It's Lindows day at ZDNet UK! Yesterday, the first UK Lindows machine turned up in the office, courtesy of Evesham Technology (nee Micros), who think that slapping a £250 price tag on a box running the only sensible PC competition to Microsoft would make people sit up and take notice.
And how right they were. From across the crowded office, geeks came to see what the darn thing looked like. The overall consensus was very positive, even though the combined brains of ZDNet Tech failed to sort out a networking problem -- it's not enough to know how something works with Linux, you have to know the exact details of how various bits of inscrutable magic fit together for this precise instance.
Things were going swimmingly, until I tried to install a screen grabber. With Windows, this involves going to somewhere like Tucows and throwing in the word 'screen grabber', then clicking on a link, waiting for a bit (though not that long, not at one megabit. Tee hee!) and carrying on with your life.
With Lindows... ah, well. You first have to find out what the appropriate utility is called. You then have to find out which one works with your distribution -- Red Hat, Debian, or any one of the near 90 others (you think I'm joking? Have a look at www.distrowatch.com ) -- and your particular desktop environment running on your hardware. You then download the software, either as something that needs to be linked with the libraries on your system or something that has everything built in with static links. We'll ignore the business of downloading source code that needs to be compiled. Sometimes you need to download some new libraries: tools exist to help you do that automatically, but you need to be careful that the new libraries -- or old ones that the new application needs -- don't disrupt old ones and stop other software you have on your system already from working.
Once you've done all that, you're ready to rumble. All you have to do is find out where on the system the new software resides, hook it into your desktop, run it... and find out where online the discussion group is that's looking after the bugs, features and future of the thing.
I dare say that after a few months of this, it'll all seem like second nature to me. And it does emphasise with extreme clarity the need for something like Lindows' own Click-n-Run system that automates all that... but at an equivalent cost to a Windows licence.
Tricky stuff, this alternative computing.