Xandros Presto is one of those products which, provocative headlines aside, actually could be a game changer in the computing world. The software is basically Linux bundled as a Windows application, which means it’s fast and easy to install, and provides a bunch of cool benefits to Joe Public computer user.
Point One: Yes of course you need Windows to run this, but the 5 minute installation is super simple and after that you need never see your Windows installation again. The low specification requirements (e.g. 512MB RAM) mean you can drag those old dusty laptops out of the cupboard and start to use them again productively. Really!
Point Two: Note to all Linux distro providers (listening Ubuntu?). If you cannot produce an operating system that delivers out of the box working WiFi network functionality, you are toast. Presto just works! I recently tried for half a day to install Ubuntu via Wubi and got absolutely nowhere. Presto is the first Linux variant I’ve found which works with old WiFi PC Cards like a Buffalo Airstation, and on different computers. No doubt there will be configurations which fail, but my experience with three antique laptops and two PC Card adapters was flawless. I installed Presto, powered up and found the network. Seconds later I was online. Awesome.
Point Three: The Xandros crew have deliberately kept it simple, oh so simple. The no frills interface features Skype, Firefox, multi-client instant messaging, an application download ‘store’ for free and commercial apps and a nice big friendly power button. It’s perfect for the ‘can’t be bothered’ crowd who just want to get going fast. No fancy eye candy, no wallpapers, just a swift, clean operating system that gets you online, gives access to your hard disk and starts up in a blistering few seconds. The only quibble I have is it would have been nice to have a more Windows Explorer like interface for the file manager, but it’s a small thing.
Point Four: You think a 30 second boot up is not much of a big deal? Think again. It makes *all* the difference, especially if you’re running aging hardware with duff batteries and hibernation is not an option. They say boot up can be in as little as 4 seconds or so, in practice that’s going to depend on your hardware config, but certainly it’s fast enough. My tests:
Toshiba Tecra 9000 (1GB RAM, 1GHz CPU): Windows 7 RC boot – 2 minutes. Shutdown 28 seconds. Presto boot up – 35 seconds, shutdown 4 seconds.
Dell Latitude C510 (512MB RAM, 1.2GHz CPU): Windows XP boot – 2 minutes. Presto boot – 40 seconds.
Conclusion: At last, a Linux that’s cheap, simple to use and just works. Sure you need a Windows installation, but what PC doesn’t have it already installed? And the more you use Linux in the flesh, the more you realise that as long as you have a net connection, there’s not much you can’t do with the PC. The list of Linux alternatives to Windows software is growing all the time, as are the online applications. Unfortunately seamless installation is another problem area with Linux at the moment, but it’s only a matter of time before the devs deliver an .exe type alternative across different distros. For now the Presto application store makes it super simple, and the list of packages is probably more than enough for most people. Priced at $19.95 with a free 7 day trial available via online download. Awesome.
Presto is an easy to install program that works with most Windows XP and Vista PCs – laptops and desktops. Once installed – whenever you turn on your computer, you’ll have the choice of running Windows or Presto. With Presto, you’re automatically connected to your network and productive in seconds. You can easily access your Windows files. When you’re done using Presto, you can turn off your laptop instantly.