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First Impressions of Freespire 1.0 201

Nate writes "Freespire 1.0 was released a few days ago, taking the desktop-oriented Linspire distribution and making it freely available (as in beer) to the world. Linux Format has some first impressions of the release, focusing on its much-trumpeted media playback facilities thanks to codec licensing. Flash, Java, DVD and WMV support out-the-box — could this climb to the top of the desktop distro ladder?"
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First Impressions of Freespire 1.0

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  • Time will tell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suggsjc ( 726146 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:59AM (#15880443) Homepage
    Flash, Java, DVD and WMV support out-the-box
    Maybe a good start, but it will take a lot more than that to
    climb to the top of the desktop distro ladder
    Granted I would think that Linux users are more likely to try different flavors, but to really get to the top takes a lot of time and effort. Slashvertisements might get a couple people to jump, but rises in distros are probably a more organic thing that happens from a solid product (think Ubuntu).
    • Re:Time will tell (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:39AM (#15880797)
      That's all great but can you tell me the easiest method of getting Ubuntu up to speed with all the codecs, DVD-playback, flash, et cetera... LEGALLY?

      The available scripts out there (Automatix, EasyUbuntu, etc) are not legal in the United States thanks to the patent quagmire. This preempts the use of the distribution in a large way (e.g. - most businesses simply can't afford to break the law, no matter how wrong it is).

      That said, I *would* like a suggestion to this issue. I'd really like to get up and running on Linux legally. Freespire seems appealing in this respect.
      • Re:Time will tell (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MrZaius ( 321037 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:08AM (#15881073) Homepage

        The available scripts out there (Automatix, EasyUbuntu, etc) are not legal in the United States thanks to the patent quagmire. This preempts the use of the distribution in a large way (e.g. - most businesses simply can't afford to break the law, no matter how wrong it is).


        How many businesses in the US actually care so much about MP3 and DVD support that they'd choose an OS based on it? Flash support is readily available as a browser plugin, and easily installed even without the aforementioned scripts. That's the only thing that could possibly be considered relevant for business users, and even that's a little iffy.
      • But most business use doesn't need "Flash", "codecs" or the ability to play DVDs. Really.

        Grey area - a business with a suitable (>10,000 seat) install base could negotiate royalties themselves. (if they REALLY have a need for MP3 or DVD).

        Just sayin

        Ratboy.
      • Re:Time will tell (Score:4, Informative)

        by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:42AM (#15881431) Homepage Journal
        can you tell me the easiest method of getting Ubuntu up to speed with all the codecs, DVD-playback, flash, et cetera... LEGALLY?

        Keep an eye on here:

        http://www.fluendo.com/products.php?product=plugin s [fluendo.com]

        They are currently only available to OEMs, but the plan (as stated in the link) is to make them available to end users via a webshop.
      • Video Lan client [videolan.org]
      • The available scripts out there (Automatix, EasyUbuntu, etc) are not legal in the United States thanks to the patent quagmire. This preempts the use of the distribution in a large way (e.g. - most businesses simply can't afford to break the law, no matter how wrong it is).

        The execution of such scripts is not necessarily illegal in the United States. The codecs, etc., that are downloaded are freely downloadable from the vendor's site. If the scripts download the codecs from that vendors site (even in an a

      • Re:Time will tell (Score:2, Informative)

        by Quino ( 613400 )
        AFAIK Real Player for Linux is one legal way to get MP3 playback for Linux in the US. Their latest incarnation on Linux is quite decent too, IMHO.

      • Who cares about legal?

        Businesses do, but do home users give a crap if they are using some codec legally? They dont know what a codec is, if you told them, "to get movies to play, I had to install something and it is against the license" they will be like "I dont care"

        Hell, just watching videos on a windows machine you are probably breaking the license for the codec anyways so who cares.

        Copyright / IP has gotten to the point where you will break the "law" hundreds of times a day without even realizing it o
    • Re:Time will tell (Score:2, Interesting)

      by joshier ( 957448 )
      I think this is what we need.

      Linux gets a good name because the ease of use of this distro.

      People switch
      People realize that Linspire (free) is good, but there's better linux distros after getting used to Linux.

      People are now confident, acknowledged within the linux enviroment and open to try other distros if they wish.

      Mission successful.
  • No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FST ( 766202 )
    I don't believe that this has the potential to defeat some other distros. As easy as it is to use, many people will still want to have windows working once they install Freespire, but, from my experience, the installation of its boot-loader is broken and it takes some tweaking to get it to work: not something that most people who use Freespire will know how to do.
    • Okay, it's probably me, but almost every distro I've tried out in the past year has been able to configure GRUB with itself and my XP partition but *screws *up other Linux OSes I have. FC5 made it so I couldn't boot Gentoo without using the grub CLI. Now Kubuntu has done the same to FC5.

      Sorry to hijack your thread; it just seemed odd that Lx plays nicer with windows than with other Lxes...

      • Hi Mateo, In the grub configuration file of the current default Linux distro,(/boot/grub/grub.conf under FC/RH)* add the root partitions of your other instalations whith an apropriate title. eg:

        title Red Hat Linux (2.4.7-10)
        root (hd0,0)
        kernel /vmlinuz-2.4.7-10 ro root=/dev/hda6
        initrd /initrd-2.4.7-10.img

        Hope that helps.

        *Haven't used Gentoo, but Debian/Ubuntu call the grub configuration file menu.list while FC/RH call it grub.conf.

    • Unless the windows needs aren't gaming related.. in which case VMWare works great for an XP session.. I use it for Visual Studio, and Paint Shop Pro... my only windows ties currently. For many people, once setup/configured, are fine with email(thunderbird or evolution), browsing (Firefox or Opera) and office (OOo).

      I've converted a few myself.
  • For god's sake, KDE 3.3.2 was released in December 8, 2004. Since then KDE 3.4 and now 3.5 has been released. Why are they still keeping up with that ancient version of KDE? Are they trying to steal the market share of Mandrake 9.2 ? Seriously. Keep up with the times.
  • Distro ladder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dhasenan ( 758719 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:05AM (#15880492)
    "could this climb to the top of the desktop distro ladder?"

    Not without geek support, too. And Linspire has a poor reputation currently--no telling how long it will be before that goes away.

    Still, it looks like at least a typical distribution for quality, though the boot times are somewhat worrying. (Four to five minutes? That's running full hardware detection each time, by the look of it--that's how long the Ubuntu installer takes, IIRC.) Still, that can be solved; the question is whether geeks think it's worth it to have proprietary codecs by default rather than simply apt-getting them. (And if they do, we'll soon see an alternative Ubuntu installer that does just that.)
    • Re:Distro ladder (Score:2, Informative)

      by notjim ( 879031 )
      or use easy ubuntu: http://easyubuntu.freecontrib.org/ [freecontrib.org]
    • "could this climb to the top of the desktop distro ladder?" Not without geek support, too.

      The desktop distro that reaches the top will be the one that doesn't want and doesn't need the Geek to take it there.

      It will be designed from the ground up for non technical end users who expect the same functionality out of the box that they can get from the lowliest entry level Dell or the Mac Mini.

      • You have a point. However, who asks OEMs for Linux? Regular users?

        Once vendors have to choose a Linux to support (or at least offer), they might choose something like Freespire, and some have. More likely they'll choose something backed by a larger company such as Novell. And at that point, the OEMs might work an advantage by offering proprietary technologies. Or the corporations in question might; at that point, no OS vendor would risk the potentially huge leap in market share offered just because it would
        • I think you're right on all points, but I have to correct a possible misunderstanding. Freespire is not something a company would obtain in conjunction with a support agreement. It's the free-as-in-beer version of Linspire [linspire.com].
  • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:07AM (#15880508)
    can I make a copy of the cdrom and pass it on to my friends and even charge for my time in making the copy??? do those licensed codecs conflict with my rights under the GPL for the rest of the distro?
    • by PurpleMonkeyKing ( 944900 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:44AM (#15880842)

      From their website, they seem to have a GPL compliant version and a free (as in beer) proprietary version, much like OpenSuse 10.0 was.

      Here's a list [freespire.org] of the licensed proprietary compenents. Under nearly every one it says explicitly that you are not granted redistobution rights.

      Basically, I guess if you want to legally redistribute it you'd need get this one [linspire.com]. Since it doesn't have the proprietary codecs, though, I think you'd be better off with Ubuntu.

    • IANAGL (I am not a GPL lawyer) but presumably you can re-distribute whatever bits are under the GPL but as there are no re-distribution rights granted for the proprietary parts then they would have to be removed. So effectively no then.
    • by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:52AM (#15880917)
      No, you have no redistribution rights whatsoever for the proprietary components. See
      http://wiki.freespire.org/index.php/Summary_of_Pro prietary_Components [freespire.org]. There's an "OSS" version that contains none of the proprietary items and is, presumably, redistributable.

      I'm really puzzled by all of this. First, why would Microsoft license its WMV technologies to a Linux distribution? I can understand someone like Sun licensing Java, or ATI/nVidia licensing their drivers, but Microsoft? Why would they want to make it easier for a Linux distribution to compete with Windows, especially in an area where Microsoft has the advantage, namely bundling proprietary software?

      Second, who is paying the licensing fees here? I presume that Linspire has to pay royalties for each download of Freespire. Where is the money coming from? On the wiki site, Linspire says it's paying for things like server space, etc., but doesn't really talk about the licensing fees. Are they really making so much money that they can afford to pay royalties but not be compensated by end-users in return?

      • I suspect the .wmv-thing has something to do with the settlement between the two companies back when it was still "Lindows".
      • First, why would Microsoft license its WMV technologies to a Linux distribution?

        Isn't that part of the requirement of the EU decision against Microsoft that they license these things?
      • why would Microsoft license its WMV technologies to a Linux distribution? I can understand someone like Sun licensing Java, or ATI/nVidia licensing their drivers, but Microsoft? Why would they want to make it easier for a Linux distribution to compete with Windows[?]

        Because (1) they have had enough 'fun' with monopoly-related investigations and the ensuing fines, and (2) they probably (sadly, realistically) calculate the risk of Linspire stealing serious market share from Windows at about 0.1% or less, a
        • (2) they probably (sadly, realistically) calculate the risk of Linspire stealing serious market share from Windows at about 0.1% or less

          You may remember Walmart.com's dizzying flirtation with OEM Linux: a merry-go-round of distros and systems that changed from week-to week.

          Linux no longer rates its own page, so what remains can be mighty hard to find: perhaps two or three generic Microtel boxes running Linspire or Xandros.

          You can forget the matching system bundles, extended warranties, and free home del

    • The GPL is likely the least of your worries on a distribution with so many proprietary pieces.
    • This has nothing to do with GPL compliance. Are you suggesting that Freespire has some non-compliance issues and is violating the GPL? This is no different than Red Hat Enterprise Linux -- you can't freely copy that either because it contains Red Hat trademarks (eg: the Red Hat logos).

      The source code != the CDROM on which it is distributed.
       
      • It has everything to do with GPL compliance... we have a composite work here all on a disk that contains proprietary and gpl work. I can't redistribute the composite work because of those proprietary chunks...

        This, basically, is the same reason that Suse was panned not so long ago because their YAST2 was not GPL compliant, but you couldn't have the distro that was Suse unless you has YAST2 because it was SO tightly interwoven into the ease with which Suse was configured... I could, personally, install it o

        • But it still has nothing to do with compliance with anything. Nothing needs to comply with anything else. You're free to copy the distro and give it to however many friends you want, but excluding the bits that have a license that prohibits that. So you can't just copy the CD straight, that's right, but that's no non-compliance. You're free to rip the offending pieces out, until you have a package that can be redistributed.
      • on the Redhat business... pink tie linux [pinktie.com]

        Once Red Hat© became a publicly traded company, their policies in relation to their EULA changed. At first, copies of their software could be redistributed without modification, provided the name Red Hat© was in a smaller font size. This continued for a couple of versions. At a later point, the EULA indicated their software couldn't be redistributed at all unless references to Red Hat© Linux in the software itself were removed. In other wo

  • by ElleyKitten ( 715519 ) <kittensunrise.gmail@com> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:22AM (#15880641) Journal
    Flash, Java, DVD and WMV support out-the-box
    Mepis and a few other distros have these. What is special about Freespire? I rtfa, and the difference seems to be an older KDE. My friend wants me to install the new Mepis on her computer. Is there any reason I should look at Freespire?
    • "Mepis and a few other distros have these. What is special about Freespire? I rtfa, and the difference seems to be an older KDE. My friend wants me to install the new Mepis on her computer. Is there any reason I should look at Freespire?"

      No. But then you're not who this is aimed at. I suspect this is geared more to the people wanting to try Linux for themselves having already used Windows.

      • by ElleyKitten ( 715519 ) <kittensunrise.gmail@com> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:01AM (#15881000) Journal
        "Mepis and a few other distros have these. What is special about Freespire? I rtfa, and the difference seems to be an older KDE. My friend wants me to install the new Mepis on her computer. Is there any reason I should look at Freespire?"
        No. But then you're not who this is aimed at. I suspect this is geared more to the people wanting to try Linux for themselves having already used Windows.
        Well, so is Mepis. To clarify a bit on what I was saying in my first post: My friend, who doesn't have a lot of Linux experience, is interested in Mepis because I've told her it's good for Linux newbs, and she'll still have all the proprietary goodness without the install hassle (I used more words when describing this to her). Mepis and Freespire seem very simular, is there anything about Freespire that would make it better for my friend than Mepis?
        • The difference is mepis is more cutting edge or up-to-date as far as software and desktop go. And while Freespire has said they will be going to APT, right now you are still using their CNR, (which is nice for newbies), they are not there yet. APTy goodness allows you to choose where you get your software, and what level you wish to maintain, stable/testing/unstable(the latest).
    • http://www.tafusion.com/products/frontier/home.php [tafusion.com] It has more features than plain old Mepis.
  • by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:23AM (#15880653) Homepage Journal
    I'm curious as to how this is going to help Linspire. I reviewed one of their books recently, and they said that the primary reason why they've had to charge for the software is to pay for the codec licensing. Okay, I understand that completely. But what the (insanely light) article doesn't go into is how the free version with codecs is comparable to the "commercial" version.

    Because this free version is DVD and WMV compliant at installation, that right there means that those are two technologies that supposedly have to be licensed. Linspire is now giving them away. So, wouldn't that mean that they're actively losing money on those licensing fees with every download? How is that going to benefit a Linux distro that already is not very popular?

    Is there some "between the lines" information that I'm just not seeing here?
    • The encrypted DVD playback doesn't work out-of-the-box, but is available (with a license fee) via the Freespire CNR repository (other than the other codecs, this is a per unit license fee that's passed along to the end user).
      • So ... that actually makes it more of a shareware model. You're free to distribute the less-featured version, but you have to pay up to get the rest. Expand that further, that means that it has something in common with the king of the shareware model, "Doom". Considering that Linspire is by no means the most beloved distro and it's apparently following a shareware model, should anyone be surprised that it (sort of) bears a relationship with a product called "Doom"?

        I understand why Linspire is doing wh
        • Well the idea that you can quickly and easily add these features if you need them makes it heads and shoulders above pretty much any other distro. In so far as EndUser Desktop environments go that is.
          • and the crucial point is that you can LEGALLY install DVD, MP3 support etc, with a single click.

            i know it's easy to install this stuff on ubuntu with automatix, but in america it isnt legal. with the click n run thing it is, becuase you pay for a license to do so.

  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:31AM (#15880725) Journal
    On a fresh Gentoo install:
    emerge mplayer kmplayer firefox kde netscape-flash blackdown-jre blackdown-jdk xine-ui vlc
    That should give you everything, free as in beer. It'll boot fast, too, if you tweak a couple of settings -- I know it supports running init scripts in parallel, a nice little feature of having init scripts state their dependencies, instead of a strict order.

    The downside is, of course, that you have to wait probably at least one full day for all of this stuff to compile from scratch.

    But seriously, Gentoo doesn't seem to have nearly the problems I hear of other distros having with licensing. Is there really such a legal difference between distributing ebuilds (which contain download URLs for the codecs) and distributing the codecs themselves in debs? Could debs include download URLs?
    • by Excelsior ( 164338 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:12AM (#15881109)
      But seriously, Gentoo doesn't seem to have nearly the problems I hear of other distros having with licensing.
      Don't be confused. What Gentoo and most desktop-centric distributions are doing is being legal by putting it on the users to break the law to get the features they want. That's fine, and that's the best we can expect from a non-profit distribution. But don't confuse it with being all around legal. It simply works because no patent holder is going to attempt to extract royalties from the anonymous hordes of people that have downloaded and installed Gentoo or Ubuntu. That doesn't mean it's legal.

      Conversely, Linspire acquires licenses for encumbered software, then distributes the software licensed. I believe they are still tainting the kernel they distribute and losing GPL compliance, though.
    • Is that people would have to actually understand the first half of your post and be able to do everything in it.

      Even someone with years of (non Linux) experience can't be expected to know the difference between emerge, mplayer and xine. There's a need out there for people who are being introduced to Linux for the first time and don't want to worry about a(nother) "broken" OS.

    • On a fresh Gentoo install:
      emerge mplayer kmplayer firefox kde netscape-flash blackdown-jre blackdown-jdk xine-ui vlc That should give you everything, free as in beer. It'll boot fast, too, if you tweak a couple of settings -- I know it supports running init scripts in parallel, a nice little feature of having init scripts state their dependencies, instead of a strict order.

      You could post this in Sumerian and find more readers than in Freespire's core market.
      This much at least would be an eye-opener:

      you

  • I find it ironic... (Score:2, Informative)

    by B11 ( 894359 )
    That a big argument (excuse?) often given for the slow (non) migration to Linux from Windows is that there is no WMV, DVD, MP3, etc, support out-of-the-box. Now that there is a distro making an effort to offer these features, it's roundly dismissed. While I wouldn't personally use it (I'm absolutely loving ubuntu right now), I might take a look and see if it's ready for my parents, girlfriend, non-geek friends/relatives (I don't have high expectations, but who knows).
    • Why do you assume that those who wish for the WMV/etc are the very same ones dismissing it? There's millions of people in the word and they each have an opinion. And quite often, they don't take a vote before forming or expressing that opinion.
    • Linspire is trying real hard at a consumer linux. Everytime its mentioned here it gets hammered as not being professional enought etc..etc..

      Microcenter sells cheap PCs with linspire pre installed. A friend bought one and is pretty happy with it.
    • That's because the "big argument" is wrong, the reason for slow Linux adoption is the extremely high initial cost and not because of missing features. The initial cost is not even the learning curve, it's just getting Linux set up and running in the first place.

      Just consider the simplest scenario, vmware:

      PRO: Fairly easy to do (except few images are available)
      CON: Takes a couple hours, so they have to really want it
      CON: User gets really bad experience... slow to respond, graphics with few accellerations, s
      • ...that you've made up false obstacles.

        Hours to download? You don't download a CD over dialup.
        There are also mini-CD liveCDs, and you can order physical media as well.

        Consumer machines not set to boot from CD by default? 20 seconds to boot windows?
        2 minutes to boot a LiveCD? I don't think so.

        As for why many CDs don't seem to include loadlin and an autorun.inf pointing to a
        webpage of directions? Couldn't say.
  • How about a comparison from an old-hat's perspective? I'm no newbie. Been using linux as a workstation/desktop OS since '96. For years, I've actually seen win32codecs and mplayer or xine provide even better codec support than Windows (with the exception of Media Player Classic).

    Can someone that approaches this from a more experienced perspective describe the differences between Linspire and mplayer with win32codecs, xvid and ogg? Focus on the number of codecs supported, its ability to handle legally iff
  • hmm.. right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by morphix ( 994450 )
    As a fellow linux user, and also a user of ubuntu, i can't see freespire overtaking ubuntu. Sure freespire might have the codecs and players all working properly out of the box, i find it would be too windows like. I like customising linux, instead of trying to make another windows clone.
    • Yes.... and you're already a Linux user. Likewise, I prefer Slackware. Think about it from the perspective of Grandma who doesn't know what she's doing with computers.

      Here, Grandma... this program here will do everything that your Windows box will do. It's got a program that does everything that your Word does, and your e-mail, and your browsing. And it looks like the Windows that you're used to. Why am I showing this to you? Well, Grandma, Windows XP Home and Microsoft Office will cost you about $400. This
      • Here, Grandma... this program here will do everything that your Windows box will do. It's got a program that does everything that your Word does, and your e-mail, and your browsing. And it looks like the Windows that you're used to. Why am I showing this to you? Well, Grandma, Windows XP Home and Microsoft Office will cost you about $400.

        Dear old Granny never pays retail list.
        Dear old Granny has ten years or more invested in Windows. Dear old Granny is going to tell you to buzz off.

        The apps you mention

  • Linux/open-source people keep saying "choices are good"... Well, it's not.

    If you overload people with choices, they won't know what to choose and they'll go back with what they know, even if it's not even half as good as all these new options. How could they know their current stuff is crap, they can't use the new ones because there's too many choices.

    Why so many distros anyway? Shouldn't there be two or three distros at most? One for servers, one for desktops.... I can't even figure out what a third distro
    • I've been saying this for years, but the Linux community needs to realize that the "distro" is the windowing environment.

      Nobody gives a shit about "RPM vs. DEB vs. APT-GET" or any of that crud. What people care about, and what sets distros apart, is that KDE behaves very differently from GNOME.

      Therefore, there should be about 5 distros:

      KDE Home
      KDE Server
      GNOME Home
      GNOME Server
      "geek"-- Debian perhaps.

      Any more than that is just a ridiculous amount of duplication of effort.
  • by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:36AM (#15881350) Homepage Journal
    ...it was a pimp piece. Not to knock anyone, but it ends with the guy basically saying "I guess we'll have to wait and see how this affect Linux adoption". My question is, who was this piece written for? Certainly not Linux users as we're all well aware of why those codecs are not included in pure distros and the difficulty in trying to ethically support them without getting into legal issues. It also couldn't have been written for the Linux "toe-dipper" as the article puts it, since it refers to them in the third person. PHBs? I doubt it. They don't care if you can't hit Youtube or iFilm at work. So just what this piece all about?
  • Got root? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by leoxx ( 992 )
    Does Linspire still run the entire system as root by default? If so, then IMHO it shouldn't even be considered a real distribution of Linux but rather a poorly hacked together DOS-like operating system that only happens to share components with Linux. Non-superuser accounts must be mandatory for a modern operating system. Period.
    • naw (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zogger ( 617870 )
      No, they haven't for a long time now. They listened to the kvetching (it was a good point after all) and changed. My impression is they really do listen, really want an easy desktop "just works" type distro that most anyone could use or OEM hardware vendors can use, and have tried pretty hard to pull it off. They need to make a buck somehow to work fulltime on it obviously, but most of the other larger distros do that as well. You can go to their forums and frequently see the ceo answering questions. Maybe
    • Freespire does not [freespire.org] default to root login (and neither will Linspire in the next version).
    • by bigredradio ( 631970 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @11:35AM (#15881966) Homepage Journal
      Flamebait anyone? This has not been an issue for a while. You have always been able to create users. I think most people reading slashdot do not get the concept behind freespire or linspire for that matter. It is about switching users from windows. If you say, install Ubuntu and go back and try to find a repository online and add to synaptic or apt-get. Then install a the proper codecs. The first thing they will say is, what is a codec? What is a repository? Where is apt-get? They just want to install something that works. They are not hobbyists. These users could care less if they run as root. They don't know what root is. I get sick and tired of people bringing up non-issues for "joe six-pack". Having to go elsewhere for codecs to be able to play mp3s/DVDs/Flash IS an issue fro joe six-pack. I think most of the animosity comes from the fact that freespire and linspire are distros that do NOT cater to YOU!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...would this distro be named Freedows? I don't think Frito Lay would be very happy about that.

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