Xandros Desktop OS Version 3 Deluxe

Reviewed by: Jim Huddle CNE MCNE MCSE CBS ES-RC P+, June 2005
Published by: Xandros Inc.
Requires: Pentium II or AMD Duron, Athlon (XP, MP), 64MB RAM, 1GB free hard drive space, CD-ROM drive
MSRP: US$19.95 (Pro version), Lite version is freeware

One of the well known problems with moving to the Linux desktop is the perceived difficulty with installing and using the OS. With their Version 3 Deluxe, Xandros has made an excellent start in altering that perception.

The Xandros package comes with two CDs: installation and applications. It also comes with something pretty unusual these days—a written manual. The manual is excellent, allowing the Linux newbie to get a feel for the operating system, detailing both the functionality and the applications available in the distribution.

Installation is as simple or as complex as you choose. Xandros has an Express Install which requires next to nothing from the user, and will recognize an existing Windows installation. If it finds Windows already installed the installation will prompt you to keep or delete Windows. If you keep Windows Xandros will set up the dual boot for you. This is very common with Linux distributions (distros in Linux parlance) but I thought it worth mentioning for the more anxious out there. The Custom Install allows you to take control of how Xandros is installed and gives you partitioning and other installation options. If you are a newbie to Linux, use the Express install.

The Xandros desktop is clean and easy to navigate. On a user's first login, the operating system starts a First Run Wizard which allows the user to configure the system to his or her needs. You can set your mouse, regional settings, network and printers. Windows users will see enough similarities to be able to get around fairly quickly.

The basic installation includes all the productivity software the average user would need. It comes with OpenOffice (the best office suite available in my opinion, providing excellent compatibility with Microsoft Office documents), the Mozilla web browser and e-mail to name a few. You also get the powerful and easy to use K Desktop Environment (KDE desktop).

Another nice thing included in this distro is Codeweavers' Crossover Office Standard v4.1. This allows you to run some Windows programs under Xandros. The list available with the Standard version is impressive and includes Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office XP. To see how well it worked I also installed Microsoft's Internet Explorer and the browser worked flawlessly.

Updating Xandros is also very easy. You don't have to be a Linux expert to keep the system up to date. On the KDE control panel (Kpanel) is an icon that shows the operating system's update status. The checkbox shows green when you are fully patched up. You can right click and open Xandros Networks to manually update either all or part of your system. The update utility opens to News. This shows you the latest information on updates from Xandros. The utility is set so that the major sections are in the left pane and information and details are in the right pane. You can quickly see what you have installed, available updates, software you can purchase from third parties and new applications that are available.

You can tell the utility to update everything and it does. Be advised that if you are not using a broadband connection this could tie up the box for quite a while. Adding new applications is almost too easy. You simply expand the New Applications icon by clicking on the plus sign and then select the subsection you want. For example, I wanted Firefox, so I clicked New Applications and Internet. From there I selected Firefox in the right pane. The lower half of the right pane presented me with information about Firefox and included an Install Firefox link. All I had to do was click the link and Firefox was installed. The operating system handled all the dependencies for me. This is the most user friendly update and new application management system I've seen yet in Linux.

The one caveat I have about this distro is hardware support. It refused to install on my Dell Cpi notebook and doesn't handle Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives in RAID mode. Several other distros have this problem as well, so it's not specific to Xandros. I'd advise you to check the Xandros hardware compatibility list. Do note that just because your system isn't listed doesn't mean it won't work. I ended up installing the Xandros Linux on a Toshiba Equium 2500M. This is an older box, with Pentium Pro processors but the installation worked just fine.

I can also say that Xandros offers excellent e-mail technical support. While trying to get Xandros installed on a SATA system the tech support person responded quickly to each e-mail and was most helpful.

This is an excellent Linux distro for those of you curious about moving from Windows or just wanting to add Linux. It's well done, clean and you don't have to be a Linux expert to either install or use Xandros. The manual is well written and provides all the information needed to use the operating system and the included programs. Recommended.

(Ed. Note: Our previous Xandros Linux (v2) review can be found here. The biggest differences between v2 and this new release? Greater hardware compatibility, better handling of PDA synchronization, more printer drivers, even easier installation, extensive WiFi support, suppport for PCI Express, a much better implementation of Crossover Office and hundreds more programs, utilities and games to choose from).

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