April 19, 2019

Xandros Desktop OS 3.0: A Solid, Modern Replacement for a Windows Desktop - page 6

Looking at Xandros

  • January 27, 2005
  • By Bill von Hagen

As mentioned previously, Xandros comes on two CDs. The install CD provides a reasonable set of default applications for most office users, but many of the more advanced Linux applications (including image creation and manipulation tools such as GIMP) are provided on the Xandros Applications CD or as downloads that can be installed directly from a networked Xandros distribution site. Software from the Applications CD or a networked Xandros distribution site is installed using Xandros custom update tool, Xandros Networks. An icon for the Xandros Networks application is installed on your Xandros system's desktop by default.

As an aside, if you're installing multiple Xandros systems, the split between the items on the Installation and Applications CDs can be somewhat irritating and time-consuming. For each system, you have to manually install applications from the CD or update over the network. This process, the bane of the administrators of large Linux desktop deployments, is one of the reasons that enterprise system management software, such as Xandros' own xDMS (Xandros Desktop Management Server, previously reviewed on LinuxPlanet), is coming into its own as a practical requirement for large-scale Linux deployments.

When you first start Xandros Networks, it displays links to updates for the commercial software that is provided or certified for use with Xandros Linux, such as Crossover Office or Star Office (the latter if you want a supported version of Open Office). It then builds a local database of available software from the software installation source that is currently selected. By default, this is a networked Xandros installation site, but you can redirect this to another source, such as the Applications CD, by selecting this from the Edit menu's "Set Application Sources" menu, as shown in Figure 7.

Trying to install applications from the Applications CD can be irritating. There is no option to install everything, so you have to walk through the "New Applications" menu, selecting everything by hand. (There is an option on the File menu that says "Install all Latest Xandros Updates," but it isn't totally clear whether this means just updates to previously-installed software or new packages as well.)

Once I selected all packages from the CD manually, however, Xandros Networks reported that it couldn't find a number of the selected packages, initially from the Education and Games categories. This was odd, since it presumably had read the list of available packages from the CD before building the list of installable options.

The manual mentioned that many of the items on the CD were actually installable over the Internet as a net update, so I opted for this. Xandros Networks rebuilt the list of available updates, and I once again selected everything. This time, everything could be found and the big system update (779 MB) began.

Installing updates over the network is every bit as nice and convenient as you'd expect, and works flawlessly. Figure 8 shows a network update in progress.

As you install updates or new applications or application updates using Xandros Networks, any packages that need interactive configuration display messages in the update window, and provide a text area at the bottom of the window where you can enter your selections.

My favorite of these was some entertaining information about basic video formats when installing TvTime, which is an excellent package for watching television on a Linux system through a TV tuner card. The informative message when selecting video formats was "North American users should select NTSC. Most areas in the world use PAL." As an American who is often disgusted by the United States' traditional cultural chauvinism, I found this entertaining and cleverly worded. Maybe it's just me.

Once you've completed an update via Xandros Networks, only those packages which have not yet been installed or updated are shown in Xandros Networks, as shown in Figure 9. This is a convenient way to see which updates have not yet been applied to a given system.

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