The history of Freespire
like a movie plot, with nuances of a Phoenix rising from ashes, Rocky,
Mission Impossible and a bit of Ground Hog day all wrapped up in a
single OS. Born as OS to directly rival Windows, the original name of
Lindows sparked some concerns in Redmond and many lawsuits later a new
name was born: Linspire. Now many in the Linux community did not like
the approach taken by Michael Robertson and gang, likening the
distribution to a bad copy of Windows and a poor Linux distribution to
boot. I for one gave them a shot just for the fact that they stood toe
to toe with the giant in the northwest and won (MS may dispute this,
but if you just have to change a name after all the publicity created,
hell sign me up).
So earlier this year Kevin Carmony announced to much fanfare that the Linspire
company was starting an OpenSource project call Freespire
The news took some by suprise, while some on the inside of Linspire
figured it was inevitible. With Ubuntu gaining so much ground in the
community and openSuse drawing more attention to Novell, something had
to happen. Freespire would be coming soon. After a few decent Beta
copies, on August 9th, the first version appeared
had tested many of the Alpha and Beta releases, so the final production
version was just icing on the cake. I am very pleased with the overall
performance and look of Freespire, so lets get too it, shall we???
Kernel - 2.6.14
Desktop - KDE 3.3.2 Freespire Enhanced (An older version, but extremely stable
FAQs - http://wiki.freespire.org/index.php/FAQ_Category:_About_Freespire_and_The_Freespire_Project
Cost - FREE!!! However CNR Warehouse does come at a cost of $19.95 for basic service per year $49.95 for Gold
Special Features - CNR and the options for Propriertary codec version or an OSS free version, and did I mention FREE!!!!!Nitty Gritty:
Installation ( )
way to install an OS tells a lot about what you get later. I simply
feel that if they can't get this part right, how are they going to get
anything else correct. First impressions are everything and I think
that some people really need to spend more than an hour getting this
right. Freespire basically has the same installation routine as Linsire
5.0, but it worked well there. There is an option for running the
install disk as a Live OS and also an addition of a Parition manager in
the boot manager from the disk.
always suggest booting the system in Live mode whenever it is an option
so that you can get an idea of how the OS will run with your hardware.
It isn't fool proof, but odds are if it doesn't load in the Live mode,
it won't run after an install either.
I am not a big fan of the
partitioning being seperated from the installation, as most newbies
won't understand what this is, nor how to do it, nor is this version
very user intuitive. Basically this alone reduces on Pennie from the
score. If your system is already partitioned, this isn't a big deal,
but for Windows crossovers this will be a huge negative. We will walk
you through using this feature later if you need help, but the one
thing that always shines on Freespire/Linspire is the awesome user
community. The only community as helpful and responsive I have seen to
day would be Ubuntu.
is an extremely informative welcome screen and lets you know to do what
we just suggested and run Live before trying to install and the
location for support. However, my only issue with that is that it
assumes that you have another computer available to get to that site. I
wish people would think about that when they make these suggestions in
that many people only own one PC and just can't go to a website for
support. A nice 800 number or 619 (San Diego) number for support might
be nice, or an ability to have a help link on the screen with a simple
wiki installation directions or roadmap would greatly improve the look
and comfort for the newbie.
are basically two options for the installation; Full and Advanced. Full
is basically watch out below, here it comes option that just does what
the coders think it should: Take over the world. If you have another
partition of Windows or other Linux, I would strongly recommend that
you do the Advanced option, although that is a bit of a misleading
statement. The only options in the Advanced tabs are to choose which
partition (if you knew to make one in the first place) and if you wish
to have the MBR updated. Now there is a little blurb in the text there
that tells you if you needed a partition created that you should have
alread done so, or that you now need to reboot and select that option
from the drop down. This reminds me of that MASH show where they were
working on the bomb. "Cut the blue wire.....but first, cut the red wire
next to the blue wire." You can't allow people to go down the road for
miles only to then tell them of the exit. Now, the one improvement over
Linspire 5.0 is that there wasn't even a partitioning tool there, so C
for the effort, D for the implementation.
you get past that, either on the first or second go around (hopefully
if you read this first, you will know to partition before you get
started) you will get the "are you really sure you wish to do that?"
question that just bothers me. I mean, the other option to take over
the entire hard disk asks the same question. I get why they do it, but
sometimes these idiot questions are a bit over the top. Oh well, can't
have everything can you.
you are off to the races. Installation takes between 8-15 minutes,
really depending on the size of your PCs hard drive and overall
performance. Not bad and there are some nice little pictures along the
way describing what you are getting into with Freespire.
complete screen is next and reminds you to remove your installation
disk so that you don't go through this again. It is not what I would
call user friendly, but it is about average across many distributions.
Three Pennies is a bit of a stretch, but other than the partitioning
snafu, everything else is pretty clear.Starting ( )
never understand why people don't follow distros like Suse and spend
some time on the boot screen. First impressions again, right? This one
is so simple it is painful. One thing that has been noted by myself and
others is that Freespire does not do a decent job of finding other
distros other than Windows. I personally feel that this is due to their
drive mapping in the OS, but more on that later.
(Note some of
these screens are from Freespire's website as I was having issues with
my screen capture function, I give them full credit, but for some
reason they still have their Beta background snapshots up instead of
love the boot screens as it really keeps the eye candy alive while
waiting for the system to boot. It is one of those nice features that
some people forget about, but here is done well. What happened to the
installation, I have no clue.
Once in the OS for the first time,
the system will bring up the EULA for you to agree to. This is super
simple and nothing in there should scare even the most paranoid out
the system will allow you adjust all your network settings, first your
sound with a nice slider to adjust your volume, which is a nice way to
test your sound against what the system chose for you. I have heard of
some issue with JACK, but personally have no experienced them.
desktop is pretty much plain old KDE, and since it is from the 3.3.2
variety, don't expect many bells or whistles but do expect the system
to work. Firefox has been customized for Linspire, but you can install
the generic from CNR once you get there.
little icon in the bottom right of the toolbar is the CNR icon and you
might see another with a Blue arrow moving or circles moving around the
little running man. CNR is the repository for Linspire and the bread
and butter of their offering. It is by far the most user friendly and
complete listing of software available to Linux users. The "warehouse"
includes free software, drivers, kernels, patches, and for sale pieces
such as CodeWeavers, Win4Lin, games such as Cold War and other pieces
that you can purchase at a discount, if your are a Gold Member. A
regular member can get the Free software and purchase the other
packages, just without the discount. Now in Freespire is one new
avenue, which is that apt-get is more functional that before in
Linspire and provides flexibility of other repositories such as
Ubuntu's while offering the advanced offerings of CNR. I for one think
CNR is what clearly sets Freespire/Linspire apart from the field and
will for some time to come.
is also availble to the user from the Launch icon structure in each sub
branch. By simply selecting the CNR expansion, one can select the
package they want and then CNR launches on that page and they have the
option to install. Another neat trick is that you can install from the
website for CNR
and that too will launch CNR on your computer. The hits keep coming and coming for CNR.
mentioned briefly before, there are two levels of CNR subscriptions:
Basic and Gold. Pricing between the two options has a big gap, $19.95
for basic and $49.95, and the benefit of Gold is pretty small. There is
a table to describe the benefit, but unless you plan on purchasing the
kitchen sink, most newbies will be happy with the Basic plan to start
with. As your needs grow, then you could look into Gold later.
thing that really is nice for Freespire is the video and wireless
support on PCs, especially laptops. In their efforts to truly support proprietary drivers,
they really hit the nail on the head in that most video cards and
wireless adapters work out of the box. Now having said this, my laptops
ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 did not get full 1280x800 resolution, but that
is the case on Linspire as well (I ask and ask, and still asking for
some help, but have honestly been too busy to push it). Wireless is
accomplished by pre-loading NDISWRAPPER drivers galour. This was no
easy task and is a really good way to keep this out of the kernel and
still allow some user flexibility without having to know how to
add/remove kernel packages and modules.
Bonus Stuff ( )
number one item that is bonus in Freespire, other than CNR that really
is a Linspire leftover, is the packaging of the proprietary codecs and
drivers in the base package and then an optional OSS version free for
the FSF lovers of the world. I don't mind these free systems and
understand those that want total control, but those people also should
realize there are people in the world that just don't want to spend the
weeks it can take to get one of those systems functional. Time is more
valuable than spending money on packages or losing some controlls. I
for one like the middle ground that FrQuick Blog: Blog Administration
offers, in that they pay the bill for this through support from
Linspire and donations so users just don't have to worry about it.
everything really works out of the box, minus the DVD, but that can
easily be obtained from CNR in a couple of different options. You can
see those before you install on the Web CNR here
. There is a package for PowerDVD
that if you plan on watching movies will pay for the GOLD subsription
with its $40 discount. This isn't some crappy fly by night DVD player
but rather a CyberLink offering that works extremely well.
There are two packages unique to Linspire that Freespire enjoys which are Lphoto
Another project by Linspire founder Michael Robertson is MP3Tunes.com,
which probably helped spawn Lsongs, which is a truly simple music
manager. I for one like Amarok, which is also in the warehouse, but
that is personal preference.
The other project that sees itself in the Freespire offering is the Gizmo Project
or VoIP client that compares with Skyp. It is a SIP protocal user that
really has some interesting offerings, including free calls to any
phone that is registered with their system. Check it out
and this works for Windows and Apple as well.
wireless works, Video cards work (for the most part), MP3 out of the
box, DVD with a couple of clicks and LEGALLY done, and a clean desktop
that will keep the windows lovers happy and the KDE Linux lovers in the
works as well. It truly is a desktop that fullfills The World's Easiest
desktop Linux! branding that comes over from Linspire, along with the
FREEdom and FREEprice that many Linux lovers expect in their
distribution.Overall ( )
So what do I think overall? (if you care, right
Freespire is truly a distro that allows Linux lovers to get their hands
dirty and the newbies to have their simplified desktop that functions
95% of the way MS does right out of the box. The installation is not
the easiest by far, nor the lack of a partitioning agent built into the
process. But knowing that before hand you will hopefully work through
that mine field unscathed and get to the meat on the table: Proprietary
drivers, CNR that allows packages to be found and installed in a single
click, apt-get flexibility, and a community second to none.
give it a shot and tell me what you think. You should at least try the
live version and keep that around so that if you Windows dies you will
have a way to get files off your PC. That alone is worth the time of