Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Review: Freespire 3 and Linspire 7.0

Filed under
Reviews

Before I started my trial I was under the impression that Freespire and Linspire were quite different from stock Xubuntu. The Linspire blog, for instance, talks about binary blobs in "our" kernel and proprietary packages provided by vendors to Linspire. As I quickly learned, Linspire doesn't have its own repositories (let alone a custom kernel) and the proprietary packages are provided via the ubuntu-restricted-extras package. Similarly, the lead developer recently wrote on his blog that people who claim that Linspire is just a Xubuntu respin should "mind their own business" because they have no idea how much work has gone into customising Linspire over the last 18 months. When I asked the company if they could give some examples of how Linspire is different from Xubuntu I was told that, actually, their aim is to stay as close to Xubuntu as possible.

It would be unfair, however, to dismiss Freespire and Linspire as Xubuntu clones. The distros have two interesting selling points. Firstly, PC/OpenSystems can legally ship certain patent-encumbered codecs. Of course, anyone can install the ubuntu-restricted-extras package but in some jurisdictions doing so may be illegal. It is probably fair to say that few people care about such legalities but if you prefer to play by the rules then Linspire is worth a look.

Secondly, Linspire's main feature is the support license. You don't pay $79.99 for Xubuntu with a Linspire sticker - you buy a year's worth of support. Linspire might be an attractive option for small businesses and organisations that want to run Linux with a support contract. Similarly, I reckon many home users will like the idea of being able to get professional support for their Linspire box(es). That said, it is disappointing that the only real customisations (as in code changes) are regressions: the installer is far from a finished product. It is also unfortunate that Freespire lacks direction. The new Freespire was presented as an almost fully libre distro, yet the initial release clearly was the exact opposite. Only after pointing this out did PC/OpenSystems quietly release a new ISO.

The main issue I had with the distros was something else though: the marketing/PR/spin. I have already mentioned various examples of dubious claims. I would like to add one more example, just because it nicely illustrates my gripe: the Freespire page claims that, unlike Freespire, Linux Mint is difficult to install. PC/OpenSystems arrived at that conclusion based on its own research: a whopping three people were asked to install Freespire, Ubuntu and Linux Mint and the "sample group" apparently struggled to install Mint.

This type of marketing is needlessly negative. I would rather see the company work with, say, the Trisquel developers, who have already solved the issue with the checkbox in the Ubiquity installer and who may also be able to help Freespire become an FSF-approved distro. I would love to see a proper bug tracking tool so that I would have an easy way to report issues. And I think it would also be nice if PC/OpenSystems would start sharing the code it claims to produce.

In short, I think both Freespire and Linspire are on to something. I like the idea of a fully libre Xubuntu spin and I am sure there is demand for Linspire. I just hope history won't repeat itself.

Read more

More in Tux Machines

Late Coverage of Confidential Computing Consortium

  • Microsoft Partners With Google, Intel, And Others To Form Data Protection Consortium

    The software maker joined Google Cloud, Intel, IBM, Alibaba, Arm, Baidu, Red Hat, Swisscom, and Tencent to establish the Confidential Computing Consortium, a group committed to providing better private data protection, promoting the use of confidential computing, and advancing open source standards among members of the technology community.

  • #OSSUMMIT: Confidential Computing Consortium Takes Shape to Enable Secure Collaboration

    At the Open Source Summit in San Diego, California on August 21, the Linux Foundation announced the formation of the Confidential Computing Consortium. Confidential computing is an approach using encrypted data that enables organizations to share and collaborate, while still maintaining privacy. Among the initial backers of the effort are Alibaba, Arm, Baidu, Google Cloud, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Red Hat, Swisscom and Tencent. “The context of confidential computing is that we can actually use the data encrypted while programs are working on it,” John Gossman, distinguished engineer at Microsoft, said during a keynote presentation announcing the new effort. Initially there are three projects that are part of the Confidential Computing Consortium, with an expectation that more will be added over time. Microsoft has contributed its Open Enclave SDK, Red Hat is contributing the Enarx project for Trusted Execution Environments and Intel is contributing its Software Guard Extensions (SGX) software development kit. Lorie Wigle, general manager, platform security product management at Intel, explained that Intel has had a capability built into some of its processors called software guard which essentially provides a hardware-based capability for protecting an area of memory.

Graphics: Mesa Radeon Vulkan Driver and SPIR-V Support For OpenGL 4.6

  • Mesa Radeon Vulkan Driver Sees ~30% Performance Boost For APUs

    Mesa's RADV Radeon Vulkan driver just saw a big performance optimization land to benefit APUs like Raven Ridge and Picasso, simply systems with no dedicated video memory. The change by Feral's Alex Smith puts the uncached GTT type at a higher index than the visible vRAM type for these configurations without dedicated vRAM, namely APUs.

  • Intel Iris Gallium3D Is Close With SPIR-V Support For OpenGL 4.6

    This week saw OpenGL 4.6 support finally merged for Intel's i965 Mesa driver and will be part of the upcoming Mesa 19.2 release. Not landed yet but coming soon is the newer Intel "Iris" Gallium3D driver also seeing OpenGL 4.6 support. Iris Gallium3D has been at OpenGL 4.5 support and is quite near as well with its OpenGL 4.6 support thanks to the shared NIR support and more with the rest of the Intel open-source graphics stack. Though it's looking less likely that OpenGL 4.6 support would be back-ported to Mesa 19.2 for Iris, but we'll see.

The GPD MicroPC in 3 Minutes [Video Review]

In it I tackle the GPD MicroPC with Ubuntu MATE 19.10. I touch on the same points made in my full text review, but with the added bonus of moving images to illustrate my points, rather than words. Read more Also: WiringPi - Deprecated

today's howtos