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Freespire 1.0 arrives early
Aug. 08, 2006

Linspire Inc. was going to announce the release of Freespire 1.0 -- its free, Debian-based desktop Linux operating system that combines open-source software with legally-licensed proprietary drivers, codecs, and applications -- next week at LinuxWorld in San Francisco. Instead, this new desktop Linux distribution has emerged early.

Starting on August 7th, the final version of Freespire 1.0 became available on BitTorrent and some download sites.

When Linspire was contacted about the leaked news on the Freespire wiki, the San Diego-based company confirmed that Freespire 1.0 was indeed already available.

Released almost a month ahead of schedule, Freespire offers users the ability to choose what software they want installed on their computer, including third-party proprietary drivers, codecs, and applications software.

Linspire, the parent company to this community-based distribution, claims that because of this Freespire is able to provide better out-of-the-box hardware, file type, and multimedia support, such as MP3, Windows Media, Real, QuickTime, Java, Flash, ATI, nVidia, fonts, WiFi, and win-modems. Freespire also provides one-click access to legally licensed DVD playback software, games, Sun's StarOffice, Win4Lin, CodeWeaver's Crossover Office, TransGaming's Cedega, and dozens of other commercial products.

In a recent review of Freespire, we found that the operating system does indeed make it easier to work with proprietary drivers than most Linux distributions.

"Users should be free to easily and legally choose what software they want to install and use on their computer," said Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony in a statement.

"Freespire provides a free marketplace for any and all Linux software, including proprietary, open source, free, and commercial products. As with any free market, all vendors are free to participate and offer their wares, and the buyer is free to choose from the different wares without limitations or restrictions on their choice," Carmony added.

For software management, Freespire comes pre-installed with Linspire's commercial CNR (Click N Run) technology, an easy-to-use application download and patching system. Additionally, experienced Linux users can use Debian's apt-get or Synaptic to download new programs.

Some users strongly object to Linspire making it so easy for users to use proprietary software with open-source Linux. They argue that by making the road easier for proprietary programs in Linux, it will serve to discourage open-source software development. Since no other Linux distribution has ever so completely embraced the world of proprietary software, it remains to be seen what, if any, effect this move will have on Linux.

-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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