Based on Ubuntu 22.04, Freespire 9.5 changes its approach again, relying on a user interface familiar to Windows users.
Let me start with a short introduction. Freespire’s roots lead back to Lindows, an easy-to-use Linux-based operating system with Wine integration and easy application support. However, the distro was renamed Linspire after a Microsoft lawsuit.
Then, Freespire derived from Linspire as a desktop-oriented Linux distribution, composed mostly of free and open-source software. Nowadays, the project is sponsored by Linspire, a commercial Linux distro owned by PC OpenSystems LLC.
The just released Freespire 9.5 again comes with many changes, so let’s see what’s new.
Freespire 9.5 Highlights
Based on Ubuntu 22.04 “JammyJellyfish” and powered by Linux kernel 5.19, Freespire 9.5 “Black Balloon” is once again full of surprises, but not in a good way. Here’s what it’s all about.
While the previous releases from the Freespire 8.x series were strongly focused on integrating various Google apps such as Docs, Drive, Calendar, News, and so on within the OS, there is no trace of them in Freespire 9.x.
In addition, while the KDE Plasma desktop environment was used in Freespire 8.x, the devs abruptly changed the approach to Xfce in the Freespire 9 release.
However, with 9.5, users are surprised by another shift as the developers have now chosen to go with GNOME 42.5. The goal is to win over Linux users relying on the traditional desktop experience and those switching from Windows to Linux.
This has been achieved by literally cluttering GNOME with extensions, such as Dash to Panel, ArcMenu, and others, to mimic a classic desktop known from Windows OS. However, the result is far from expected, feeling more like a lack of attention to detail and consistency.
On the app side, including ONLYOFFICE 7.3 as the default office suite, rather than the commonly used LibreOffice elsewhere, is an interesting move by the developers. Among the other apps included with Freespire 9.5 are Firefox 102.11esr, Thunderbird 102.11, Transmission 3, Rhythmbox 3.4.4, and so on.
Although based on Ubuntu, Snap support has been removed in Freespire 9.5 in favor of an out-of-the-box one added for Flatpak – something that will appeal to most Linux users.
So, what can we say in conclusion? It is hard for a Linux distro to gain followers if every new release surprises them with a change of direction. The lack of attention to detail and the overall impression of something thrown together leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Because of this, we wouldn’t recommend betting on Freespire for your daily computing needs.
If you’re looking for a close-to-Windows experience, we recommend Zorin OS, where things are radically different.
However, if you’re a desperate distro-hopper, you might give Freespire 9.5 a try. Links to download the installation ISO images are at the bottom of the official announcement.