Wednesday 30th August 2006
So, what is Freespire? It is essentially the free (as in beer) counterpart to Linspire, which, in turn, is based on Debian and will cost you at least about fifty American Dollars. Freespire aims to be to Linspire what Fedora is to Red Hat - a free, community project.
Before we really get going, we must consider Freespire's target audience. I don't really think it is the experienced power GNU/Linux user, but instead at the opposite end of the spectrum - those either unable or unwilling to spend time getting their system working. This means that Freespire needs to work well out of the box, with minimum configuration required.
So, let's get started with the first order of business. As ever, that means installation.
Since Freespire arrives on one CD, you don't really expect installation to take very long, and it doesn't - it took around thirty minutes, including the setup post-installation. The procedure is relatively simple - select your keyboard layout, name, username, password, and computer name. The only slightly more complex thing, as ever, is to do with where to install Freespire. Note that, unless you choose to delete an entire hard drive, you must do the partitioning of Freespire in a separate utility included on the CD. For an 'easy' distribution, Freespire is not making life particularly easy. It also uses a designation for hard drives that I'll admit I have never seen before except in Linspire. Instead of the usual /dev/hda, it uses /dev/ide/host0/bus0/target0/lun0/disc.
After a reboot, Freespire then launches into the post-installation setup. That means you can change your time zone, and date and time, along with display settings, users, network (including firewall), your password, dial up settings and your computer name - all much as you'd expect.
Freespire's installation is quite unremarkable, but it does its job well for the most part. I would say it was pretty close to the perfect installation for a newcomer to Linux, but the fact that partitioning is done separately means there's still work to be done.