Xandros Desktop 3.0 Business Edition

<font color="CC0000">|GCN Lab</font> Reviewer's Choice|

Pros: Excellent Windows compatibility, best for mobile users

Cons: Little out-of-box enterprise security

Price: $129

Features: A

Value: B

Security: B

Ease of use: A+

If you're worried that users won't be able to adjust to a Linux desktop, given their Windows mindset, then Xandros is the way to go. In fact, there are very few differences between a Xandros desktop and Windows 2000. Xandros even comes with the full version of CodeWeavers CrossOver Office 4.2, which lets you run certain 32-bit Windows programs without running Windows.

But should you want to run, for instance, an open-source office suite, Xandros includes Sun StarOffice (as opposed to OpenOffice) with full commercial support from Sun.
Xandros also easily authenticates with Windows Primary Domain Controllers and Active Directory servers, so getting into a Windows network is as easy as adding a new Windows client. We had no trouble at all.

Moreover, all our test peripherals worked fine with Xandros Desktop. And not only did Xandros have no problem detecting the Centrino wireless chip in our notebook, it actually scanned all the wireless signals in the area and gave connection options for different APs, just like a Windows XP machine. It is by far the best Linux OS for mobile computing.

Security is a bit less stringent than you'll find in some other Linux packages, which is like saying its armor is two inches thick instead of three. Out of the box, administrators can't manage Xandros desktop security settings from a central server the way they can with Red Hat Linux Desktop, which means a lot of trips to the local machine during setup or whenever security policies change.

Then again, out of the box you can deploy Xandros Desktop a lot cheaper than Red Hat.

But to put the two on an equal security management footing, you should buy Xandros Desktop Management Server ($645 for five user licenses) and set up a central management interface. Suddenly the two are cost- and feature-competitive.

For local security, users can set up a home folder that automatically encrypts anything dropped into it. This can be helpful, especially for the mobile worker, but it requires users to enforce an ad-hoc encryption policy.

The built-in mail client has an automatic spam filter. We hooked up the Xandros system to a test server that processes 80,000 spam messages a day, and the software held its own, although it let more spam through than our hardware firewall.

Ultimately, Xandros looks and acts like Windows. Of all the distributions we reviewed, Xandros is least likely to introduce a steep learning curve should your agency go the Linux destkop route. And with more enterprise features coming (including Citrix and SAP clients) it's poised to give Red Hat and Novell a run for their money.

Xandros Inc., New York, (613) 842-3494, www.xandros.com

GCN Lab director John Breeden III and chief technology editor Brad Grimes contributed to these reviews.


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