Thursday, July 27, 2006

Xandros: The Final Stand

I while back, I posted a long tirade about Xandros 3 (which from here on out will be simply known as X3). I have since plopped down the $80 cash to get Xandros 4 Premium Home Edition (X4 for short). I was going to do a first-impressions post, but decided I'd actually work with the thing a little bit before committing anything to print. So far, some things are noticeably better. Some things have not been addressed.

Photo Manager (Digikam) is a lot more stable than it was under X3. It automatically detects that you have plugged your camera in and brings up the download window with thumbnails of all the pictures on your camera. With Digikam/X3, I couldn't get it to download MPEG files from the camera; Photo Manager/X4 does so without hesitation. But problems remain that I wouldn't expect from "mature" software. I still cannot delete images from the camera, and my Sony DSC-S600 is still not recognized correctly. I couldn't get Photo Manager to point to my photos that were on a second hard drive until I deleted the My Pictures folder under My Documents and created a symbolic link named My Pictures under My Documents pointing to the actual location of my photos. There is a provision for changing the location of your picture files, but Photo Manager refused to believe there were any photo files there. Finally, there are still random hangs, but X4 is able to shut it down. No reboot necessary; just reload Photo Manager and all is well.

Music Manager running on X4 is miles ahead of trying to play back music files and create play lists with whatever shit-ware shipped with X3. It still isn't perfect; I've managed to hang it up twice by just playing MP3 files, but, as with Photo Manager, it isn't a big deal to close it down and re-open it.

Video under Xandros is, as far as I have been able to tell, a complete and utter waste land. To date, I have yet to be able to play a DVD movie on this machine. Worse, following the copious advice to rectify the situation has disabled the ability to play any movies in any format. If the Xandros/Debian/Open Source communities cannot make this a painless process, no Linux distro will ever have penetration outside the propeller-head Linux groupies.

I had Limewire under X3. It appears that it is not possible to use it under X4. Xandros Networks doesn't seem aware it exists and attempts to install from the download file that I used under X3 just hangs the system to hard reset.

I had considered attempting to construct a media PC running Xandros, but that would be just too painful. Instead, my strategy is as follows:

My laptop will remain a Win2K machine until it completely dies. I am going to look into getting a new battery (the existing one only lasts about five minutes when unplugged). Right now, the system is burdened with loads of software and remnants of software that I don't use. I will soon start working on getting all data off the internal hard drive, then revert back to the delivered system. It will probably take several days even with a high-speed internet connection before Windows and Internet Explorer are back up to current release, but I'm hoping the pain of going through this will bring back some of the performance I have lost over seven years of accumulated cruft.

I'm going to go ahead and build a small-form-factor PC, but it will be just running the stock motherboard, DVD-R, and a smallish hard drive (no more than 100 GB). It will be running Xandros, but its only function will be web browsing and MP3 juke box. Rather than trying to run video through the PC and display it on a flat panel monitor, I'm just going to get a flat panel TV with VGA input and a decent screen resolution. The Xandros box will just be another video source connected to the TV. The new system won't even have a printer. I have a laser than only works when it is directly cabled to my Win2K laptop that spits out a couple pages a week. It is still using the original toner cartridge that came with it when I bought it in 2002. I purchased a second toner cartridge at the time, but it's still sitting in the box. My current Xandros machine has no printer, and in three months, I've yet to miss it.

Linux has made giant leaps in the last few years, so maybe in another few years, it will be ready for prime time. I'll keep using it, but only with my trusty Win2K close by. Life is too short to spend all my free time trying to convince my PC to perform basic functions. Like I keep saying, I guess I'm just not smart enough to use Linux and I grow tired of being made to feel stupid.


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