A Look at Freespire


Well, it has arrived. The release candidate for Freespire, derived from Linspire, is available for download from their website, http://www.freespire.org/ or by bittorrent. Freespire legally supports, or has one-click access to legal support, for QuickTime, MP3, Java, Flash,Windows Media, Real, DVD, ATI and nVidia graphic drivers, proprietary WIFI drivers and more. Freespire is the first distro to include all of these proprietary codecs, applications and drivers as legally a part of their release.

All together, download and burn required less than an hour and a half to have a working cd of Freespire on my one Meg DSL connection. I used the slowest burn time my media would support for the best possible outcome of the burn. This extends the burn time, but it reduces the chance of a bad burn.

You are given four choices on the cd's boot prompt, installation to your hard drive, run as live cd, create or modify partitions on you hard drive or advanced options. I recommend running it as a live cd first, to see if your hardware is detected properly and if you like using Freespire.

The boot up time of the cd isn't fast, but there is a pretty splash screen in shades of silver and a medium blue for eye candy while you wait. Once booted, you are presented with a license agreement and three choices of the type of system you want. You can choose between the free version with all of the proprietary extras, a completely OSS version or a commercial version. Click on your choice and then click in the “I agree/disagree” box. If you choose to agree to the license, you will be presented with the Freespire desktop.

The Freespire team has created their own versions of common applications, such as Firefox and Thunderbird. The blues that they have used are paler than those used by most distros and are quite attractive. The reds of the fox of the browser's icon appear more fire-like than any I've seen previously, though the browser itself functions just as you would expect from Firefox. On the whole, Freespire's eye candy is quite attractive.

Just as the boot up of the cd takes time, the first access of any application will be slow. Restarting any applications for the second time is faster as they will be loaded in memory already.

The cd comes with Audio and MP3, Business and Finance, Games, Home and Education and Internet applications. If you need or want any applications that are not included on the cd, Freespire has CNR (click and run), a one click download, install and run system for acquiring them. This program is free to try for the first fifteen days and $20 per year, or $50 for gold membership after that time. Commercial software, as well as open source is available through CNR. For those who prefer it, the apt-get command may be used.

Their command and control center is easily accessible with a 'tree' layout that puts things in a logical order. If you need to make changes or adjustments, you should have no trouble finding the section you need.

Freespire was developed by the people at Linspire as a community project. It is offered as an always free to download OS and has similar features to the original, Linspire. The two OSes use the same software repositories, though separate repositories may be available in the future.

If you want or need both open source and commercial applications, Freespire has an abundance of them. Either type is available and can be installed and run from it. For those who prefer that no commercial products be on their system, Freespire has an OSS version.

If you're interested in an operating system that can run both open source and commercial software, Freespire may be the one for you. Bear in mind that those commercial applications do have costs. If you're wanting an easy switch from Windows and have the need for those commercial applications, give Freespire a try.

A note on hard drive installation --

I've tried several times to install Freespire on a partition of my hard drive. The first attempt resulted in my other Linux partitions becoming either unbootable or impossible to run the OS. Subsequent attempts to install have resulted in errors on every attempt at booting to the partition it is installed on. Being new to the world of Linux use, I have limited knowledge of ways to fix the problem. I believe it to be the bootloader that is causing the error, but I do not know for certain. The issue may be hardware specific; that is, it could be no problem with your hardware.

I used an HP Pavilion a1016x desktop, with a 160 GB hard drive, 512 MB Ram, a PTGO motherboard and a lightscribe DVD R/RW drive for this review.

On a scale of one to ten, with PCLinuxOS being a ten, I'd rate Freespire as an eight and a half - nine, if I can get the hard drive installation to work. It isn't quite as fast as PCLinuxOS nor is the installation process as easy, though it does seem to be above the average.

In conclusion, I'd say that Freespire rates a 'works out of the box' rating. For me though, it still lags behind our own PCLinuxOS.