The first obstacle to any new operating system experience is its installation. Many potential Linux users never make it past this point, due to difficulties that arise with various hardware issues (although RH and Mandake have made this a much less painful process). On the other hand, Windows users have to deal with the infamous license and registration process that allows Microsoft to legally access information on the user's computer. As for Macintosh users, there really is no choice. Lindows won't run on a Mac.
So, while a full load test covering every possible scenario was outside the scope of this article, I decided to give the installation process more than just a casual glance. I did this by installing the OS on several different computers, each with unique hardware configurations, in hopes of determining how versatile this software really was.
The actual installation process is very easy, with only one main choice that the user needs to make. This choice revolves around whether Lindows will share the hard drive with another operating system, such as Windows XP. Since the focus of this article is whether Lindows is worth your time and money, I'm not going to focus on the technical installation process. Lindows handles this via installation instructions at this site.
Suggested minimum system hardware is at least a 500 MHz computer with 128MB RAM and 2GB of disk space.
How Low Can It Go?
My first installation was on a relatively old Gateway laptop only 32MB and a Pentium II 266 MHz processor. The installation took about 15 minutes. When all was said and done, the Lindows installation process was successful, for the most part. The only exception was the sound card, which was determined to be incompatible.
I played with the system for about an hour, opening programs, testing the browser, and checking out various system utilities. My main goal was to get a feel for the speed and usability of the OS running on a system well below the suggested specs. While I was able to use the software, it was frustrating and very slow, so I don't recommend installing on an outdated system.
I next installed the OS on an AMD 350 with 128MB RAM that I had lying around. To my complete surprise and amazement, Lindows was fully installed, connected to the Internet, and MP3-ready in six minutes flat. In all my time with this particular computer, which has run everything from Windows 95 to Windows .NET (now Windows Server 2003) to Red Hat, this particular computer has always taken a bit of massaging to get all the right drivers and settings configured properly. In other words, Lindows bested them all. This computer, which was just sitting around collecting dust due to an upgrade, is now my media system, from which I power my home stereo system and watch movies.
Latest and Greatest
Due to the positive results on my home computer, my next target was a brand new Pentium IV 2 GHz laptop with 512 DDR RAM and a Radeon 9000 video card. This was not a pleasant experience. While the install took about four minutes, the end result was a text-based login screen. At first, I wasn't quite sure why this happened, though I did have my suspicions. I logged in and ran the startx command to execute the X Windows system (graphical desktop). This led to a quick succession of errors, which pointed at missing video drivers.
At this point, I decided that I would see what Lindows had to say. I was honestly hoping they could walk me through the Radeon 9000 video driver install, which, as you will learn, is no small feat on Lindows. Unfortunately, they quickly wrote me off for a lost cause because (paraphrasing), "There's no support for your video card."
Since this wasn't the answer I was looking for, I went hunting for my own solution. I quickly found the drivers and downloaded them to my text-only Lindows computer. This was easy enoughonce I configured the network card for a static IP and added my DNS server in the resolv.conf file.
That was when my luck ran out.
Attempting to get the drivers installed on Lindows was a major unsuccessful pain. The first hurdle was an invalid database error when I tried to install the driver RPM (RPM Package Manager). After a few minutes of Googling, I learned that this occurred if the RPM database was corrupt or nonexistent. Since this database holds information on what packages were installed via RPM, any problem would seriously impact my ability to update, install, or remove programs. To correct this problem, I had to create a few directories, and then initialize and rebuild the RPM database. Even after this was done, however, the RPM still didn't install, due to dependency errors.
I spent about two hours chasing one dependency after another, and finally just called it quits. Instead of dealing with a never-ending list of dependency issues, I installed the RPM with the nodeps option, which forces the software to install regardless of what else is or isn't installed.
At this point, I was faced with another obstacle. While I could install the drivers, the monitor on my laptop didn't seem to accept any of the settings. Even after searching online and then calling Dell, I was still stuck. I was beginning to wonder if this laptop's video card was still a bit too new to use in a Linux environment.
After a few seconds of consideration, I decided to give Red Hat 8.0 a shot and see whether it worked. After downloading the three ISOs from an FTP site, I was ready to install. Ironically, Red Hat 8.0 went in smoothly because it included the necessary drivers.
From this experience, you can see that Lindows won't always install easily. In three different installations, I had three different results. My best suggestion is to call Lindowswho thankfully didn't ask for personal information or verification of any kind, and even answered the phone in less than a minuteand ask whether your hardware is compatible before you attempt an installation.