Desktop Summit

With the Hawaii Five-O soundtrack heralding in version 5 of the Linspire desktop operating system, Michael Robertson introduced many of the new features aiming to take Linux from solution of choice for command line geeks and system tweakers to a system ready to be a first-class citizen in the home computing market. The UI is a major overhaul from Linspire 4.5, with great support for wireless networking and digital cameras meeting consumer expectations set by Windows and OS X. One of best features may be the Click-and-Run experience, with one click installation of almost 2,000 open source applications.

Lsongs improves the music jukebox experience for Linspire users with a slick iTunes-esqe interface complete with song library management, integration with the MP3tunes music service and the ability to share music with other Linspire PCs. MP3tunes is a new music store available via the Web for any operating system, in addition to the Lsongs integration, complete with 300,000 DRM-free MP3s available for purchase at $0.88 per download. It’s a decent first version, although they’re going to have a tough fight ahead of them with no major label artists in the catalog at the moment. I posted more thoughts on the store the day it was announced.

Lphoto puts a functional UI on photo management for desktop Linux. Red eye removal, cropping, color correction and a simple slide show tool are all part of the experience. Album generation and CD burning make sharing photos painless and an email photo feature is smart enough to remember your preferences between sessions. None of this is new to Windows and Mac OS X users, with tools like Picasa and iPhoto, but I’m pleasantly surprised to see the Linspire experience finally approaching parity.

Playback of streaming Windows Media, Real and QuickTime files is now a seamless experience within a Linux browser environment, although support for DRM content is still lacking (which has everything to do with Hollywood and record industry paranoia paired with Microsoft’s and Apple’s short-sighted strategy for content control). Windows Media support was previously available through a codec configuration of MPlayer, but is no longer a back-alley lurker in the Linux desktop experience. The RealPlayer for Linux environments is one of the more elegant, light-weight players available on any platform.

While none of this is going to move me away from Windows anytime soon, it’s good to see another viable alternative in the market. The Linspire Desktop interface has finally matured to a point where I could feel comfortable suggesting it as an alternative for people on a budget or anyone who needs basic consumer functionality without the risk of virus and spyware annoyances.

The other big news is the MP3beamer, which is essentially a Linspire computer with the ability to sync all your music throughout your house. The MP3beamer collects all your music and makes it available for distribution across the Mac Rendezvous network, Windows-compatible UPNP devices, Windows XP desktops, Linux and Mac OS X. I haven’t seen an official indication of support for DRM content using the MP3beamer, but I’m assuming it lacks the capacity, unless the playback device is capable of authenticating the content. The ability to stream to SmartPhone devices makes this a great tool for anyone want a plug-and-play solution for distributing your media from your home to wherever you may be.