Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
As you may have heard, Linspire began offering their Linspire 5.0 for a free download today and will continue this until September 6. Who can resist a free lunch? I downloaded and looked around Linspire in the livecd mode. It also has an option of installing to hard drive if one is interested. I was quite surprised at what I found. ...or more accurately, how I felt about what I found.
Upon booting the burnt iso, one is given the choice of installing onto harddrive, booting the livecd, or advanced. Advanced is a two item menu consisting of 'run diagnostics' and exit. I imagine run diagnostics is memtest as that's a popular option on livecds, but I didn't run it to find out. Then the livecd either boots with a lovely light blue splash and progress bar or verbosely (press F2). It does a good job of hardware detection and even loads up and uses nvidia drivers for those with nvidia graphics. That was welcome surprise number one.
The Linspire 5.0 livecd does log one in as root to a KDE 3.3.2 desktop by way of an attractive splash screen. Given that this distro was released in March, one can overlook the "antiquated" KDE version. Also given the age, it uses a 2.6.10 kernel. GCC is not included, but this distro does have a large warehouse of binary applications available for a price or one can set up a debian source, so I've heard. So, no points given or taken for these issues.
Linspire comes with some nice customized eyecandy such as their choices of splashscreens and some Linspire wallpapers. They provide plenty of help and tutorials from the menu and icons on the desktop, including a 'Helpful Hints from Jack Donaldson' text file in My Documents. Of special note is their tutorial, which is a swf application that basically gives a tour of the desktop system. There is also a nice looking "startup wizard" that provides a way for easy customizing of the system such as timezone, setting up another user account, resolution, machine name, and lots more.
However points were lost for the mounting of all my partitions automagically. I did umount quickly and they stayed umount'd, so it's not as bad as that one distro that kept remounting them.
I wasn't really disappointed in the simplified menu because as they expanded, one finds quite a selection of applications; surprise number two. It even comes with an AOL dialer. I wonder if that thing works? I suppose that's a wonderful addition to Linspire's market of fresh window's converts. They did rename a lot of applications, but I speculate that's for usability more than deception. I didn't find, or may have overlooked, kcontrol in the menu, but it could be called up from a console or "run."
Kplayer was welcome surprise number three. It had no problems playing any of the movie demo files I had on hand. Just as we discovered with the distro formerly known as Freespire, Linspire uses a renamed Mozilla for it's "internet browser," email, and newgroup application by default.
Of course it probably wouldn't be Linspire without offering to sell additional software and services. Not only does it give you an icon on the desktop and in the system tray for cnr, it also comes with icons for its "surfsafe" and "virussafe" services. Each of these services run 29.99 USD per year. Also in the system tray is an icon for 'updates' which leads to a signup for a free "software aisle" consisting of 2000 free titles.
So in conclusion, I was surprised that I didn't hate Linspire. I had fully expected to, I got to be honest. However, it was attractive, stable, and functioned very well. I found it fast even in the livecd mode and never experienced a crash. I guess we can't blame them for trying to make a buck. After paying 50 USD for the distro it might be a bit much to have to pay for more software. On the other hand, as a free download their sales pitches are more easily tolerated.