttons for active applications
At the end is the Panel system tray that displays icons for various
One of the first things I did was to change the resolution and refresh
rate. Unfortunately I am not using an LCD flat panel display, to me a CRT
displaying a low refresh rate is like looking in to a strobe light.
When I made my selection to my surprise it wanted me to restart. Well,
it wanted a "Quick" restart but that still terminates all running application.
I am very surprised and disappointed that a modern operating system would
need this. My Windows 95 can happily change resolutions, color depths,
and refresh rates on the fly with hardly a hiccup. (Yes, I just compared
a 2006 Linux to Windows 95, deal with it).
At first boot an icon on the tray alerted me that there might be updates
available. Clicking it started "CNR" (That stands for "Click and Run").
This is Linspire's software distribution tool, but it requires a fee
to access. They have a huge library of software specifically prepared for
Linspire, so there is no hassle fiddling with the system to get it to work.
The Launch/K menu is full of icons for programs that are not actually
installed on the system but instead launch CNR so you can install
it if you are signed up. I am impressed by their business model, they can
make some real money this way.
I never could find the updates it was talking about if there were any.
And since I was just kicking it around I chose not to sign up (I didn't
feel like giving my credit card number out to just anybody again) so I
just hid the update icon.
The panel system tray also includes icons for SurfSafe, a web filtering
service, and VirusSafe, a virus scanner, both of which are also subscription
The "My Computer" folder layout appears to be designed to mimic the
location options in the "Save As" dialogs.
There are no actual drives in the My Computer folder, those are placed
on the desktop instead.
The "My Desktop" icon provides a redundant folder view of the contents
of the desktop.
"My Documents" is, of course, the location where users should create
and store their documents. But here it is in the "My Computer" folder rather
than directly on the desktop where it would be more visible and accessible
to the user.
The "Network Shares" folder contains any connected network folders.
(More on that later).
The "Storage Device" opens the Linux file system.
Confusingly the same set of icons appear if you navigate to your "home"
folder, although there are no direct paths to the "home" folder here suggesting
the user is not to use that directly in Linspire. (Similar to how your
profile folder is handled in Windows)
The panel bar is very customizable. You can resize it to make it larger
or smaller, you can add or remove application and menu buttons, or even
add a second Launch/K menu! You can put it on different edges of the screen
and you can slide it out of the way if you need more screen space.
The ability to create new blank documents is a very useful, yet surprisingly
underrated, feature that makes desktops more document oriented rather than
The Linspire desktop has a "Create new" option (with a seemingly unnecessary
"file" sub menu) but none of the installed applications appear to take
advantage of this.
The "Device" sub menu provides a way to manually create disk icons for
drives in the event the OS has somehow failed to do this automatically.
This is something a typical user should never touch, would have no clue
how to set up, and should not be included in this menu. However this is
apparently needed because the disk drive icons are completely deleteable,
something else the user should not be able to do.
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