It’s been over a year since Linspire announced a free version of the CNR (Click’N’Run) software management system for its own Linuxes — Freespire and Linspire — as well as others, such as Ubuntu, but the project is finally open to all as a beta.
According to the new Linspire CEO, Larry Kettler, Linspire is “excited to release the beta version of CNR.com.” This is a “free service that provides desktop Linux users one-click access to thousands of free and commercial software applications.”
CNR has long offered this kind of package management for Linspire, the company’s eponymous desktop Linux distribution. This version, however, works not with just Freespire 2.0 and Linspire 6.0, but with Ubuntu 7.04 and 7.10 as well. That’s not as much of a stretch as it first appears. Both Freespire and Linspire are based on Ubuntu.
Unlike earlier versions of CNR, where most of the work was done on the Linux PC, the new CNR does 99 percent of its work on its server side. On the desktop, a user only needs the new lightweight client to install, uninstall and update software programs and communicate between the Linux desktop and CNR.com.
In addition, previous versions of CNR were proprietary closed-source programs. The new CNR client is open-sourced and utilizes open and publicized APIs to communicate with CNR.com. If all goes well with the beta, Linspire said it plans on releasing CNR clients for Debian, Fedora and OpenSUSE as well in the near future.
Behind the scenes, the actual downloading and installation uses standard .deb and .rpm files. The difference is that CNR presents users with a Web-based catalog of programs. A user can then simply pick a program and click on it, and it and its dependency programs are automatically downloaded and installed. This way, new Linux users need never deal with the complexity of more manual software updating and installation programs.
At the same time, CNR.com provides several new interactive features that allow users to help contribute and build software communities together. Users can add and editing the software product pages by adding screenshots, user reviews, ratings, descriptions, categorizations and release notes. The site also includes product-specific forum discussions and wiki documents, as well as the main CNR interactive forum discussions and community support. Linspire is hoping that users will uses these interactive forums to ask questions, give answers, provide feedback and share ideas.
For software publishers, CNR.com provides a free Publisher Program that enables vendors to quickly get their software titles into CNR.com. This service is not just for pure open-source programs. Vendors that create proprietary programs that work on Linux are also welcome to offer their wares on the site.
The site itself is free to all users. It already includes dozens of commercial Linux software titles for sale, such as Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice, Parallels Workstation, Virtual Bridges’ Win4Lin, CodeWeavers’ CrossOver Office and TransGaming Technologies’ Cedega.
By providing a free, Linux-agnostic, centralized site for finding, researching, installing and managing Linux software, Linspire hopes to make CNR.com the software “shopping” site for Linux programs. In the best of all possible outcomes, the company said, Linspire would like to see CNR become for Linux programs what Download.com and TuCows already are for Windows freeware and shareware: the first choices for people looking for new, inexpensive programs.
Current Linspire and Freespire users must update to the new CNR client to install software from the site. These clients, as well as the ones for Ubuntu, can be downloaded from the main CNR site.