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Freespire aspires, but fails to inspire

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Freespire, the free as in beer version of the Linspire Linux distribution, this month released Freespire 2.0, the first version of the operating system based on the popular Ubuntu distribution, and the first to contain proprietary codecs and drivers. Despite its attractive appearance, it left me with mixed feelings.

You can boot the Freespire image as a live CD or go straight into the install. It's always advisable to try the live CD option first to test hardware compatability. When you do, the tasteful and professional silent boot splash whisks you into a short setup setup routine. A full-screen framebuffered dialog first presents a long and involved license agreement that would require a lawyer to decipher. Then you are asked to confirm, adjust, or troubleshoot the volume of your sound system. I raised the volume on my Hewlett-Packard dv2105 notebook test machine, and the test music confirmed my sound was working. The KDE 3.5.6 desktop briefly appears before a configuration window opens that contains buttons to set various system settings, including screen resolution, networking, dial-up, timezone, language, and keyboard. Once finished, you have a lovely KDE desktop dressed up with pretty wallpaper and slick icons. Freespire looks good.

I couldn't tell Freespire is built upon Ubuntu until I used the command line or the native package management system. Under Ubuntu, many commands required the use of sudo to gain superuser privilege. I find it easier to use su to become root once than to use sudo for every command, so the first thing I do in a Ubuntu-based distro is set a root password.

On the desktop is an icon for starting the hard drive installer.

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