Linspire: Doomed to failure

Linspire is doomed. No, they haven’t signed an unholy alliance with ID Software involving pre-installing DOOM on all Linspire computers. In my opinion, they are doomed to die a painful death in the operating system world. Why? Read on to find out.

Problem 1: White noise

Recently, Linspire/Freespire has really not had much to set it apart from other GNU/Linux systems like Ubuntu or SuSE. The Linspire site has an article containing ten reasons to move to Linspire. In order, it lists cost, CNR (the Linspire package manager), ease of use, Windows file-compatibility, lifetime license, security, stability, internet safety, open source, and money-back guarantee. As of now, CNR is the only item on that list that is actually exclusive to Linspire. Most will admit that CNR is the easiest way to install software for GNU/Linux, and as of now it has been the main appeal of Linspire. Not only does it have free (as in speech) software like many other package managers, but it includes freeware (as in beer), and commercial software. Recently however, Linspire announced that Debian, Fedora, SuSE, and Ubuntu users will have access to CNR (more operating systems will come soon). So what’s going to set it apart from the hundreds of other GNU/Linux distributions? Debian has the history and dpkg. Fedora has the legacy of Red Hat. SuSE has the huge community and Novell’s backing. Ubuntu has the six month cycle and the wonderful community. And Linspire has... CNR.

Problem 2: Unholy alliance with Microsoft

Linspire has an even bigger problem. The free software community has recently decided that Linspire was on their blacklist. Why? Most (if not all) of it is a backlash from the recent Linspire-Microsoft deal. Basically, Linspire agreed to help with Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org compatibility, Pidgin and Windows Live Messenger compatibility, and Windows Media and TrueType font support in Linspire. Microsoft also promised not to sue Linspire users. But what is given in exchange? Freespire isn’t covered, major upgrades are invalidated (so you have to buy again to maintain protection against patents), and if you use free software, business software, software running on servers, or "clone" software, you could still be sued. After three years, this protection runs out. Plus, Microsoft can stop offering protection whenever they want. And to keep it, you can’t share the software, resell it, modify it, or use it for an unauthorized use. As you can guess, this didn’t go over well with the GNU/Linux community. Not only was a Linux company doing a deal with Microsoft, they were admitting that Linux was infringing on Microsoft’s patents.

Problem 3: Installer

If the white noise attracted you and the bad reputation didn’t hinder you, perhaps the actual operating system will. The installation is hardly better than Windows’. The Linspire/Freespire live/install CD doesn’t let you test drive and install it at the same time. Why not? Ubuntu has this. Debian has this. Why not Freespire?

The disk partitioner is horrible too. It doesn’t even mention the sizes of the partitions! Do you really want to risk installing Linspire over your main Linux install? Almost every single Linux distribution comes with a modern partition editor (GParted, QtParted, heck even parted). You’d think Linspire would put a little effort into it. It’s almost harder to dual-boot with it than Windows!

Conclusion

All I can say is, good luck. You’re going to need it. People have almost no positives to running Linspire/Freespire, several negatives, and the possibility of being looked upon as a jerk by other geek heads. Take your pick.

License

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

With thanks to Fremantle Counselling to keep FSM editors sane.