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Xandros Desktop--Not Your Father's Linux Distribution - page 3

From Corel to Xandros

  • November 11, 2002
  • By Bill von Hagen

Once you log in and get past the First Run Wizard, using Xandros Desktop is a breeze. Xandros Desktop is based on the 2.4.19 kernel, which is quite up-to-date and provides robust support for popular subsystems such as USB. Xandros uses the devfs filesystem for populating and managing device entries in /dev, which can be confusing the first time you execute the df command but provides greater flexibility for hot-swap devices. Xandros also uses the new "hotplug" scheme for monitoring and managing hot-swap and removable media device. Xandros uses LILO rather than GRUB as a boot manager, which is acceptable but surprisingly dated considering how up-to-the-minute the rest of Xandros' underpinning are.

Xandros' selection of bundled software is similarly up-to-date. OpenOffice 1.0.1, Acrobat Reader 5.0, and GIMP 1.2.3 are also pre-installed in a Complete Install, which also includes pre-installed IBM Java2-13. All of this contributes to a perception of Xandros Desktop as an impressively modern and thorough desktop distribution.

Xandros has spent a fair amount of time branding and customizing the KDE 2.2.2 desktop to differentiate themselves from the pack, which is probably why they haven't jumped to KDE 3.0 yet. Besides just shuffling bitmaps, backgrounds, and application title bars, Xandros has developed a few applications that are Xandros-specific. The Xandros Update utility (see Figure 1) is Xandros' answer to applications such as Red Hat's up2date and Ximian's RedCarpet utilities. More impressive than Xandros Update is the Xandros File Manager, which is slick and multi-function enough to cause severe application envy in fans of KDE's Konqueror or GNOME's Nautilus (see Figure 2).

The Xandros File Manager is a filesystem browser, Web browser, Windows Network and NFS browser, gum, candy, and floorwax all rolled into one. It is visually attractive, quite fast, and is obviously the result of a lot of work and love on the part of its authors. Following the standard two-panel model where the left-hand panel is a hierarchical table of contents for its key functions and the right-hand panel displays a view of the selected topic, whether this is a directory, CD or floppy device, networked Windows or NFS filesystem, or whatever. Its inclusion of a usable SMB browser for Windows shares is almost worth the price of admission all by itself.

Given Xandros' desktop orientation, it isn't all that surprising that gcc is only installed as part of a Custom, Complete Install. What is more surprising is the version of gcc that is installed, which is 2.95.4. Given the fact that the rest of the software included with Xandros Desktop is so up-to-date, I would have expected gcc 3.0 or better, but perhaps this version of gcc is better suited to KDE 2.2.2.

All in all, Xandros Desktop provides an impressive assortment of modern Linux software oriented toward desktop users. The fact that things like OpenOffice and Adobe Acrobat Reader are pre-installed is a great convenience to someone who is more interested in getting work done out-of-the-box rather than hunting down useful applications.

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