Entry-level Linux: Linspire OS 4.5

Version 4.5 of the Linux-based Linspire operating system (pre-viously known as LindowsOS) tries hard to be as friendly and simple to use as possible - a feat it accomplishes with gusto.

Click here to view a screen shot.

After booting from the Linspire CD, two choices of installation are available: one will take over the entire hard drive, destroying all information on it in the process; or, alternatively, if you have at least 2GB of available space, you can install Linspire alongside an existing Windows installation. In this instance, we let the OS take over the entire drive.

Within 10 minutes of the initial boot the Linspire OS 4.5 desktop was ready to go, complete with all drivers installed for the network card, sound card and graphics card. Note: check the compatibility section of the Linspire Web site to see which, if any, conflicts may arise if your system has new or slightly exotic hardware.

The Linspire interface contains many familiar conventions that Windows users will find comforting, although Linspire (perhaps ironically, considering the lawsuits brought against it by Microsoft) doesn't seem to try as hard as some distributions to mimic the Microsoft operating system. After starting for the first time after installation, a slick multimedia tutorial starts up. As far as these types of tutorials go, it's quite a good one and well worth a watch if you can't be bothered reading the slim, full-colour manual.

Basic networking was handled auto-matically. We connected to the Internet via the office LAN without a problem and were also able to print to a number of printers on the same network.

The Click-N-Run Warehouse is an online repository for hundreds of software titles, critical updates and drivers - it is designed to take the pain out of installing software under Linux. Many titles are free, but premium ones must be paid for. Either way, you'll still need to subscribe to the Click-N-Run Warehouse ($US49.95) to gain access to the free stuff. It works well, although it is slightly counterintuitive in its implementation. It is aimed at the Linux novice, so be aware that much of the CNR content is available free elsewhere on the internet.

The excellent OpenOffice by OpenOffice.org is installed by default, as are basic Web browsing and e-mail utilities, a firewall, plus a number of audio and video playback tools. Commercial DVD playback, however, will (like Windows) require purchasing the appropriate software in order to watch your favourite movies when running Linspire.

It's also worth mentioning that at the time of writing, Linspire OS 4.5 was available as a free download from www.linspire.com/p2p-mm using BitTorrent peer-to-peer distribution (see the Web page for instructions).

In brief: Linspire OS 4.5

Linspire 4.5 is yet another example of a feature-rich, novice-friendly Linux distribution that should be seriously considered when choosing an operating system.

Price: from $US49.95

Vendor: Lindows

URL: www.linspire.com

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