Since I’m a regular on the Ubuntu Forums and, like some other forum members, I have an Asus Eee PC and decided to install Ubuntu on it, I do every so often get asked the question, “What is so bad about the Eee PC Xandros anyway?” I recently did a reinstall of Xandros, so after playing around with Xandros for a while again, it’s fresh enough in my mind that I can talk more specifically about the pros and cons of Xandros.
- Hardware support. Yes, many distros have come pretty close to full hardware support or there exist some tweaks to get everything working, but Asus customized Xandros to work exactly with the hardware in the Eee.
- Fast boot time. Likewise, there are some hacks to make Ubuntu or other distros boot a little more quickly (maybe 45 seconds instead of 90 seconds), but Xandros boots in 12-30 seconds, and that just can’t be beat. I understand some people have done some experimental fast-booting projects for other distros, but all of them have huge disclaimers about them being experimental for a reason.
Unfortunately, that’s about it. I can think of absolutely no other advantages to Xandros over other Linux distributions.
- Annoying simple mode. At first glance, simple mode (the one with the tabs and huge icons) looks good or at least easy to use for beginners. It’s not a well-thought-out interface, however. The difference between Network and Wireless Networks isn’t readily apparent (Network is for frequently used connections you want remembered; Wireless Networks is for ad hoc connections). There’s also no easy way to make the Favorites tab the default, which would make the most sense. If my most-used applications are on two separate tabs, that’s kind of annoying. And if I have to click to a separate tab every time I want to see my favorites, that’s also annoying.
- Too much QT dependence. If you’re a Gnome fan or generally favor GTK applications, there’s only so much you can strip down the KDE libraries and QT dependencies in the Eee Xandros. The essential-to-functionality programs all depend on KDM and KDE libraries. I don’t have a huge problem with mixing QT and GTK, but when my hard drive is only 4 GB, having double the libraries takes up almost double the space.
- Limited repositories. When you load up Xandros, you’ll notice that the software available for installation is pretty much what comes on the Eee PC by default and little else. And some of the software updates actually take away functionality (for example, the update to the usb storage applet makes it so you can’t turn off the device dialog when you plug in a USB device). It is possible to add repositories, but there aren’t extensive repositories that can be used without adding potential conflicts. There are some small community-maintained repositories you can add. Or you can add Debian ones and make sure to pin versions of applications so that the Debian versions don’t replace the Xandros versions.
- Mounting like Windows. When you plug in a USB device, instead of appearing as a normal drive name, you get all the weird D:\ and E:\ stuff as you would in Windows.
- You can’t add a password to sudo. I’ve done extensive research on this at the Eee User Forums, and no one has successfully been able to add a password to sudo, so for almost all intents and purposes, you are running as root all the time. I can understand if this were only the default, but if you edit the /etc/sudoers file so as to require a password for sudo commands, you render the Eee unbootable.
- No Quicktime. Yes, it’s great that Xandros comes with MP3 playback and Flash installed by default. But you’d think they would also give you the codecs you need to play Apple Trailers. No dice. The workaround is that you add Debian repositories and force and lock a downgrade to the slightly older version of MPlayer that apparently has the proper codecs.
- Old versions of software. People often complain about Ubuntu updating its software versions only every six months with a new release. Xandros doesn’t do even that. There are some really old versions of applications that I don’t think have been updated since last year.
- The username is always user. So in a regular distro if you say your full name is Carol J. Clover, the distro will make your username carol, as would make sense. In Xandros, no matter what your full name is, you’ll always be called user and your home directory will always be /home/user.
I think that pretty much sums it up. So the next time someone asks what’s so bad about Xandros, I’ll just point them to this blog post.