March 23rd, 2009
Well, Presto is a lightweight OS.
This because it is based on a minimalist Linux distro, made by Xandros with a couple of tricks, like an App Store and an easy install.
The story is not even new: see Puppy Linux (the most famous) and a lot more…
The (not very) new thing is that it installs directly into your Windows partition as a standard software and it modifies your C:\boot.ini to start as a second OS (Windows will start as default after 30 seconds timeout).
So it jumpstarts your PC with Linux in seconds (yes, for Windows you’ll have to reboot).
Here is what a classic boot.ini will become:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
The other nice thing is that Xandros has acquired the old Lindows/Linspire CNR service and integrated it into its distro, making it just another package manager (with its unique motto One Click Install), with purchasing functionalities (yes, there you’ll find both free and pay software).
A plus is that it auto mounts the Windows partitions and you may read and write them without any problems.
(You also get a full user partition, so that you may have separate files from Presto/Linux and Windows)
The thing is, it’s so minimalist that even the basic functionalities may result a little bit odd.
First note: it launches in 15 seconds from the OS selection. Quite remarkable on my P4 1Gb RAM. Unfortunately it’s exactly the same as my Windows XP fresh install (well, yes, Windows takes a little bit more space, it takes a lot of time to keep drivers and updates up to date, costs a lot more and it gets slower and slower when you install more and more software)
Third: yes, the launchbar is nice, but it’s not a fully featured application toolbar. You only have the bottom space for the resident programs and a link to open windows. And no, you can’t reduce apps to icons.
Even the old dear Alt-Tab works, but it doesn’t highlight the application thumbnail: it just shows the window borderline and displays the currently selected app name…. mmmh not very useful (is that skype?). You’ll have to get used.
Fourth: ok, now let’s rock with one click installs! Go to the app store and… yes it’s a web page
Ok, i want this screen capture nice GPL software because it’s just 160kB.
But no! You have another 73MB of dependencies
Yes I know, I know: you can’t have a 15 seconds-to-go OS and 160kB apps all in one shot
Conclusion: well, the idea is nice and very interesting, but I’ll wait for the next release…