Langa Letter: Lindows: Beyond Windows, Before Linux - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
Commentary
11/26/2002
01:17 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
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Langa Letter: Lindows: Beyond Windows, Before Linux

Fred Langa test-drives the latest version of this Linux-based Windows work-alike operating system to see if it's ready for prime time.

Windows Compatibility Still Present, But De-Emphasized
Lindows version 3.0 offers the same level of compatibility as previous versions, but you'd almost not know it because the issue has been played down so significantly. Now, instead of encouraging users to install their native Windows applications under Lindows, the operating system tries to steer users to install and use native Linux applications that offer file-level compatibility with Windows applications.

This gentle steering away from the use of Wine, and toward native Linux applications, starts in the up-front chatter that greets new and prospective users of Lindows, such as in one the FAQs. But it also is built into every page--at least every page I could find--where a user might go exploring for information on Wine or on Windows compatibility in general. It's even coded into the actual operating-system software itself:

For example, to see what would happen, I inserted a Microsoft Office 2000 setup CD into the CD drive on a fresh install of Lindows 3.0, and was greeted with this dialog:

Microsoft Windows CD Found
It appears you've inserted a CD into your computer that is designed to be run on Microsoft Windows. LindowsOS is based on the Linux operating system. The easiest way to install new software on your LindowsOS computer, is using Click-N-Run. Below are several popular programs from the Click-N-Run Warehouse that you might consider which perhaps may perform many of the same functions you're looking for from the CD you're trying to install. These programs can be added to your LindowsOS computer with one simple click...

Click here for a complete listing of all the software in the Click-N-Run Warehouse, sorted by popularity and category.

Click here for information about running MS Windows-compatible software on LindowsOS.

If you choose the first-offered option, you're then given a choice of free-for-the-download Linux-based Office suites (such as Star Office or Open Office). These are replacements for Microsoft Office that can read and write files in Windows-style formats (such as DOC files for Word or XLS files for Excel) without using any element of Microsoft Office itself. This is clearly the option that Lindows now wants you to take.

If you chose the second option--"information about running MS Windows compatible software on LindowsOS"--and if you dig deep enough, you'll eventually find the Lindows implementation of Wine still present, but now buried in the "Components & Libraries" section of the download area under the heading Software Development, a placement sure to scare off just about all casual users. But there's more, because Lindows' description of Wine now also includes the warning, "Success with installing and running various Microsoft Windows programs varies greatly from user to user."

Clearly, Lindows is trying (1) to steer users away from the Wine option in the first place, and (2) to lower the expectations of users who do choose that route anyway. In fact, about the only thing they don't do is paint a skull and crossbones on the download page.

But, ironically, despite all that, Wine on Lindows worked fine for me; the Windows compatibility is still there for those who want it.

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