Image: Desktop
Lindows 4.0 desktop. Mozilla handles Web browsing and email functions.
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msnbc.com

I always keep a number of machines around running different versions of Linux and one of them is a Lindows box. Lindows 3.0 was pretty good, but it had a bunch of shortcomings. But the new version, Lindows 4.0, is a much improved, desktop operating system with a lot more polish.

InsertArt(1953377)LINDOWS, WHICH BEGAN as an experiment of sorts to merge some features of Windows into a Linux distribution, has morphed into a very usable operating system for computers with Intel processors.

The Lindows people will tell you, if you let them, that they’ve made a lot of changes in the new version, including:

10 minute install: Lindows takes only a few clicks to install and takes less than 10 minutes on most computers.

Automatic Hardware Detection: Driver disks are bothersome and often difficult to find, so Lindows will automatically detect your hardware and install the appropriate drivers for you.

Popup Blocking: Lindows uses the Mozilla Internet browser which allows you to choose sites where you want to block annoying popups.

Spam Filtering: Lindows learns what you consider to be “good” e-mail and what you consider to be spam, and filters accordingly.

Universal Messaging: The Lindows Instant Message program lets you connect to all of the popular networks, including AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, ICQ and more, simultaneously.

USB Plug & Play support lets you plug in an external hard drive, CD-RW, USB Flash drive, Zip drive, etc.

Expanded printer support, so more than 1,000 printers from manufacturers such as HP, Epson, and Canon are plug & play.

A WiFi Manager detects your card, tells you the strength of your wireless signal and let you surf the Net in seconds.

The new Control Panel lets you change your background or monitor resolution, add a printer, make shortcuts, etc.

A new interactive multimedia tutorial walks novice users through everything from navigating the desktop to setting up email to wireless networking and more.

Price: Lindows 4.0 costs $49.95 to download from the Web, or $59.95 if you want it in a box with CDs.

The tutorial is pretty good for first time users — and can easily be ignored for those with more than a passing knowledge of Linux computers. But this OS is really made for those people who don’t need to know everything about computing, they just need to make their computers work.

QUICK INSTALLOverall, Lindows 4.0 is a very nice operating system to deal with. Installation is amazingly fast. I have one computer that up until I tried installing Lindows would only run Windows. I have tried to install four other Linux distributions and watched them all fail miserably at some point. But Lindows 3.0 installed easily. And when the 4.0 disks came, I did a full install, erasing everything that was on the hard drive. Once again, it took less than 10 minutes, Lindows recognized everything in the computer, and performed a perfect install.

Actually using 4.0 is quite easy. If you’re used to most Linux distributions or Windows it shouldn’t take long to figure out how to use Lindows. And all those new features listed above really work! I’m impressed that Lindows 4.0 even recognized three digital cameras I plugged in, allowed me to listen to Real Audio streams without any hiccups and, a first, allowed me to watch DVDs with no problems at all. Those are big improvements over the last version of the OS. It took less than thirty seconds to get my WiFi card up and running on my wireless home network.

Lindows’ downloadable software warehouse, Click-N-Run, is very easy to use and allows you to download and install some very good programs with one click of the mouse. This gives you access to hundreds of titles like the StarOffice and OpenOffice suites, plus numerous games, applications and all sorts of things to personalize your computer. On a high-speed connection, this works like a dream. Lindows charges $49.95 a year for “LindowsPlus” access to Click-N-Run, less if you if you purchase it at the same time with the OS. Some specialty programs, like virus protection, cost extra.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENTAs with anything else in life, everything is not perfect with Lindows 4.0. First of all, my test computer was fine for version 3.0, but was slow when I installed the new version. I think that’s because like all modern operating systems, Lindows’ minimum install requirements now ask for a PC with an 800MHz processor and 128 MB of memory. My computer has a 700 MHz processor and 128 MB. First thing I did was to send for a 256 MB upgrade — and sure enough things are working a lot faster.

And, there are still a few things that Lindows cannot do out of the box that I need for my work, especially integrating VPN into the system. I realize most Lindows users don’t need these things, but Windows and OS X do let me access my business computers via Virtual Private Networking (PPTP). I’m hoping Lindows will catch up in the next release with VPN and some sort of Terminal Server emulation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m being really picky about stuff that you may never need or use. Overall, Lindows 4.0 is a very good operating system and it’s getting better all the time. It’s an OS that everyone in the family can use. If you’re in the market for a change, or you want to see what all this fuss over Linux is all about, Lindows 4.0 is definitely worth a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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