After working in a few different Linux distros the past few days, I have decided on a favorite: Xandros Open Circulation. As a converted Windows user, I found that Xandros was a very natural environment for me. Installed on a dual-boot system, Xandros easily identified my Windows partitions, and created entries in /etc/fstab for each seamlessly. For example, my C: drive was mounted as /disks/C, and it even shows up in the Xandros File Manager as a base drive (and the File Manager looks a lot like Windows Explorer – too much like the fancy XP Explorer for my tastes, in fact). Xandros also recognized my printer (a used Lexmark Z43) and CD-ROM drive flawlessly, a problem with some of the other distros.
What really works well in Xandros, though, is the ability to install new programs. This has always been a worry for me in migrating to Linux, because running makes and handling package dependencies always seemed troublesome. However, Xandros Networks makes this easy. It’s really just a nice client on top of Debian’s apt-get, but it does it very well, as other reviewers have noted. One weakness is that the default source is Xandros’s, which is a limited mirror. For example, basic applications like wine were unavailable by default (I suspect that particular choice is because Xandros wants users to buy CodeWeaver CrossOver from them). However, by adding the following lines to /etc/apt/sources.list, I’m able to access the extensive catalog of Debian’s offerings:
deb http://http.us.debian.org/debian stable main contrib non-free
deb http://non-us.debian.org/debian-non-US stable/non-US main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org stable/updates main contrib non-free
The only other weakness I’ve found so far is a weird problem with my scanner, a Microtek ScanmasterX6. It scans great, but the system crashes when I turn off the scanner after I scan. I guess I’ll live with that.
So, what did I find with the other distributions?
- Lycoris Update 3 also had a Windows-friendly interface, but I couldn’t find anything as helpful as Xandros Networks, so it didn’t make the cut.
- Red Hat Fedora Core 2 is a major player with many packages installed from the CDs. However, I couldn’t get it to work with my printer, and sound didn’t always work.
- SuSE 9.1 was similarly loaded with packages on the CDs, but I had similar problems with my sound. Also, the printer setup was difficult – when I was done, I had a working printer, but the driver was unacceptably slow.
In conclusion, Xandros Open Circulation is a freely-downloadable distribution that presents a friendly interface for migrating Windows users, and yet is has the full power of Debian behind it. I suspect I’ll use it for a long time, and now the challenge will be to get my parents to migrate to Xandros from Windows.