April 23, 2005
Five-O is a Debian-based distribution that pushes the envelope in terms
of usability and slickness. It squarely targets both Microsoft Windows
and Apple's Mac OSX, providing an alternate version of Apple's easy to
use GUI atop a solid Unix foundation.
The Look of Linspire
Linspire Five-O is complete with a very slick look. In fact, the white
plastic look used throughout is very similar to the look found in
Apple's Tiger release. However, as Linspire Five-O was released months
before Tiger, this is one time that no one can accuse Linspire of
I know it's just a series of themes, but Linspire's
look deserves more mention: They've managed to create a theme that
looks fantastic and, more importantly, is consistent between GTK
applications, Qt applications and Mozilla applications. This is
certainly no small feat, and Linspire should be commended for their
efforts. If I hadn't been a Linux user for many years, I wouldn't be
able to tell that applications were using different toolkits. The most
telling example of this is Lsongs. It apparantly uses Qt/KDE. though
I'd have pegged it as a GTK application given the font styles. That I
couldn't tell is a real testament to Linspire's efforts.
one glaring exception to Linspire's integrated look is OpenOffice.org.
It looks terrible! It can be vastly improved by adding the
OpenOffice.org-kde package available through CNR, but this wasn't
included by default and still uses Gnome icons. SuSE has proven that it
is possible to integrate OpenOffice.org into a KDE desktop. It boggles
my mind that Linspire didn't use the SuSE code to offer a truly
integrated office suite. My only guess is that they simply ran out of
time and are planning something really special for 5.1. Boy, I hope so.
is clearly attempting to be an end-to-end desktop computing provider.
In some ways this means that they are stretched a little thin. However,
this approach also forces Linspire to actually pay attention to what
computer users want, need and expect. This focus has lead Linspire to
push for pre-built Linux systems on both desktop and laptop machines.
This has also lead to the creation and integration of the mp3tunes
music service which, coupled with Linspire's Lsongs, offers iTunes/iTunes Music Store-style integration. MP3Beamer
another example of Linspire's attempt to offer a comprehensive set of
products for home users. In all honesty, Linspire has been positioning
itself as a real alternative to Apple and Microsoft's vision of a
digital hub. To this end, Linspire have created several applications to
improve users' experiences with the OS. Here are a few of the major
is a very easy to use WYSIWYG HTML editor. Linspire compares Nvu to
Dreamweaver. This is not unlike comparing AbiWord to MS Word. I love
AbiWord, I'd rather use it than MS Word, but the two are very different
products. Similarly, Nvu lacks many of the sophisticated tools that
Dreamweaver has. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, it is an
excellent editor. While I do most of my web design by hand, Nvu will be
a great option for Linspire's target audience.
Nvu is based
on Mozilla's excellent and largely forgotten "Composer" component. Like
Firefox and Thunderbird, Nvu removes the other components from the
application suite before adding many unique features and streamlining
the interface. Examples of this streamlining are the integrated in-line
spellchecker, site management features and a much improved theme.
They've done a great job. For small tasks, I still use Nvu. Best of
all, Nvu is available for free for Windows, Linux, Mac OSX and more.
Lsongs and Lphoto are Linspire's two homegrown applications. Lsongs is
a complete rip of Apple's excellent iTunes. I've written about it
before. It has improved much since then, but still chokes for me when
adding more than 5000 songs. It's okay, and it's great to have a
program similar to iTunes available on Linux, but it needs work to be
of similar quality to iTunes. Please Linspire, make Lsongs faster! It's
a great, if unoriginal, application. I applaude your efforts. Now,
finish the copy job and make it fast like iTunes.
Lphoto is an iPhoto-like image manipulation and management tool. It
interfaces with your digital camera and imports pictures that can then
be categorized, filed and modified to remove red-eye, crop the image
and more. Lphoto also lets you burn photo CDs that can then be played
in most DVD players. I wish that Lphoto would integrate with an on-line
photo management tool like the excellent Gallery
program that I use on my site.
To be honest, I haven't used Lphoto much yet, but it does seem to offer
all of the features that users have come to expect from this type of
Linsipre Internet Suite
Internet Suite is a customized version of the Mozilla Application
Suite. To be honest, I gave up using the Mozilla Suite over a year ago
on Linux, Mac and Windows. At the time, I found Firefox and Thunderbird
to be a better combination. However, Linspire has put some amazing
touches on the suite to once again make it a first-class product.
These changes have renewed my interest in the suite. The new theme in
5.0, Hot Words and the in-line spell checking everywhere are great. I
now find using the Suite on 5.0 to be a better experience than
Firefox/Thunderbird on Linux and the Mac. It's too bad that they didn't
find a way to directly integrate Nvu with their suite. I hope that
their modifications are merged upstream and integrated into Firefox and
With the App Suite and Nvu, Linspire seems to
be picking up the components that the Mozilla Foundation is
increasingly abandoning. Perhaps Linspire's next work could be further
development of the Calendar/Sunbird. One thing is for sure, Linspire's
take on the App Suite is still more feature-complete than even
Firefox/Thunderbird and Nvu.
Another area where Linspire shines is in multimedia support. You can
purchase a legal, licensed version of Xine from CNR for $5 that will
give you legal DVD playback on Linux. They've also licensed WMA codecs
from Microsoft and offer full support for Quicktime. Plugins are
preconfigured for Flash, Java, Quicktime, WMA and more. They've also
recently added Adobe's much improved 7.0 Reader, which also provides an
excellent PDF reader. I have yet to find a multimedia format that
Linspire can't play. They provide both Xine and KPlayer, which uses
MPlayer as a back-end. This is the most media-friendly version of Linux
that I have ever seen.
far. Linspire Five-O has done as well as Ubuntu 5.04 with hardware
detection. It correctly installed my Nvidia drivers, works well with my
Clie TJ-37 in either sync or import mode, and it has correctly detected
and worked with my Epson CX5400 scanner/printer and the Olympus digital
camera. I have yet to throw it a piece of hardware that it couldn't
deal with. I'm sure it can be tripped up, but if your hardware can be
made to work with Linux it will likely work quite well with Linspire
Five-O. Over the years, Linspire has been quick to add support for
exotic hardware, I'm sure that this will remain the case over time.
Installing software with CNR
Click and Run, or CNR, is often given as the biggest appeal to
Linspire. It really does live up to the hype. Simply put, there is no
easier way to install or remove software from any other operating
system that I have used. Of course, it works well because Linspire so
carefully maintains it. If Linspire was to go bankrupt or give up on
CnR tomorrow, it would simply cease to exist. This would be
catastrophic. But, short of some terrible happening at Linspire, CnR is
absolutely a joy to use. Linspre tends to keep packages current and is
constantly adding interesting programs, both free and commercial. CNR
really does make Linux very easy to use. I've no doubt that even casual
computer users would have no problem maintaining and adding software to
Linspire Five-O is a
very solid release. At this time, I can honestly say that it is the
simplest desktop Linux distribution in existence. My only real
complaint with it is that it's boring. I actually enjoy tweaking. With
Linspire, this is unnecessary.