Freespire - a new step towards freedom
Freespire is a comunity version for commercial Linspire. The latest alpha 2U was released on 22nd March, 2007. You can visit freespire site here. Some of extra screenshots are also available here.
Generally I avoid reviewing distributions that as in beta phase. It seems like commenting on half cooked solution, when everyone knows that it is not finished yet. But I would like to make an excetpion in case of Freespire.
So my test machine is a bit old; five years to be precise. It is having AMD Athlon XP 2200+ (overclocked), 1 Gig RAM, 64 Meg ATI 7200 graphics card. It has enough meat for trying out an average desktop distribution.
Freespire CD gives you option to boot in Live CD and install the distribution directly. Oddly the option for live CD is not the default one. The default option is to install the distro. Anyway this is a matter of personal preference.
The booting process is similar to what is seen in ubuntu. The default color scheme is blue and I really liked the kind of blue used by freespire. Freespire correctly identified 1280x1024@75Hz for my 19" monitor, and started KDE.
Once you are on the desktop you will surely notice the marvelous icons bolsted by Freespire. Its just great. On the desktop you see NTFS drives automatically mounted. Gnome partition editor (gnome partition editor is much powerful than Qtparted and its a good decision of include it here). You have icon for CNR (Click and Run) stating 'coming soon'.
On the desktop you see an icon to install freespire link on the desktop. It opens a full screen application. The installation application ask for keyboard layout and installation method. There are two installation methods "Take over an entire hard disk" and "Advanced install".I prefer the latter as I have several operating systems installed on the single hard drive.
In advanced installation method you select root partition and whether you want to write boot loader in Master Boot Record. Then it asks for computer name, User name and administrator password. Actually, its misleading to say administrator password, it is the user password used for sudo. This can lead to some confusions.
With all these steps you are ready to install the operation system. It displays the final configuration screen asking for your confirmation. The installation takes just under 5 minutes. The installer displays time elapsed and approximate time remaining.
As mentioned earlier the blue in blue blend is awesome. The specialized icons are really great. The earlier versions of freespire that I saw were more or less morphing windows; they had menu button renamed as start but now that is gone. The new menu buttons have really good Freespire icons. The default menu bar also looks more like KDE then XP. The automatic login is not configured by default. In my opinion, for a single user desktop , user should have a installation option where s/he can choose to have auto login or not (something I really like about mandriva).
On first login user is prompted for a license agreement. I think lot of people out there who really don't bother about the license agreement, and so I just agreed to it. Then you are given screen to configure different aspects of your system, like sound settings, Time zone, screen resolution, etc. But all settings applets have to switch to administrator mode to change, i.e. you have to enter your password. Otherwise its really great and all the aspects of configuration are covered.
One thing that I did not like is that by default, the fonts are really big, anti-aliasing is not turned on and the font families are mixed a lot. Any ways, these are just configurations and should not be a big problem.
It seems freespire chose to not let off all the XP style configuration. All the applications are still under programs menu. Seeing that it is a single CD installation, the applications select is almost complete.
For development we have Nvu, and a few games are also thrown in. You have a good set for internet applications; Java 6, Flash, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Ktorrent, Konqueror etc. For multimedia you have Real Player, Lsongs, KMix, K3b. Open office 2.2 is installed as office application.
MP3 played well out of the box. Real player 10 is configured as default player applications for audio files. For video files, you have KMPlayer with all the necessary codes installed by default. I did not have any problem watching DVDs and windows media files.
Freespire is an appealing distribution for new comers and once the CNR is fully implemented it will really be one of the easiest distributions to use. I will recommend it to all the newbies and KDE aficionados. For M$ users if you are thinking about the switch and don't want to go through the noisy ubuntu forum Freespire is there for you