Presto Instant-On Operating System Review

Article Index

Problems & Conclusions

Our primary reason for installing Konqueror was not for the previously-mentioned features, but because Konqueror adds what we feel is a critical missing feature from Presto: Samba (SMB) support. In simple terms, Samba support lets the OS access files stored on local network sources, such as on a network-attached storage (NAS) device. Samba support is usually included in most Linux distros; the fact that it was left out of Presto is a strong indication of Presto's Web-based focus. We asked Xandros why Presto lack Samba support and this was their reply: "Samba shares are not supported in the first release of Presto as the focus was on web centric tasks. We have taken this into account and are evaluating it for a future release however."

 The Konqueror app include Samba support.

If you store any files on a NAS device and want to access them in Presto, you'll need to use Konqueror. We store our media files on a NAS device so that the files are accessible from any system connected to our local network. We wanted to access our networked media files from within Presto, but the lack of built-in Samba support makes this difficult. We downloaded a handful of media player apps from the Presto Application Store, but the apps were unable to play media files from the NAS server. We also tried unsuccessfully to find a media player that included a DAAP (Digital Audio Access Protocol ) client, so that we could stream music from the iTunes server on our NAS device. Admittedly, we didn't spend a huge amount of time on the local-network media-steaming endeavors, so it is possible that there are viable solutions; but needless to say, you're not going to be able to play media stored on a network device or system with Presto's default apps and settings. You can, however, use Konqueror to copy the media files from the network to your system. Also, as Presto can access the system's NTFS file system, Presto can play the media files stored in the system's Windows folders.

 The open-source, ATI Linux graphics driver.

Another issue we ran into was caused by the ATI GPUs in both of our testbed systems. Xandros informed us that "there is no commercial ATI driver for Linux that is available, therefore, support is provided through open-source drivers which do not support all capabilities of the hardware." As such, Presto's generic graphics driver didn't support the 1920x1200 native resolution of the m9550f's display--the max resolution we could set was 1600x1200. We installed the open source ATI Linux driver onto the m9550f, which preceded to hose the Presto install--whenever we subsequently booted into Presto, we were greeted by a blank screen. We couldn't get the driver to install on the MacBook Pro either.

We obviously pushed Presto way beyond its primary focus of easy, simple, and quick access to Web-based tasks. We took a $20 Linux distro and tried to make it act and feel more like a full-blown OS. The fact that we made a fair bit of headway in this direction goes to show just how flexible and powerful the Presto OS can be. But at the end of the day, if you need the power of a complete Linux OS, then you are best served by running a full-blown distro. If you are a Linux newbie and want to dabble a bit with the Linux OS without getting too deep, Presto might be a good place to start. Barring any feature upgrades that future versions of the OS might bring, the current iteration of Presto will best serve the needs of those who want to just get online quickly and with little fuss.

Update: After we first published this review, a Xandros representative contacted us to clarify a few points and to point out two errors we made. We mistakenly stated that Xandros produces Asus's Splashtop instant-on OS, which is actually not the case. We also stated that Presto is a scaled-down version of the Xandros OS, which is also not correct. We have made these corrections in the review. The representative went on to state that the company is positioning Presto as a software utility and not as an OS. Only they can speak for how they are positioning Presto; however, despite their modest claims, we actually see Presto as far more than just a simple utility. That said, we have chosen to give Xandros the final word on this matter: 

"Our intent with Presto is not to position it as an OS with all the bells and whistles--not even an an OS--but as a software utility that turns old or slow computers into fast internet appliances. There's a big market for this kind of simple capability in developing countries and on low end hardware. For now we've traded features for simplicity since we find that a browser covers about 95% of the computing experience in these markets."

  • Inexpensive
  • Should work on most Windows XP and Vista systems
  • Doesn't require a dedicated partition
  • Relatively quick to boot
  • Simple, easy, and quick access to Firefox, Skype, and IM
  • Decent selection of additional free applications
  • Default config lacks power-savings, screensaver, and printer support
  • No built-in Samba (SMB) support
  • Doesn't support multiple users or password-protected logins

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