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A First Look at Novell Linux Desktop 9

November 10, 2004

This article was contributed by Ladislav Bodnar

Early this week, Novell announced the availability of Novell Linux Desktop 9, a new $50 (per seat per year) desktop Linux distribution for the enterprise. We rushed to create a Novell profile account in order to download the 30-day evaluation edition. After all, Novell is the first well-known commercial entity undergoing a large-scale migration of its desktop computers to Linux. Also, this is the first release of what will eventually become Novell's main, fully supported Linux distribution, with SUSE LINUX reportedly being turned into a "community" project, à la Fedora Core. We were especially curious about one aspect of Novell Linux Desktop: what has been done to make the new operating system acceptable to thousands of Novell employees, most of whom are likely to be displeased with such a drastic change in their working routines?

Let's start with the installation. As expected, the system installer is YaST, somewhat automated, re-branded, and with a nice neutral-looking theme. GNOME 2.6 and KDE 3.2.1 are the only two desktop environments available and users need to make an explicit decision to install either of them, or alternatively, select both in the detailed package selection dialog. GNOME seems to be Novell's preferred desktop with more obvious customizations - icons for the Firefox browser, Novell Evolution collaboration client (the word "Ximian" has been dropped from the application), and OpenOffice.org Writer prominently displayed on the task bar. If software updates are available, a Red Carpet icon will also be around to alert the user to the fact. On the other hand, KDE has more or less the default SUSE look with Konqueror and Kontact as the preferred web browsing and mail/organizer clients.

Much thought was given to the selection of applications and their names in menus. As has been the trend with other user-friendly desktop distributions, most software packages were renamed to give a clear indication of their purpose. Names such as Gaim or K3B were replaced with "Instant Messenger" and "CD Burner". This brings up an interesting point regarding preferred applications - although K3B is a KDE application, it is the default CD burner on the GNOME desktop. This example indicates that Novell developers chose what they believed was the best application for each task, irrespective of the application's affinity in terms of development toolkits and class libraries. Overall, the Novell GNOME desktop is very nicely designed, somewhat reminiscent of that found in any recent Fedora Core release, and the users' first impressions, after booting into their new operating system for the first time, are likely to be positive.

Although Novell Linux is based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, many of the more visible applications were updated to later versions. This includes not only the above-mentioned GNOME desktop, but also OpenOffice.org (1.1.3), Evolution (2.0.1) and Firefox (0.10.0). The kernel is at version 2.6.5 and the X window system is the last pre-release of XFree86 4.4.0 before that project's infamous license change. A number of Novell-specific applications and compatibility layers with other Novell products were also included - among them iFolder, Red Carpet, Novell ZENworks and Connector for Microsoft Exchange Server deserve a special mention.

  • iFolder is a file synchronization service. All documents in the Documents/iFolder folder are regularly synchronized and backed up with an iFolder back-end server and can be retrieved from any computer with an iFolder client (they are available for both Windows and Linux), or through a web browser.

  • Red Carpet is a software management solution originally developed by Ximian. It offers software installation and removal, automated security updates, system-wide upgrades, searches, patches and history logs. Red Carpet effectively replaces YaST as the preferred software management tool on Novell Linux Desktop.

  • Novell ZENworks (not part of Novell Linux Desktop) is a system administration tool that offers centralized control over software configurations on Linux servers, workstations, laptops, and even handheld devices.

  • Connector for Microsoft Exchange Server was also originally developed by Ximian. It is a freely available GPL-ed product which turns the Evolution collaboration suite into an Microsoft Exchange client.
Also worth mentioning are the included system administration utilities. They consist of two independent modules - the system-wide YaST (called "Administrator Settings"), which requires root privileges, and a user-only control center (called "Personal Settings"), which is a collection of shortcuts to launch personal, appearance, hardware and system preferences dialogs. As for included software, all popular desktop applications are available - The GIMP and Sodipodi for graphics manipulation and vector drawing, Gaim, XChat and GnomeMeeting for instant messaging, IRC and video conferencing, Rhythmbox, Totem and RealPlayer 10 for playing multimedia files, as well as the usual array of system utilities. All these, together with the three back-bone applications (OpenOffice.org, Evolution and Firefox) provide an efficient working environment for most users.

We liked the new Novell Linux Desktop 9. It is a meticulously designed application suite, especially the GNOME desktop, with many user-friendly enhancements and a careful selection of applications. Its integration with some business-oriented solutions, such as iFolder and Connector provide added functionality that will appeal to enterprises. There is also a lot of developer enthusiasm behind the product - see this blog by Luis Villa, or the Novell Linux Desktop Cool Solutions page with an incredible amount of articles, tips and tricks, application notes, FAQs, links to user forums, and other useful information. The source code is also available. The price is reasonable and additional support options can be purchased through Novell for that extra peace of mind. All in all, a very good product indeed.

Comments (13 posted)

Distribution News

Fedora

The Fedora Project has announced the release of Fedora Core 3. See the download instructions or the torrent tracker to get your copy.

Fedora Core 2 updates: system-config-users (fixes bug #130379), wget (adds support for large files), system-config-users (fixes bugs #138093, #102637, #126756 and #131180) and openoffice.org (lots of bug fixes)

Fedora Core 3 upgrades to KDE 3.3.1, which updates the following packages: kde-il8n, kdeaddons, kdeadmin, kdeartwork, kdebase, kdebindings, kdeedu, kdegames, kdegraphics, kdelibs, kdemultimedia, kdenetwork, kdepim, kdesk, kdetoys, kdeutils, kdevelop, kdewebdev and arts. Other Fedora Core 3 updates: udev (removes debugging code), initscripts (minor bug fixes), hotplug (load sg module), ipsec-tools (fixes the use of 'setkey'), gpdf (rebuilt for FC3), wireless-tools (fixes a memory leak), redhat-artwork (fixes issues when using redhat-artwork on 64-bit platforms), gnome-media (merge from devel), gnumeric (64bit excel {im|ex}port backport fixes), openoffice.org (lots of bug fixes) and jwhois (fixes a crash when a processing a query requires more than one redirection).

Comments (none posted)

Mandrakelinux

Mandrakelinux 10.1 for x86-64 is now available. This new version is compatible with the following 64-bit processors: AMD Athlon 64, AMD Opteron, Intel Xeon 64 and Intel EM64T.

Various packages are available that fix certain bugs in KDE-related packages in Mandrakelinux 10.1 Official edition.

Comments (none posted)

Novell Linux Desktop 9 announced

Novell has announced the availability of Novell Linux Desktop 9, its entry into the desktop arena. "Novell does not rule out general replacement of Windows and other proprietary operating systems with Novell Linux Desktop."

Comments (3 posted)

Trustix Secure Linux

Trustix Secure Linux has announced the release of TSL 2.2 (Sunchild). The announcement contains a list of new packages and major upgrades in this version of TSL.

The first set of updates for TSL 2.2 includes various bug fixes for php, postfix, kernel, sqlgrey and sqlite.

Comments (none posted)

Ubuntu

The first batch of pressed Ubuntu 4.10 "Warty Warthog" CDs are shipping. "If you or someone you know would like to order pressed Ubuntu 4.10 CDs and have not yet, you will need to place an order on or before Friday November 12, 2004. After this, all orders will be not be shipped until we finish the next release of Ubuntu. Of course, with our quick release cycle, this is less than 6 months away."

X.org packages are now available for Ubuntu's Hoary Hedgehog. "For the last two weeks, Fabio Massimo Di Nitto and Daniel Stone have been locked in a room together, and we now have packages to show for it. The upgrade from XFree86 to X.Org should be perfectly smooth and seamless, and it is supported across Ubuntu's three architectures: amd64, i386, and powerpc."

A summary and log of Ubuntu's fourth community meeting is available, along with some information for those interested in getting a sponsorship for the Ubuntu conference in Spain.

Comments (none posted)

Yellow Dog Linux

Yellow Dog Linux v4.0 is now shipping from the Terra Soft Solutions on-line Store and will be available to resellers soon. Terra Soft has also announced the Yellow Dog 4.0 based Y-HPC, a complete 64-bit OS for PowerPC code development and High Performance cluster Computing.

Comments (none posted)

Debian GNU/Linux

Colin Watson provides a Sarge release update, including the news that Andreas Barth and Frank Lichtenheld are now Release Assistants, the toolchain is final with glibc 2.3.2.ds1-18 (already in testing), Sarge will release with KDE 3.2, plus a debian-installer update and much more.

There will be a Bug Squashing in Frankfurt, November 27-28, 2004. "The focus of this event will be to close as many RC-bugs as possible and to test some woody -> sarge upgrades. BSP coordinator and release assistant Frank Lichtenheld will be attending the meeting."

Comments (none posted)

Distribution Newsletters

Debian Weekly News

The Debian Weekly News for November 9, 2004 has a summary of the DebConf5 preparation meeting, debian-installer remote network tests, the search for distributable firmware, Alioth project naming conventions, installing Debian on a desktop, and more.

Full Story (comments: none)

Gentoo Weekly Newsletter 8 November 2004

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of November 8, 2004 is out. This week's edition looks at the preliminary results of the Gentoo User Survey, and other topics.

Full Story (comments: none)

Ubuntu Traffic #10

Issue #10 of Ubuntu Traffic is available for the week of October 23-29, 2004. Here are the topics covered: Ubuntu Marketing, Wiki Update, New Documentation List, Hoary Kickoff Meeting, Community Council Meeting, Warty Live CD Released, Meet the Hoary Hedgehog, and Security Advisories.

Full Story (comments: none)

DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 74

The DistroWatch Weekly for November 8, 2004 features FreeBSD and covers several other topics.

Comments (none posted)

Minor distribution updates

blueflops

blueflops has released v2.0.8. "Changes: The kernel was updated to 2.6.9. busybox was updated to 1.0.0. There is a new pppd binary."

Comments (none posted)

DNA Linux

DNA Linux has released v0.4. "Changes: The system is now based on Slax 4.1.4. EMBOSS was updated to 2.9.0 with full PNG and X11 support for prettyplot, dotmatcher, and polydot. FinchTV 1.2, an ABI DNA raw sequence data graphical viewer was added."

Comments (none posted)

NSA Security Enhanced Linux

The NSA has released Security Enhanced Linux v2004110116. "Changes: This release is based on Linux 2.6.9, and includes significant scalability enhancements to the core SELinux code. Numerous improvements to libselinux, policycoreutils, and policy have also been merged. An updated version of setools from Tresys has been merged. Updated userland patches and SRPMS have been merged from the Fedora Core 3 development tree. This release includes the first public release of a new tool by MITRE, polgen, which attempts to generate policy for an application based on patterns in its behavior."

Comments (none posted)

Newsletters and articles of interest

Mozilla-Based Linspire Internet Suite Released (MozillaZine)

MozillaZine looks at the Mozilla-based Linspire Internet Suite. "The new program is an enhanced version of the Mozilla Application Suite with several additional features developed for Linspire by the Mozdev Group."

Comments (none posted)

Distribution reviews

In-depth Mandrakelinux 10.1 Official Edition review (Linux Tips for Free)

Linux Tips for Free takes a long look at Mandrakelinux 10.1 Official. "For this review I went out of my way and installed on all systems I could get my hands on. This should give a much better overall impression of the capabilities of the tested operating system than when it just gets tested with 1 or 2 systems. What few people realise when reading a review, is that their experience might well be different due to differences in hardware."

Comments (none posted)

Entry-level Linux: Linspire OS 4.5 (LinuxWorld.au)

LinuxWorld.au takes a quick look at Linspire OS 4.5. "The Linspire interface contains many familiar conventions that Windows users will find comforting, although Linspire (perhaps ironically, considering the lawsuits brought against it by Microsoft) doesn't seem to try as hard as some distributions to mimic the Microsoft operating system. After starting for the first time after installation, a slick multimedia tutorial starts up. As far as these types of tutorials go, it's quite a good one and well worth a watch if you can't be bothered reading the slim, full-colour manual."

Comments (none posted)

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