back to article An unexpectedly fresh blast from the past, Freespire 9.5 has landed

A descendant of one of the oldest desktop Linuxes around surprises… both by existing at all, as well as by being impressively good. The newly released Freespire 9.5 is the latest version of the free member of the Linspire family. It's based on Ubuntu 22.04.2, including GNOME 42.5, heavily customised to resemble Windows via a …

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  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Shame really

    I lost interest when you mentioned Gnome

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Shame really

      > I lost interest when you mentioned Gnome

      As it happems, I personally would agree.

      However, I thinik the decision is defensible.

      Like it or not, GNOME is now the most widespread Linux desktop environment among mainstream distros. It's the default in Ubuntu, Red Hat, Fedora, SUSE, and Debian. It is relatively easy to change the way that GNOME works using extensions, which are simple JavaScript programs. It is more difficult to customise KDE in ways that its developers never intended. So for a small team, using GNOME as the basis is understandable.

      I would rather see them continue the efforts of Xandros, but the last extensively customised version of Xandros that I saw, was based on KD2. I don't think that that code could be adapted to or used with KDE 5 today, & to adapt it would be a substantial development project in C++. It looks to me like this modern version of Freespire is almost a one-man project, and I don't think that it's realistic for a small organisation or a solo developer to undertake major customisation of the Plasma desktop.

      1. DoContra

        Re: Shame really

        But when your goal is to get as close as possible to (modern) Windows, surely KDE/Plasma is already much closer to the goal than GNOME? (to the point where Plasma 6 is already trying hard to differentiate from Windows 11 -- specifically on the heading "Floating Pane").

        You still need to deal with the start menu and possibly the window switcher (within your constraints, by searching for closer alternatives and bundling them by default), but in both cases you're already much closer to Windows than GNOME out of the box.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Shame really

          I really wish they'd just stop it. Making the panel floa by default, apparently just so they don't look like Windows? There's oly one change I want them to make there and that's to revert to the earlier arrangement, namely allowing unhide to be restricted to a corner rather than have the panel unhide any time the cursor touches any part of it.

      2. unimaginative Bronze badge

        Re: Shame really

        Its wide usage makes it even more questionable what the value of yet another customised Gnome desktop environment is.

        As for Plasma, there are alternatives (Liquid Shell) and customised versions (NX Desktop) so it can be done.

        It is also highly configurable. I am typing this at a plasma desktop with tiling windows (there are Kwin extensions for that), a small icon bar instead of a taskbar in a top panel, minimal window borders and the window title in the panel. It does not look anything like the default Windows like look of Plasma. It is so configurable and extendable I see little need for customisation.

      3. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Shame really

        Probably a silly question, but is Suse actually Gnome-default these days? I use OpenSuse quite a lot and am happy enough with its default KDE. However it seems to be drawing closer to Suse over time and I'd hate to get the announcement that KDE is no longer default in the next new version. I've a desktop and a couple of laptops which need updating / possible reinstalling soon...


        1. Mockup1974 Bronze badge

          Re: Shame really

          openSUSE gives you the choice of multiple desktops - KDE, GNOME, Xfce and others. There's not really a default.

          SUSE regretfully only supports GNOME. Probably to save money because they can just get Red Hat to do the actual work. You can still install Plasma from an extra repo called "SUSE Package Hub" that contains some openSUSE packages. It's kind of the equivalent to the EPEL repo for RHEL/CentOS/Alma.

          See here:

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ... lost interest when you mentioned ...

    Yet another Linux distribution, more or less like the vast majority of them out there.


    1. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

      Except this one predates the majority...

      1. sten2012 Bronze badge

        Hard to make that claim if it's now derived from Ubuntu. Unless it's time travelling!

        I'd argue the brand maybe older (but then why rename it most recently?) But I'd struggle to call a distro based on Ubuntu, older than Ubuntu.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          >” Hard to make that claim if it's now derived from Ubuntu. Unless it's time travelling!”

          They are still effectively based on Debian, however rather than take Debian Unstable themselves and make a stable desktop release, they are saving a step and avoiding duplicating work now being done by Canonica on Debian Unstable… ie. Ubuntu could be described as a stable release of Debian Unstable…

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            "Ubuntu could be described as a stable release of Debian Unstable…"

   could, er, Debian Stable. Indeed, if you are going to customise it as much as this, it might have been better to start there.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Nevertheless I had to go over to my cousin in law's today to update her Zorin,* It doesn't actually look that much like the W7 that had been on there originally. It would be easier to knock up a more convincing Windows look-alike for any version of WIndows with KDE. It's distros like this that save us the bother. Having read Liam's review earlier I did idly wonder whether I should have burnt a DVD & done a fall reinstall.

      * All she actually needed was an update to Firefox because she couldn't get John Lewis & M&S to work but it seemed best to do the lot.

      But what is it with a lot of sites recently (Screwfix, I'm looking at you too) that have caused them to start throwing "Application error: a client-side exception has occurred" if they don't like the browser? It's a case of being too clever by half but not half clever enough. Nevertheless I doubt Screwfix would turn away customers for wearing the wrong brand of boots or John Lewis for carrying the wrong brand of handbag so why put obstacles in the path of online customers?

      1. HappyDog

        * All she actually needed was an update to Firefox

        And you completely changed her usual desktop environment as well? I'm sure she was delighted!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: * All she actually needed was an update to Firefox

          Got one! I knew somebody would come up with a comment like that.

          Her original DE was Windows 7. That fell to a ransomware attack many years ago clicking on a file in an email she thought was from a friend.

          Fortunately it wasn't a very sophisticated one. It had written out encrypted versions of files but simply deleted rather than overwritten the old ones. So I booted up the System Rescue distro (so many of these distros) to recover the files onto an external SSD. The only problem was finding the files that mattered amongst all the shrapnel of old cache files and working out what they should be called. Then installed Zorin which she's been happily using ever since.

          Today's update changed nothing on the DE. The W7 partition is still sitting there, perfectly accessible. It just doesn't get used.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    I was expecting to see something more XP-like or XP-like (again) or even Mac-like, but it doesn't look like anything much.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > it doesn't look like anything much.

      I welcome correction on this, but the desktops that I have seen that undertake extensive customisation of GNOME usually either do so by forking the code, as per the example of Linux Mint, or by using in-house developed extensions. For example, Zorin OS. I've spoken to the team behind Zorin, OS, & they told me that they originally did a lot of the development work on "dash to panel", but that project is now continuing via other developers, and as far as I know the current version of the Zorin OS extensions are only available in Zorin OS itself.

      In the interests of fairness, it is worth pointing out that older versions of the Zorin OS extensions are available from the GNOME extensions store, but they are not the current versions and they do not work on any current or recent version of GNOME. In fact, the versions that are on the GNOME extensions site were put there by the current maintainer and creator of the Ubuntu Cinnamon distribution.

      Whereas Freespire here is using existing extensions from the GNOME extensions page, cleverly combining them to achieve a comparable degree of customisation to Mint and Zorin OS with considerably less development work. I think that's a respectable effort and that this is worthy of attention. I was not expecting a small team's relaunch of a product from some 20 years ago to be anything dramatic or impressive, and yet this was a substantially modified version of Ubuntu, and it actually works pretty well -- thus the positive review. I was actually quite impressed by what I saw.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Vim is preinstalled for Stockholm Syndrome sufferers"

    That's what I think of vim users too. One of my first moves is always to install nvi.

    But ksh - that's really a blast from the past. I don't suppose they've also unwound Ubuntu's idea of there being only a single user password to get root privileges via sudo? Having one user PW to log in and a different one to gain root is just basic 2FA.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      nvi's going backwards though, it's a fork of vi which didn't get very far, unlike vim and neovim (or even dare I say it MacVim and VimR).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        It depends on what you regard as a step back - or maybe the value you put on the step forward.

        My objection to vim dates back to my very first encounter. I wanted to remove the carriage returns from a file which originated on Windows. Opened the file in vim and ^Ms at the end of the lines!

        Some unfortunate default in a config file obviously but my reaction is simple: if it can hide that from me what else can it hide? It is not to be trusted. Far simpler to go back to the real vi, which, in effect, nvi is rather than learn the ins and outs of vim's "imrpovements" when I'm not going to trust it.

        Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. As far as I'm concerned vim lost it instantly on first contact and, as vi is all I want, it just isn't going to get the chance to regain it.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "nvi's going backwards though, it's a fork of vi which didn't get very far, unlike vim and neovim (or even dare I say it MacVim and VimR)."

        With asll those forks and implementations, it sound slike it would be a lot simpler just to instal emacs and be done with it.

        Uh hum-------------------->

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Yup, I know it's a great OS but does it have a text editor?

  6. Francis Boyle Silver badge


    I will not appreciate Freespire's ribbon-driven office suite.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: No

      [Author here]

      > I will not appreciate Freespire's ribbon-driven office suite.

      Well, no, personally, me neither. However, the vast majority of people coming across from Microsoft Windows will probably know a version of Microsoft Office from the last 15 years or so, and as such that means that they will be used to a ribbon.

      It seems to me that Freespire is aiming at the same sort of potential user as Linux Lite, and as such a tool such as OnlyOffice will be less intrusive and less shocking to people used to the Microsoft ecosystem than, for example, LibreOffice.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: No

        "less shocking to people used to the Microsoft ecosystem than, for example, LibreOffice."

        I wonder about that. I think a lot of home users may be using LibreOffice rather than fork out for MS Office and others may have been using ancient pre-ribbon versions. A few days ago I was told of someone who had a new laptop (presumably Windows) and had a friend set up a lot of software for her. She mentioned he'd installed OpenOffice. ?! Had I misheard OnlyOffice? But no, she sent out minutes a few days later as a .odt file and I know she's not the only one in the group using LO or OO.

  7. DustFox

    its even older than that

    Its the descendant of Corel Linux which turned to xanserOS then Lindows then Linspire! used them all until mid 2000s

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: its even older than that

      Holy moly I had forgotten all about Corel Linux!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: its even older than that

        I think I've still got a pressed CD for that around somewhere...

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I do remember trying it back in the Lindows days when someone at work brought in a CD-ROM with it on and we fired it up on a spare PC to mess around with.

    At the time I knew that the name was going to rub Microsoft up the wrong way though, despite the fact that the terminology of referring to windows in a GUI being around more than a decade before MS released the first version of Windows, since it formed the W in the acronym WIMP (Windows Icons Menu Pointer) which was coined by Xerox in 1973. So should have been fair use to use Lindows name.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > So should have been fair use to use Lindows name.

      As I understand it all though LinSpire lost the trademark litigation they settled out of court, and for them to give up the trademark. I believe that Microsoft paid them US$20 million, so they were substantially rewarded for changing their name with an amount of money that was a big win for a small company.

  9. ricegf

    Lindows actually won the lawsuit

    I remember it well, being of a certain age. Lindows' argument was that "windows" was the generic description of a computer desktop by the time Microsoft got around to writing theirs. Just as you can't trademark Hotdog™ as the brand of your hot dogs, they argued the word windows was an invalid trademark on a windowed operating system.

    Their argument was getting great traction, too, so Microsoft wrote them a $20,000,000 check to settle the lawsuit in full. All Lindows agreed in response was to change their name.

    Sounds like a win to me.

    1. sten2012 Bronze badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Lindows actually won the lawsuit

      So.. if the argument has been proven to be valid, can't anyone now do the same?

      Even after inflation that 20million will come in very handy for many if that's the going rate.

      Welcome to Bingdows. (BInary Next Gen) windowed operating system

      Icon because I assume they're already on the way, but I'm still hopeful the cheque is in the post.

  10. Mockup1974 Bronze badge

    Weird choices

    GNOME... but wrangled into a normal Windows-like layout?

    ... and with Discover for some reason?

    And why the sudden opinionatedness about Snaps?

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