Dubbed Open Circulation Edition, the new desktop Linux operating system resembles its commercial cousin, Xandros Desktop Operating System, but doesn't include some of that product's features.
The free version, for instance, lacks the CodeWeavers software for running Windows applications on Linux, doesn't come with e-mail support, limits CD-writing speeds, and comes with an advertising-supported version of the Opera Web 7.5 browser.
Open Circulation can be used only in non-commercial settings, according to Xandros, but can be freely downloaded, copied, and distributed.
"We want Open Circulation to replicate like a virus," said Frederick Berenstein, Xandros' chairman and chief technology officer, in a statement.
The only way to claim a free copy currently, however, is to use BitTorrent, a file-sharing network that first requires installation of additional software -- BitTornado or Azureus -- before beginning to download Open Circulation.
Xandros charges $10 "to cover our bandwidth and administration costs" if you want to download the free OS directly.
In other desktop Linux news, Linspire -- better known for its ongoing legal spats with Microsoft over its former name of "Lindows" -- rolled out a three-in-one pack of Linux operating systems. The 8-CD-ROM Desktop Linux Comparison Kit contains Linspire 4.5, Red Hat's Fedora Core 2, and Mandrake's 10.0 Community Edition, three versions of the open-source OS.
The three-in-one package is being touted under the banner "Linux Shootout" on Linspire's Web site and costs $29.95 via download and $39.95 for a boxed copy.