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Linspire has long been the whipping boy for many in the open-source community, since back in the days when it was known as Lindows, due to it's commercial nature and unapologetically Windows-like interface. Late last year Linspire surprised everyone by releasing Freespire, a freely downloadable community version of Linspire available in proprietary and 100% open source versions. Freespire gave many users a taste of CNR, Linspire's flagship package management software and possibly the most important, innovative component of Linspire.

CNR is by far the most user-friendly package management system available, with a highly intuitive interface, rational descriptions and a rating system, which makes it much easier to decide between the many versions of software for each task. Up until now, those of us who didn't want Linspire or Freespire couldn't have CNR, simple as that. But the Linspire team have surprised everybody again, in late January, announcing that they would make CNR available for other distributions of Linux, in the second quarter of 2007. Although it might seem like a strange business decision, for Linspire to open up it's most identifiable product to the competition, it actually makes perfect sense. For companies like Linspire to succeed, Linux needs to succeed. One of the big problems hampering the uptake of Linux is a lack of unification across platforms. By opening up CNR Linspire has made it possible for basic users to install software and drivers on Linux much easier than on any other Operating System. The Mission Statement on the CNR website reads:

"The CNR Service was designed to solve the complexity of finding and installing desktop Linux applications, as well as educating the world about all the quality Linux software available," said Kevin Carmony, CEO of Linspire. "It only made sense to expand our successful CNR Service to additional desktop Linux distributions and their users. CNR will normalize the process of installing software across most of the popular distributions, something Linux really needs to gain mainstream adoption."

Lets take a look at the features of CNR and see why it is such an important technology.

CNR Features

  • One-click graphical install and uninstall of thousands of programs
  • Automatic update notification and one-click updating of OS components and software applications
  • Program and services management
  • One-click access to proprietary codecs, drivers and software
  • Allows you to buy dozens of different commercial programs, such as DVD Player, StarOffice, games,accounting programs, Win4Lin, Crossover Office, Cedega, etc.
  • Menu entries and desktop icons (optionally) are automatically added when installing and removed when uninstalling
  • "Charts" to easily find the most popular software programs by category
  • Search feature to easily find software programs by name, category, keywords, similar programs, author, etc
  • Clear, easy-to-understand product pages, including:
    • Screenshots of programs
    • User reviews of the programs
    • Description, versions, specs, file size, source, etc
    • User support and help by program
    • Release Notes
    • Screenshots

  • "Aisles" to group applications together for one-click install of multiple applications
  • Dedicated, high-speed server farms with huge bandwidth pipes for fast downloads
  • Friendly naming shown alongside normal package name
  • "Voting Booth" where users help prioritize new software to be added or updated
  • Automated, on-line Publisher Program where anyone can submit software to be QA-ed and tested for inclusion in the CNR Warehouse
  • Automatically retries and fixes any problem downloads
  • CNR has a better than 98% success rate. (The < 2% failures are usually a result of modem drop-offs, in which case CNR will can automatically resume when connected, providing the user with a successful install.)
  • Many of the most popular applications are enhanced and improved before adding them to the CNR Warehouse
  • Products and services which are found exclusively in the CNR Warehouse
  • Tracks problem packages on the server automatically, 24/7, and immediately hides the product from CNR users and instantly notifies the maintainer when a problem occurs
  • Easy, one-click access to a program's source code
  • User profiles based upon machine for managing multiple machines per user
  • Local or networked software repository for quick install of same programs on multiple computers on the same network or from a CD
  • Supported Distributions

    Both Debian and RPM distributions will be supported. During 2007, CNR.com will be rolling out support for current versions of the following distributions (listed alphabetically):

  • Debian
  • Fedora
  • Freespire
  • Linspire
  • OpenSuse
  • Ubuntu
  • Partnership With Canonical

    On the eighth of February Linspire Announced a new partnership with Canonical which would see them sharing core components of their operating systems. Ubuntu is to integrate CNR in to their future releases and Linspire will base its future releases on Ubuntu instead of Debian. Linspire is one of several distributions to shift their base from Debian to Ubuntu in recent months, most citing the regular release cycle as the primary reason, although it is unlikely affect the distribution in any perceptible way as Ubuntu is in turn based on Debian. What it does mean is that Linux vendors are finally realizing that they need to co-operate if they are going to ever gain traction in the desktop arena. Linspire CEO, Kevin Carmony, had this to say in the press release for the partnership. "This technology partnership goes a long way in advancing and unifying the Linux desktop," "Linux faces many challenges as it competes in a world historically dominated by Microsoft Windows, so there is plenty of work to go around and we're pleased to be able to offer differentiation and choice, while reducing fragmentation." Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth had the following to say. "The very nature of Free Software development is based on sharing and collaboration," "The less time, energy and resources Canonical and Linspire spend duplicating efforts, the more time we'll all have for unique improvements and innovation. We're pleased to see another key Linux distribution incorporating our work with Ubuntu." "Over the past few years, Linspire has refined their e-commerce and software delivery technology with their CNR service," continued Shuttleworth. "For some time, we've been planning enhancements to Ubuntu's commercial software management, and it was only natural to take advantage of Linspire's new, open CNR technology rather than duplicating that work."

    The Future

    Regardless of any suspicions people might have about Linspire's motives, this latest development with CNR can only be seen as a good thing for the future of Linux on the Desktop. Look out for CNR in the next few months, coming to a distribution near you, and be sure to check back here for a review as soon as it goes live on Debian.

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