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A Little Less Conversation On Freespire

By on Jun 4, 2007 in Tech Takes | 21 comments

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Must be wondering what I’m up to these days, right? After all, I haven’t been posting a lot recently, unlike the past 2-3 months which saw an overflow of posts. I was just busy transitioning all my documents to the latest OpenDocument formats.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated hundreds of documents in Microsoft’s formats, and StarOffice formats which the older 1.0 (OOo) used. Since I’ve been using OOo for a long times, I’d got loads of .sxw’s and others. I finally decided that it’s highly improbable that I’m gonna come across OOo 1.x anywhere, so I decided to switch to the latest. Now OOo 2.x ships with a document converter for this, which made my task pretty easy, but then I had to move in and delete the old files, and check for multiple copies on my system, delete the redundant ones – you get my point don’t you?

And why this, all of a sudden? Well, I’ve been pretty fluid till now as far as my operating system is concerned, playing with new ones all the time. That was until last year, when I switched to Freespire 1.0, and fell in love with it, and it’s ideology. Just a month down the line, Freespire 2.0 is going to be released, and I’m getting back a bit of order on my HDD.

Freespire is a free version of Linspire, one of the ‘easiest’ Linux distros around. What sets it apart from others is that it ships with proprietary codecs and drivers, making it far more compatible and hassle-free than other Linux distros. But for me, it’s not only about that – after all, it takes hardly any effort to get those anyway in other distros too. The reason why I like Freespire is its ideology – this is first Linux distro which targeted itself at the mainstream market, and was good at it (unlike other pathetic ones I’ve used, like Xandros).

At the end of the day, I feel that Linux supporters acting all snooty and trying to create a fence between mainstream users and Linux don’t do any good for our cause. Ogg Vorbis (even though it may be good) is NOT going to replace MP3 as the de facto music media standard anytime in the near future, period; so let’s accept that and move on. It makes no sense to confuzzle a non-geek by throwing up talk of codecs and all – all he would care for is that his CD plays when it’s popped into the tray. That’s why I like Freespire – it may embrace proprietary, but it’ll only make Linux more popular.

Why not use Ubuntu then, as people like Prashanth keep on saying. After all, even it can download codecs. For them I say, it’s not about how easy it is download codecs – I’ve worked long enough to know how to do it from the terminal. It’s about the target market, and ideology. Ubuntu is being built by South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth, for helping spread computing in developing countries in Africa – THAT is its first objective. Naturally, on the top of the list right now is to get the basics right – editing documents, web browsing etc.

Freespire, on the other hand, doesn’t target that segment. It grows up from Linspire, a Linux distro that was made with the mainstream and commercial segment in mind. Freespire has grown beyond the basics from the very beginning – instead it concentrates segments which want their graphics cards to work, DVDs to play, media collections to be ready to listen to, wireless cards to be detected – all out of the box. Freespire’s main focus has been on getting software install for Linux to be easy, via its Click N’ Run (CNR) feature. Yes, software can easily be installed via Ubuntu’s Synaptic too, but CNR offers download, documentation, and user reviews, all at the same place.

I believe in Freespire’s philosophy a lot. When Dell decided to ship laptops with Linux on popular demand, they contacted Michael Robertson, the founder of Linspire, whether he was ready to have his OS to be chosen for this purpose. And you know what? With thousands of orders right at hand, he refused! He said that the current demand for Linux is from enthusiasts, and thus Dell should use something like Fedora, Ubuntu or openSUSE. Further, he said that Linspire and its likes are targeted at the mainstream market, and Linux is NOT ready for that, it needs at least two more years. He felt that by falsely saying Linux is too easy, and shipping Freespire, he’d only be hurting Linux’s image in the long run. Now THAT is what takes real guts to do – foregoing a commercial order, all for the future of Linux!

Furthermore, he felt that one major impediment to Linux’s popularity was software install – which, until recently, took loads of work. To ensure that this doesn’t remain a drawback, Linspire’s decided to open up its CNR service to other major distros like Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian and openSUSE too, apart from its own Linspire and Freespire.

THAT is the reason why I like Freespire, and its been a record that I didn’t change my distro for a interminably long time (almost one year). Because Linux is not about loading a distro, working with it for 30 minutes, taking a few screenshots, writing a ‘review’ and then going back to Windows for me. It’s not only about the OS – it’s the ideology behind it that counts too.

That’s why I haven’t installed Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn (well ahem…the actual reason is that I haven’t received my Ubuntu CD via ShipIt, but…).

That’s why, I’m waiting for the June release of Freespire 2.0


  1. Abhishek Nandakumar

    June 4, 2007

    Post a Reply

    You’re so wrong. You write without doing research, that’s pretty clear.

    Ubuntu Fiesty Fawn has proprietary codecs too, and since you haven’t used it you wouldn’t know how much easier installing something on Ubuntu is these days.

    No terminal bullcrap, it’s all plain and simple through the GUI.

  2. GQ

    June 6, 2007

    Post a Reply

    Ubuntu doesn’t ship with proprietary multimedia codecs – it only prompts you to download them. As for certain graphics drivers, yes it does. Still, Ubuntu sticks to open source versions when they might not be the best option.

  3. Abhishek Nandakumar

    June 6, 2007

    Post a Reply

    I said they do have proprietary codecs, I didn’t say they ship it with the CD. If you order the DVD edition(which you’ve got to pay for) you’ll have even the codecs shipped.

    You have fixed thoughts and you never think anyone else other than you can be right. Typical Indian mentality.

  4. Prashanth

    June 6, 2007

    Post a Reply

    It is as easy as clicking the “next” button on a wizard and selecting your required codecs…
    Ubuntu gives you the freedom to use the desktop environment of your choice which in my case is Gnome, thats something freespire doesnt.

    Anyway, I have treid ubuntu fiesty and you can pretty well await another “gushing” review on my blog about it…
    And Fiesty is the only distro which detects “Atheros” based wireless card drivers like the one on my sys and a select Vaio Lappies out of the box which freespire 1.0 doesnt..!!
    And yes, I do agree that using linux is alot about the ideology that is put behind creating it. Ubuntu would perhaps act like a rebellion against proprietary codecs… once more and more people shift to open formats and open distros, proprietary codecs, many of which are made as such for no commercial reason would turn into open source…
    One brilliant example would be Ati/AMD which is planning to open source all is drivers considering the fact that many of its customers are on open platforms… same with Intel. (Wonder when Nvidia would catch up…)
    It is due to such Satyagraha sort of efforts by OSS community that these companies are turning their codecs/drivers OSS. Freespire violates the whole OSS ideology and simply aims at making Linux easier for users which ubuntu does too, but perhaps to a degree less than that of Freespire. Freespire isnt really the distro for the geeks… that too geeks like you!

  5. GQ

    June 6, 2007

    Post a Reply

    @Both: What part of what I’m saying don’t you get? Of COURSE it’s as easy as clicking one button, and of COURSE it ships with the DVD. What I’m saying is that what the FUCK is their problem in shipping the bloody thing with their CD / CD download images. Say you have a rural digital divide bridging programme, where on earth do you think they’ll have an Internet connection there to download codecs? It bloody well doesn’t matter if it’s only a few hundred KBs, when they don’t have it in the first place. Or the money to buy a DVD? It’s basically this crab mentality of Linux distros which hurts them, because why the hell would villagers want a computer which can’t play media, when they can get a starter version of Windows? And I’m not even going into the pirated market here. And let’s face it, even when you both have the choice, knowledge and power, do you care to rip CDs into Ogg Vorbis? I don’t, for one, and neither do I think you two do (I know Prashanth’s case at least). So where the hell does the question of ‘Satyagraha’ arise? Let’s accept it, MP3 and MPEG are here to stay, and we need to support them.

    And Prashanth, once again, you’re comparing Freespire 1 to Ubuntu’s latest. Sure, now compare Vista to 98, will you? You very well know that Linux moves ahead faster, and you should be comparing Linux distros released around the same time.

    As far as the Ubuntu DVD, I’m sure that it doesn’t come installed, and would prompt you to install from the DVD if you want. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    And where’s the debate on philosophy? You both said Ubuntu makes driver / codec downloads easy, but WHAT ABOUT THE IDEOLOGY I WAS SPEAKING ABOUT IN WHOLE POST? What about giving up commercial interests? What about rest of the stuff?

  6. GQ

    June 6, 2007

    Post a Reply

    PS – I’ve worked on Kubuntu Live CD. It sucks. No customisation of graphics to a great extent. Just taken KDE and dumped it.

  7. Abhishek Nandakumar

    June 6, 2007

    Post a Reply

    KDE has always sucked(for me at least).

    “Say you have a rural digital divide bridging programme, where on earth do you think they’ll have an Internet connection there to download codecs?”

    Linux in rural areas, are you kidding? I mean yeah Freespire and Ubuntu can be user friendly, but are you seriously serious?

    The OLPC OS is what users there would really want. You can download the beta too and try it on VMware. Oh sorry, I forgot VMware isn’t stable on Freespire.

    There’s a special order request you can make for such rural areas, if you want. They’ll be more than glad to ship it with codecs if you’re doing something for a good cause.

    Try playing XviD 1080p on Freespire without the additional codecs. Install the codecs, try it again. Ubuntu displays HD content beautifully.

    One more thing I hate about Freespire is how bluntly they’re using the Linspire user interface. Take a look at Fedora 7, it looks beautiful.

    The Ubuntu community is growing much faster than the Freespire community. You’re going to give me a hundred reasons saying they’ve got support from here and there, but what’s important is that it is actually happening.

  8. Prashanth

    June 7, 2007

    Post a Reply

    Well, now its a clash ideas and opinions that I see here. The first one being the ideology part. GQ supports the philosophy of taking linux to the mainstream market whereas I support the OSS movement. In some cases both of them cannot really run parallelly, so you get a choice.
    Use an OS that encourages people to stick with what they want or know to use, or go to an OS which gives you the option to download the codecs of your choice with an intuitive interface for a few megabytes which really isnt a big deal..!!

    The second conflict was about interfaces. GQ for some goddamned reason loves KDE and a ripped of interface from Windows and Linspire. And I prefer Gnome whose ideas even Vista copied. (Remember Onkur?)

    And now coming to a comparison between freespire and ubuntu, we dont have a choice. Ubuntu is uber-prompt with super fast software cycles. A particular cd image doesnt stay for more than a day on ubuntu servers. Tweaks/bugs/flaws get fixed as and when Ubuntu’s super huge community of users and developers get it noticed.

    Facts are in front of you. Whats more popular, Freespire or Ubuntu. Whats the new definition of linux, whats the future of linux? Ubuntu, period. When I tell someone that I use linux, some aware people ask me, is it Ubuntu? As for many people, it is the only linux distro whos name they have heard of.
    Robertson refused to give freespire to dell coz he himself admits it inside that freespire is a blot on the face of linux. Trust me, no one other than you likes it. It would be bad to Freespire on the long run and not linux. People would suddenly get exposed to that distro and he was afraid not many would like it. Ask anyone. Ubuntu on the other hand is helping people save money. Dell’s PCs/Lappies with ubuntu running are upto 200$ cheaper than windows pre-installed ones. If people still want to use windows, they can very well do so… that way its actually encouraging MS piracy and by drops atleast, its emptying an ocean… ;)
    Jokes apart, freespire’s release cycles are too slow, and therefore flaws, limitations etc arent fixed in time and stay redundant. Many new innovative features arent implemented on time such as XGL, Beryl, etc. Ubuntu implemented that as soon as they matured and got popular. Freespire is too slow to stay compitative. Ubuntu is good enough to compete Vista already. The reason why I am not using it on my main system is due to storage limitations..!!

    The latest technologies arent really incorporated in freespire in time before they actually get outdated or boring or simply too common everywhere.
    Freespire has been suckingly commercial and greedy from the start. For an idiotic browser based service called CNR, they used to ask for a fortune. And many at times, CNR recommends a propreitary software, which may be paying royalties to freespire. Now it wont be even getting that, coz the fundamental question remains. WHO THE HELL OTHER THAN GQ USES FREESPIRE AS HIS/HER/ITS PRIMARY OS…??

    Ubuntu has got (non-commercial) endorsements from the biggest names in the computer industry. Let it be Micheal Dell, Vinod Khosla, and the entire Sun Microsystems team and many more… Freespire, even google doesnt give relavent results for that… ;)

    And perhaps the only reason why you would still stick to freespire2 even after its is proven down that it is inferior to ubuntu is just perhaps the name which you dont like… :P

  9. GQ

    June 7, 2007

    Post a Reply

    @Abhi: Again you talk about downloading betas. ;) That’s the point dude, they CAN’T. And neither can they afford Windows.

    @Prashanth: Do you know that Mark Shuttleworth owns VeriSign? OF COURSE he has more pals whom he can call up for a golf session and slip a press release into their pocket for Ubuntu.

    BTW, you BOTH are avoiding the issue. I asked Abhi that the Ubuntu DVD must not have installed the codecs by default, and he didn’t answer. Prashanth again speaks of supporting OS, yet despite the tech know-how and software, he doesn’t use Ogg Vorbis for his media. Look dude, that was also my point in the post – Linux / Ogg NOT about proclaiming how nice it is in a public forum and then forgetting the bloody thing. The only way Linux gets more recognition is by having more people use it, whether you like it or not.

    Also remember that Freespire is a new OS – of course it might have teething problems. Don’t tell me that you went to play cricket in your colony when you were 6 months old. Did Ubuntu update so fast and have a large community when it started? No.

    As for CNR and royalties, don’t speculate without reason, substantiate it with facts.

    And get you facts right. Ubuntu gave Beryl in this release, not earlier, and Freespire plans that too for v2. Do remember – Freespire is doing far more in it’s very first attempt than anyone else has.

    BTW, if you want to support open source, why don’t you use Linux Prashanth? What’s the point in trying to act like those celebrities who don’t use the product yet endorse them. It’s pretty evident that you don’t, if one year after saying ‘I tried this and that on Ubuntu’ you don’t know your way around OpenOffice.

  10. Abhishek Nandakumar

    June 7, 2007

    Post a Reply

    Ubuntu isn’t very old. It’s just matured fast. Ubuntu has set it’s priorities right. They’ve created their CDs in hybrid mode to create a swap image which can be copied into the ram instead of creating into the terminal. They’ve kept the right balance of what users want. And music isn’t the main aim.

    It’s computing, using the internet.

    For people who want codecs, you can order the DVD and do a full install. Ubuntu is one of the few OSes(freespire included) that ships on a CD. Many people still don’t have DVD drives to use Fedora.

    Nobody needs to afford to buy Windows. DPS VK uses pirated software, so does the world.

  11. GQ

    June 7, 2007

    Post a Reply

    @Abhi: Do read the Linspire Letter I mailed you. It has some points I wanted to say, and it says it well. And THAT’S what I said in the post – Ubuntu is about basic computing / web browsing in Africa – Mark Shuttleworth has STATED that as his mission. Freespire is for the rest of the world which needs more uses, and as an example, you yourself claimed Freespire was the only one to detect your wireless card out of the box (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Once again, you say you can order a DVD, and then go on to say many people don’t have it and thus can’t use Fedora. Same for Ubuntu. Rural areas = no DVD drives. I hate Fedora, you HAVE to do install codecs separately, its installer is SLOW, and it’s package manager is NOT good.

    BTW, DPS VK does NOT use pirated Windows. You can check that yourself, all PCs have preloaded XP license stickers. And I’m talking about official digital divide bridging projects – where any corporate sponsor will get sued if they use pirated. These programmes are profile, and the Big G watches them. You think ITC will have the guts to risk a lawsuit in its eChoupal program? No it doesn’t.

  12. Abhishek Nandakumar

    June 8, 2007

    Post a Reply

    Fiesty Fawn is different. It’s as good if not better(for Wireless connectivity). It’s more stable.

    Ahem, you can order custom CDs too.

    Well, my cousin brother in DPS VK told me about the popup which came while he was working on one of the computers. He said it read “This copy of Windows is not genuine”. Maybe you guys switched to legal software in the past 4 months.

    Windows is going to cost just $2. Anyone can afford that. Windows starter edition is great for the average user who doesn’t multi-task. Most people usually see only one application on their taskbar. And for $2 you’re getting that + Microsoft Office and Math 3.0.

  13. Abhishek Nandakumar

    June 8, 2007

    Post a Reply

    Linspire isn’t exactly free. There’s is an annual license. Windows turns out cheaper.

    You’ll think a lot differently once you’ve installed fiesty fawn. The LIVE CD has never been an ideal way using an OS. Install the Gnome 7.04 and lets have your next comment here only after that.

    BTW, Ubuntu has started using proprietary software. I never said it was wrong. They’ve got the complete package with great support which you can get from Linspire only after you pay them a heft amount.

  14. Abhishek Nandakumar

    June 8, 2007

    Post a Reply

    You did ignore my comment on HD video and Freespire stability.

  15. GQ

    June 8, 2007

    Post a Reply

    @Abhi: Sigh. My point is not getting across. All that I’m saying is as far as comparisons between Ubuntu 7.04 and Freespire 1.0 is concerned, that is unfair because Freespire is older. For a proper comparison, compare Dapper with 1.0 and THEN you’ll see which one is better. All I’m saying is you should reserve your judgment until Freespire 2.0 comes out in June-July. Then maybe we can see.

    I don’t have any HD content right now. Period.

    Yes, Linspire isn’t free. Who’s talking about that? I was talking about Freespire. Linspire is targeted towards corporate users, which is not what I was talking about. What’s your point then?

    When I said Kubuntu was bad, I didn’t mean as in the OS. What I was saying was they hadn’t done much of customisation with the interface, like they do with GNOME using Ubuntu. They simply took the default thing, and dumped it.

    Microsoft hasn’t released the low cost version yet, as far as I know. Reserve comments on how useful it’ll be until it comes out.

  16. GQ

    June 8, 2007

    Post a Reply

    An ‘oops!’ moment here. I think I wrote yesterday that Mark Shuttleworth owned VeriSign. Sorry fr that one! I was pretty sleepy when typing that at night, after having come back after getting my new cell, and I just noticed that when I was reading this discussion again. Mark has lots of friends in the tech field. He’d sold Thawte to VeriSign, and that’s what I think I wanted to say then. Oops, and sorry again!

  17. Prashanth

    June 10, 2007

    Post a Reply

    You ignored a lot of what I wrote in that ubsurdly long comment…
    Ubuntu was one of the first mainstream aimed distro of linux to come out, although things like Fedora existed before it, it was perhaps the first big distro to come out of the Debian-based house.
    Ubuntu therefore, although the first release was back in July 2004, it wasnt very good as the community wasnt actually very big. Not many developers wrote programs in Debian style. Ubuntu actually started this buzz about Debian programming. Red hat based was linux before it.
    Freespire, when it was released on July 2005, had the advantage of Debian based programming matured, which it didnt make good use of. Ubuntu had frequent release cycles even when it was just launched in the form of Warty Warthog. It maintains that till feisty and plans to do the same for even Gutsy Gbbon..!!
    Ubuntu actually keeps people on a distro watch, new features are implemented as and when they get matured. Beryl was just one example. As Nandu just put it, it implemented this Live cd way of installation as it matured, thus speeding up things. Freespire didnt put its debain advantage tot he fullest, which Ubuntu did. And Ubuntu is basically a Gnome based distro. KDE is just another option you get. If you dont want Gnome, you better not use Ubuntu.
    And tell me who in the world other than you uses freespire. Everyone vomits at it. I tried to show this to my Dad and his colleagues who do need to run linux quite a few times. They all prefered Ubuntu. Ubuntu was popular ever since hoary, which had lots of publicity and stuff. Warty wasnt publicised very much. It was still a beta, unstable distro, not really recommended.
    Just search CNR for any software, after the most popular one, it would display some stupid never-heard-of software, which is there only because CNR earns from i. Why exactly is it there..?? To earn money, thats Linspires commercial interest. When it realised that companies started backing off as no one was interested to pay a fortune for running CNR, they made it free thinking that they can atleast make some money out of companies who want to publisise their software. It mostly shows paid results and gives options to buy stuff, Linspire must be getting some commission out of that… Thats was what CNR was like till a month ago after which the CNR site went under a maintainance rewamp. The new CNR feels good… I would keep some hopes on that…
    On a lighter note, freespire doesnt ship cds for free, neither does it give those cool stickers and covers. And BTW, ever seen the UI of Ubuntu fiesty, Gnome rules…!!

  18. GQ

    June 10, 2007

    Post a Reply

    @Prashanth: If you haven’t seen France, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If you haven’t personally met any other Freespire user, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Ubuntu started getting its act together much later, as you yourself pointed out. So what’s wrong with giving Freespire more time?

    As for CNR, of course after searching Firefox it’s going to show other browsers too. I call that more choice.

    And you still aren’t answering the whole thing you said about supporting OSS, when you don’t use it. Hit-and-run arguments don’t help you in a debate.

  19. GQ

    June 10, 2007

    Post a Reply

    @Prashanth: PS – I don’t think Ubuntu should have the claim to first mainstream distro. Neither is it Linspire. That credit goes to Mandrake (now Mandriva). It seriously was one of the best distros, although now it’s losing ground quickly.

  20. Prashanth

    June 12, 2007

    Post a Reply

    Even if you call out freespire fans all over the world, you would be counting them in a handful. Look at how widespread the use of Ubuntu is, freespire doesnt even stand close.
    Freespire has had about 10 months of time. It hasnt kicked out. Because of the slow release cycles, freespire doesnt give the user the bleeding edge technologies that are maturing at a breakneck pace…
    Now you might start a charade saying that non-geeks are happy with sticking with one stable OS for a long time. Well, upgrading from dapper to edgy was a 100Mb update for me. Same for Fiesty as well. If you dont want to download, just order a cd, pop it in, open synaptic, and select upgrade. There you have it, a brand new distro with all your settings and data preserved!

    Freespire doesnt even give frequent major updates. Correct me if I am wrong. And once again, freespire goes against the OSS ideology to show more software which are 100% proprietary. Freespire does get money out of this. Its nothing but commercial interest, all CNR is, a repository to download stuff.

    Synaptic is much better. It checks your systems, downloads the required libraries, runtime files, and even drivers after scanning hardware whenever you try to download something. CNR does make it easy but it isnt advanced enough. Good that freespire gives users the option to go to Synaptic as well, as CNR is yet another shitty endeavor by the Linspire team..!!

  21. GQ

    June 12, 2007

    Post a Reply

    @Pras: I’m getting bored of this now, specifically because I refuted your points when I spoke to you. Anyway, no, CNR doesn’t show more proprietary ones. Only someone who doesn’t use it can say that. And again, I’d say before you make a claim like it’s selling for commercial claim, back it up with facts. Rhetoric gets you nowhere.

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