Business vs Community: Xandros and PCLinuxOS compared

[ Sunday, 3 June 2007, riklaunim ]


This article is a comparison and a review of two Linux distributions that got a lot of attention recently. We will compare a fully commercial Xandros Desktop and more community-friendly PCLinuxOS.

Author: Piotr “Riklaunim” Maliński

PCLinuxOS is a Mandriva-based LiveCD, which we can either use as a demo CD or install on a hard disk. This distribution is gaining a lot of popularity and on Distrowatch it’s currently rated at high third place. For the purpose of this review, PCLinuxOS 2007 has been used. The ISO image can be downloaded (or bought) from the official PCLinuxOS website.

Xandros is a commercial distribution targeted at business. For free we can only download a 30-day trial version. If you want a full version you have to pay (as of today: $39.99 for home, $79.99 for premium and $99.99 for professional edition). There is a chance that one of the previous versions of Xandros is available as a bonus to one of you local IT magazines (like Linux Magazine). We have used Xandros Desktop Professional 4.1 in this review.

Presentation

PCLinuxOS is a LiveCD so we can use it as a live-demo before installing to see if we like it and whether it support our hardware properly. 2007 release contains KDE 3.5.6 (with most of the KDE applications) and few extra programs like OpenOffice.org or Firefox. We will also find DrakeConf — a powerful configuration utility taken directly from Mandriva. For package management PCLinuxOS uses APT and not urpmi. I haven’t experienced any stability problems with the system and applications. PCLinuxOS doesn’t start to many services on boot by default, so the resources usage is fair. The CD provides a fully featured system with various commonly used applications. It also contains non-free packages like multimedia codecs. More packages can be found in the repositories (for example i18n packages, updates, GNOME and others), and to manage all those packages we can use a GUI frontend for APT called Synaptic. With PCLinuxOS we get a fresh, stable and user friendly system.

PCLinux1
Rys. 1 PCLinuxOS after boot

PCLinux2
Rys. 2 DrakeConfig and Synaptic in action

Xandros 4.1 in the desktop edition contains KDE 3.4.2, but to see it we have to install it (no Live-CD available). The installer is a simple graphical one similar to Anaconda (Fedora) but way faster and simpler. Beside KDE we also get some external packages like Evolution for e-mail (which implies a lot of GNOME dependencies), Skype for VoIP (with extra coupons to spend!). Xandros doesn’t have any full configuration suite like DrakeConf, but it has few applications for security, network and packages management which I’m going to cover now.

  • The first Xandros specific application is Xandros Security Suite which is used to configure firewall and anti-virus software. It looks like a similar application in MS Windows, it even has a shield with a cross icon :) . Why do I need such “big” security application? Xandros launches a lot of services by default, even a VNC server, so yes, you indeed need a working firewall.
  • Next we have Xandros File Manager – a file manager that looks and works nearly as MS Windows Explorer. Xandros applications try to mimic MS Windows, which may or may not be a good solution. I remember Linspire also had LBrowser – a redesigned and rebranded Mozilla, but it had nice original GUI, not a mimicked IE GUI :) .
  • We will also find CrossOver — application based on WINE, which can be used to run multiple MS Windows programs like MS Office, Photoshop, AutoCad and more.

Available applications worked without problems. Well maybe there was one — I couldn’t connect to the Internet. Xandros had problems with DHCP on the ethernet card. No idea why — other systems used to recognize it and configure automatically. I haven’t tried very hard to fix it though, since the Internet access wasn’t crucial. As for the system itself — it is bit slow. A lot of services are started automatically at boot time. After launching KDE the OS used 340 MB of RAM. My Arch and Gentoo installs use 50-60 of RAM (in KDE, just after boot). Quite a big difference.

In general Xandros is designed for MS Windows users which may not be able to do a total shift to new applications (not MS-Like) in short time. The open question is: do we need a Linux that acts like Windows?

xandros1
Rys. 3 Xandros installer

xandros2
Rys. 4 KDE in Xandros

xandros3
Rys. 5 Xandros pays big attention to security issues

xandros4
Rys. 6 Xandros File Manager, nothing too interesting

The Race

PCLinuxOS could be compared to Kubuntu – both provide a LiveCD with a simple graphic installer. In Kubuntu we do not get DrakeConf-like application and non-free packages by default. Kubuntu is a fully non-commercial project, while PCLinuxOS is open-source but with a commercial attitude (you can purchase it on CD and part of it goes for the PCLinuxOS development). PCLinuxOS shows that a Linux distribution can be “done right”. It’s user friendly, easy to configure and easy to extend. What are the main drawbacks then?

  • Lack of fine commercial support
  • Lack of integrated business-oriented features (PPTP support, ActiveDirectory, Exchange)
  • Lack of pre-packaged version with commercial applications
  • No printed manual

These drawbacks are not very irritating for the home user but may be a killer for business.

Xandros isn’t an uprising innovative distribution. It introduces some new features, but overall also has few problems:

  • There is no full configuration center (like DrakeConf),
  • It doesn’t have a lot of packages,
  • You have to pay for it, a lot.

Xandros won’t gain users among Linux geeks. It’s not even their target. The main target of the company are Windows users that either have to or want to use MS Windows applications. They are used to a Windows-like OS and do not want any change. It comes with a few commercial programs that make it easier to migrate from MS Windows like Versora Progression Desktop (migrate settings from Windows to Xandros) or CrossOver. Still, you can install CrossOver and Versora in any other distribution. In Xandros it just comes in one package. The extra value you get by purchasing the package is a detailed user manual. Something that PCLinuxOS and most other free distributions do not offer.

Results

I’m an advanced Linux user and for me PCLinuxOS is a winner. Exact conclusions are however hard to tell. Xandros can be a good choice for first-time Linux users (generally hardcore Windows users) and those companies that depend on software for MS Windows. On the other hand it isn’t much more that a well-integrated set of packages containing open-source software plus a few commercial apps that are also available for other distros.


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12 Comments

fold this thread phong_th  Monday, 4 June 2007 o godz. 2:43 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

Why did you compare between commercial and non-commercial?

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fold this thread michuk  Monday, 4 June 2007 o godz. 5:00 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

@phong_th: Why not?

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fold this thread John DeHart  Monday, 4 June 2007 o godz. 6:49 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

I use PCLOS EVERY DAY and ABSOLUTLY love it, it’s stable, easy to configure, and DOES EVERYTHING I need from a computer. I feel this distro is a #1 choice for a newby (me) or a pro. I can’t say enough good about this distro.

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fold this thread MeeMaw  Monday, 4 June 2007 o godz. 8:07 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

I, too, use PCLinuxOS, and it has been the most user friendly and easy-to-configure distribution I have tried.. and I have tried several! My home desktop runs PCLOS and I love it. It does everything that I need it to do…. (goodbye, Windows!) Also, while I think your article was very good, I think it was a strange comparison (commercial vs. non-commercial)… maybe a better comparison would be PCLOS vs. another non-commercial distro – PCLOS would still be the winner!!!!

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fold this thread FracturedSingleton  Monday, 4 June 2007 o godz. 11:42 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

It really is apples and oranges comparing these two. More likely should have compared Xandros with SLED, which with the new MS covenants would be appropriate, or as you stated PCLOS with Kubuntu.

Anyway, I like PCLOS and recommend it when people ask me for a distro that just works and is “sorta kinda” like windows. When they get more Gnome support(I like switching back and forth), I will probably use them much more than I do now. Debian and Ubuntu rock as far as desktop choice goes. :)

Thanks for the article, looking forward to more.

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fold this thread libervisco  Tuesday, 5 June 2007 o godz. 5:15 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

With the recent partnership between Xandros and Microsoft I think Xandros will become even less attractive to home users and geeks.

Anyway, I’m definitely not surprised PCLinuxOS wins this. Xandros didn’t seem to be too popular anyway and it’s just too windowsy (which isn’t something most GNU/Linux users really appreciate while Ubuntu proves that GNU/Linux doesn’t have to look like Windows to attract switchers).

Keep up the good work!

Danijel

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fold this thread Xerxes  Wednesday, 6 June 2007 o godz. 12:57 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

This review was wierd right from the beginning,
Xandros vs PCLinuxOS? You might as well compare
fly fishing to worm fishing.

Xandros wins in functionality on my machine,
almost as good as Vista.

PCLinuxOS has little problems that really irk me,
so I left it on an old machine that I fool around
with from time to time when I’m in the mood to
try to get the fonts decent, etc….

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fold this thread Robert  Wednesday, 6 June 2007 o godz. 10:32 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

How about security/stability/upgradability in pclinuxos?

I want to install this one on my auntie’s macchine, but really would see it be upgradable very easy (a la debian?)

Can anyone share some info about that?

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fold this thread SirYes  Wednesday, 6 June 2007 o godz. 12:01 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

@Robert:

> How about security/stability/upgradability in pclinuxos?

My experience is as such:

* security – Updates are there for each version and they are produced in a timely manner. This happens as long as the current release is supported.

* stability – No real problems here.

* upgradability – Now this may be a real problem. The best way is to create separate paritions for the system (aka “/” or root) and for user data (aka “/home”). When new version is released you can easily wipe older version and reinstall, remembering to mount right partition at “/home”.

I also remember when I tried to “upgrade” PCLOS .92 to .93 by changing repositories like in Debian. In effect I screwed pretty well my installation. I literally needed to remove all my KDE settings from home dir and reconfigure a whole desktop. However, this happed exactly after *I* did something stupid first. Since then I learned to check PCLinuxOS’s forums *before* doing something important or tricky.

In my personal POV Debian and its noble derivatives, Ubuntu and Kubuntu, win. However, I haven’t compared yet PCLinuxOS 2007 with Feisty 7.04 for example. So, my arguments may be a bit flawed.

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fold this thread mark  Tuesday, 3 July 2007 o godz. 2:23 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

what bothers me about xandros is that i am not exactly sure how to pronounce the name… is it like X with seperated andros or what ?? for clarity on knowing how to say the name of the distro correctly, this is a no-brainer.

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fold this thread JB  Thursday, 9 August 2007 o godz. 7:36 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

Different strokes for different folks!
I’m responsible for 13 linux machines so far for friends and family and such all of which I can connect to remotely for updating/upgrading and problems. I built a couple of the machines for my clients as well. They all have Suse 10 now (which they all luv but support ends soon) and I’m looking for a good replacement for these folks B4 support ends in Oct 07.
Suse 10.2? Joke! Suse lost it and it’s way too heavy for what it dishes out.
Ubuntu? My clients might freak out on a Gnome desktop even though faster and not as buggy. I’m just not allowed! My daughter luvs 6.06LTS cause it’s the only OS-period, that the browser wont crash on her myspace and other teenagerish sites.(Very solid on her hot rodded P3 850 and fast) But suks at sharing printers.( I recommend Swiftfox and automatix2)
PCLinux? Fast and pretty and buggy for me just like past Mandrake types I’ve tested and for me to upgrade all these folks later on without re-installs? Nah!
Xandros Pro 4.1? Slow and well organized with music and pics and office.Best hardware support going! Very Get er’ dun oriented. My parents luv it and easy for me to admin.I get a pain in my shoulders running xandros though,cause it’s so much like windoze! Very stressful for me cause of all micro twist in it but clients know no better.
My bottom line?
The newbies will get Xandros and they will luv it (other than the speed) and they will get alot of work dun in a more productive/organized manner.
Folks with slower machines will have to upgrade their puters to run Xandros or will have to use Gnome via ubuntu or Debian depending on network needs..
Pclinux though complete, just doesn’t cut it in my situation. These folks are used to pop ups and virus and system stops and a bunch of maintenance back in their windoze days and I need to keep them all running smooth with a linux tweak to their individual needs.
Some will get Xandros, some will get ubuntu,some will get debian, and some may get fedora if they don’t need wine.It all depends on their needs.Thats how good all these penguins are getting now! Yes, we have choice. But I can say without a doubt, none will get Pclinux as long as I’m the man that has to maintain the system. Many of my newbie freinds have installed PC and luv it. I look at it as if they have just got some growing to do like I went through. I bet the buzz at distrowatch will wear off..
Thanx for the review..

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fold this thread JJ  Friday, 25 April 2008 o godz. 5:30 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

You act like if you go with Ubuntu you have to use GNOME! That’s only partially true. Like all distros I’ve seen Ubuntu actually supports the common DEs; GNOME, KDE, and Xcfe. They just got ‘smart’ and named them differently based on the DE they use. Ubuntu was the first and started out with GNOME, Kubuntu is Ubuntu with a KDE desktop, and Xubuntu is Ubuntu with the Xcfe desktop, sadly this article isn’t about Ubuntu, so I’ll end that part there.

Anyway at first I also wondered why compare commercial to non-commercial distros. Than I remembered the discussions of Linux vs. MacOSX or Linux vs. Windoze. It’s almost the same thing. Even though in those they are comparing different OSes, they are still comparing a generally free OS to a completely non-free OS. So yeah, to me it started to make since to compare the two.

I’m usually pretty weary around a) Linux that acts like Windows, and b) commercial Linux distros. I haven’t had Linux for a year yet, but something just doesn’t seem right about that, I dunno.

 
 
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About the Author

Piotr Maliński

Programmer, journalist. Creator of the CMS, Linux and PHP libraries. Arch Linux/Gentoo user. Creator of a GNU/Linux distribution based on Gentoo: Plusiaczek Live CD.

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