Inspired by Linspire

About a week ago, I made a decision I hadn’t made in a number of years: I paid for a Linux-related product. The last time I did that was when I bought a copy of SimplyMEPIS in late 2003/early 2004, I honestly don’t remember when. At that time, I was doing some work with Robin ‘roblimo’ Miller and upon his recommendation bought myself a copy of the OS. Cost: About $30.

(He was writing a book at that time, Point and Click Linux, and had been using that distribution for quite some time, even going so far as to base the book on that particular distro. The book, which I highly recommend, can be found in most bookstores, and makes for a perfect introduction to Linux for people that just want something to use, though not necessarily abuse. In other words, it’s not a book for code monkeys, just newbies and grandparents.)

I used SimplyMEPIS for a number of months before I decided to try yet another Linux distribution. Wonder-lust had apparently set in once more. I started using other Linux distros, Mandrake 10.1 (now Mandriva), Ubuntu, Fedora, Knoppix and VidaLinux were just some I tried. As fun as they were, what I was looking for was not a distribution to play with, but one to use, one that would “just work.” (This even went so far as to tempt me to buy a Mac Mini, but I wasn’t about to drop $500 for what’s essentially an un-upgradable machine.)

Of the aforementioned, Mandrake 10.1 and VidaLinux were the closest: Mandrake has always been good, but didn’t have the apt-get/synaptics program I’d grown to love, and VidaLinux wasn’t exactly hands off, which is something I was looking for. In fact, VidaLinux is based on Gentoo, meaning that everything had to be compiled. On the bright side, VidaLinux was fast; in fact, it was the fastest distribution I’d ever used. (To date, that’s still the case. It’s seriously speedy. I never knew OpenOffice could load that quickly!) Still, I wasn’t looking for speed, although that’s certainly one of the reasons I didn’t stick with Mandrake. I was looking for something that I could forget about. To quote Bill Joy, “Operating systems are like underwear: nobody wants to look at them.”

Rewind about 9 months: I’d just bought a copy of the British publication LinuxFormat which came with a full-install copy of Lindows 4.5. (LinuxFormat usually has CDs with software and distributions included with their magazine.) Having remembered when Lindows first came out (I helped test the distribution for a preview featured in Linux.com), I was anxious to see what improvements had been made to this OS. I’d heard lots of good things as of late, but I still remembered my own tests, including the things I didn’t like. (At that time, Lindows followed the dot-com mantra to the “T”: over-promise, under-deliver. It was supposed to be a distribution that ran both Linux and Windows applications natively. This particularly over-hyped feature failed miserably. In fact, it’s still not a standard feature of the OS five versions later. On the bright side, it really doesn’t have to be. Companies like CodeWeavers and Transgaming offer rather good solutions on that front, and in fact were helped along by the work done in Lindows.)

I bought the magazine and immediately went home to install the OS. I put the CD into the CD-ROM drive, rebooted the computer, then as the OS splash screen came up I watched, and waited… and waited…

… and it stalled. It was a flop. The OS wouldn’t install on my crappy machine. So much for trying anything out. I stashed the CD in the Box of Old Forgotten Software (we all have one of those, right?) and forgot about it. Actually, I didn’t forget about it: in fact, I was pretty miffed I spent $15 for a magazine with a distribution and the distribution didn’t run.

Fast forward about 9 months: In the middle of my wonder-lust, I went digging trough the Box of Old Forgotten Software hoping to find something I may have — well, forgotten about. Of course, there it was: the copy of Lindows 4.5. Since the last time, I had upgraded my machine from “total crap” to “relatively decent,” so I figured I’d give it another whirl. Might as well make those $15 pay off, right? Like before, I put the CD into the CD-ROM drive, rebooted the computer, and as the OS splash screen came up I watched, and waited… and waited…

… and it installed! Rather, the installation process started. 4 clicks and 20 minutes later, (about 30 seconds being in front of the machine clicking and 19 minutes 30 seconds of install time) I had gone from OS-less system to a full-fledged Lindows machine. I logged into the system (which sadly, still had me running as root) and started using it. That’s when it dawned on me, “Oh my gosh. This… just… works!” I was able to go to iFilm to downloand and play movies, TeaGames to play some Flash games, and play my MP3s. Again, this was all out of the box. It even set up networking, detecting my Windows box and the shared network drive.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely something I could work with. It wasn’t long before I realized I could use apt-get with Lindows (after all, it is a Debian-based distribution). It rocked! It was awesome! It was…

But wasn’t I doing this before? Wasn’t the reason I wanted Lindows so that I could get away from apt-get? I mean, sure Lindows is pretty, but that’s not TOO high on my list. And apt-get is a great program, but I wanted something that required no brains whatsoever. apt-get can sometimes take all of 14 brain cells. Not all the time, but when it does, it’s hard! (Ok, not hard, but daing it, I wanted to be lazy.)

So after 3 months of debating, about a week ago I decided it was time to upgrade. I’d been using Lindows in its “out-of-the-boxmagazine-cover” form for the past few months and, although I loved it, I wanted more. I wanted to use more programs, but I didn’t want to have to mess with apt-get to do it. (I’ve seemingly developed the nasty habit of blowing stuff up with apt-get, which is why I avoided Debian-based distributions for the most part.) I decided then and there that it was time to “buy” the Lindows — now Linspire — Click-n-Run, or CNR.

Best. Purchase. Evar!

Seriously, it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Instead of opting for the $20 version, which just gave me access to all the freely downloadable programs (all of which I could’ve gotten myself rather easily), I went for the whole she-bang, the $50 subscription. Was it easy to drop that kind of cash? Not really. It’s not something I wanted to do. But I did it, and I’m glad. In addition to all the free CNR downloads (which, by the way, makes installing software just about as easy as “accidentally” finding pr0n on the Internet), I also got free downloadable OS upgrades, so I could upgrade to Linspire 5.0 by downloading and burning an ISO, plus a ton of discounts on stuff like Cedega (which goes from $75 to $60), Star Office ($20, instead of $75), and Win4Lin ($70, instead of $90). Out of those, I’d probably only buy Cedega, but that’s a tale for another time.

Anyway, after a week of use, I’ve used CNR to install something like 50 new applications, including a few video games, a ton of word processors (Hey, I’m a writer; to me, they’re exciting.), and just as many audio programs. For me, Linspire has made computers fun again.

I. Abso. Lutely. Love it.

Knowing what I know now, I gotta say that Linspire, even at the US$90 it costs for the OS + 1 year of CNR Gold, is incredibly worth it. I haven’t been this happy with an OS in a while. I’ll even go as far as saying that it’s easier than Windows. Let me repeat that:

Linspire is a LOT easier to use than Windows.

That’s my US$.02. I highly recommend that anyone debating Linux, but affraid to get away from Windows, give Linspire a try. It claims to be “The world’s easiest desktop Linux.” I wholeheartedly agree. Check out some screenshots here, then check out the whole thing at http://www.Linspire.com.

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