|A first look at SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (Jul. 13, 2006)
The newest SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, version 10, is so close to being done that you can almost taste it. Novell released the gold master last week to its partners, and the server version, SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server), based on the same code, is also almost ready for release.
This is an early review of the new version of SLED 10 (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop).
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The first thing users of the older NLD (Novell Linux Desktop) will notice is that the new desktop is no stripped down thin-client style Linux desktop like NLD. SLED is a full, rip-out-XP desktop replacement system.
In 2004, then CEO Jack Messman positioned NLD as not being "about the wholesale replacement of your Windows systems, but rather it's about identifying where and when an open-source desktop can be a sensible, cost-effective alternative."
Things have changed.
The new official Novell enterprise desktop comes with all the business applications any office would need. These include:
For its user interface, the new SLED 10 defaults to Gnome 2.12, but KDE 3.5.1 is also available. It also includes the Freedesktop.org project's OpenGL-driven X Server, Xgl. With Xgl and Novell's 3D compositing window manager, compiz, users can switch among 3D virtual desktops with translucency and all the other hot, desktop interface prettiness.
- OpenOffice.org 2.02
- Firefox Web browser 1.504
- GAIM 1.5 instant messaging client
- Beagle desktop search
- Evolution 2.6
You want applications? Here you go, SLED 10 comes with OpenOffice for your office needs, Evolution in place of Outlook, and Firefox for your Web browsing needs.
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In the server version, you're given the following packages to work with:
Other programs can, of course, be easily added to get just the right mix for your use.
- Apache version 2.2
- Cyrus imapd version 2.2
- MySQL 5.0
- PHP 5.1
- PostgreSQL 8.1
- Samba version 3.0.22
YaST2, SUSE's update, new program installation and system management program, has finally removed the bitter taste of the new YaST's update problems. In my tests, the update functionality worked well.
Speaking of tests, I ran the new SLED on two systems: a desktop and a laptop.
The desktop was my no-name box with a 2.8 GHz Pentium IV, 512 MB of RAM, and an Ultra ATA/100, 7200 RPM, 60 GB hard drive. On it, I upgraded from an existing copy of OpenSUSE 10.1.
For the laptop, I used my clunky, but powerful, Toshiba Satellite A35-S159. It has 512MB of RAM, a 2.3 GHz Pentium 4 M, and a 60 GB hard drive. I blew away its existing MEPIS system, and installed SLED 10 as a completely new installation.
On both systems, I elected to use the KDE interface. Even though this is not the default desktop, I had no trouble using the system or its many bundled programs.
Welcome to my usual KDE desktop -- with the menu bar on the top, where God meant it to be! The wallpaper, by the by, is a shot of the West Virginia University basketball arena. Three guesses where I went to school.
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In both cases, the upgrade and the installation, the effort required was almost entirely trivial. I've had more trouble setting up VCRs. Now, clearly I know a thing or two about installing Linux. But, seriously, although it wasn't quite as easy as installing Xandros 4, if you can install any operating system, you can install SLED 10.
For businesses, this new Linux desktop also includes an option during installation to register third party add-on products on the fly, to provide a full, company-specific installation package.
The new dependency resolver (ZYPP) provides a single view of all registered products and their packages. When it works, it automatically finds and resolves dependency and package combination issues.
This, in turn, relies on Libzypp. This is a backend program that uses RPM (RPM Package manager) packages for installing, removing, and querying program packages. The new YaST, powered by Libzypp, did not work well in its first incarnation in the free OpenSUSE 10.1, but Novell finally seems to have gotten the new package update program to behave.
Hurrah! After the agony of OpenSUSE 10.1 upgrades, with SLED 10 it's easy again to add new programs and update existing ones.
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That said, I can't help but notice that I'm still, at this late stage, getting updates for the package manager, so clearly there's still work to be done here.
The one problem with the update and install process was one that I expected: SLED 10 couldn't install my Atheros AR5001X+ wireless network adapter. I knew this wasn't going to go right because Novell is no longer shipping binary-only kernel drivers and non-free kernel modules
This includes the Atheros drivers (ath*), which was my problem; the Softlink Smartmodem drivers (slamr, slusb) for the so-called Win Modems; and many CAPI (Common ISDN API) drivers like fc*, fx*, e2220pc, and e5520pc.
Unlike OpenSUSE 10.1, the community distribution on which SLED 10 is based, this distribution does not include a CD of proprietary, but Linux-compatible, software.
Novell suggests that you talk to your equipment vendor for updated drivers. In the meantime, you can also install these drivers, and other software, by following the instructions in Jem Matzan's excellent article on upgrading OpenSUSE.
You'll run into some error messages when you use such sources as the popular file website packman.unixheads.com. Nevertheless, YaST will install from these sites. Using packman, I installed the madwifi driver for my WiFi card and the codec files needed to play QuickTime and WMF (Windows Media Format) files on Linux.
There have also been some other program changes in SLED 10. Acrobat Reader, which is proprietary software, has been replaced by evince for the default GNOME desktop, and kpdf for KDE.
Novell has also elected to depreciate the JFS (Journaling File System). SUSE 10 still supports it, but only for the purpose of upgrading to another file system.
The operating system also now includes Novell AppArmor is an integral part of the operating system. At the same time, SELinux is no longer included, since AppArmor serves the same purposes.
Taken as a whole, I found SLED 10 to work extremely well for me. As earlier versions of SUSE desktops have done, this newest SUSE fit in smoothly with my existing hybrid Samba domain / Active Directory network.
SLED 10 makes it easy to work with Windows-based networks.
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And, it also makes it easy to work with various file systems. Here we, have a local directory on the left, a directory from a shared Windows 2003 server directory via Active Directory and Samba on top, and a remote ftp site on the bottom.
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To put it in a nutshell, everything, with the exceptions noted above, just worked. As fond of I am of other Linux desktops, such as MEPIS and Xandros, there's no question that SLED 10 is going to become my main desktop operating system.
Wise business IT executives should start considering SLED 10 for their main desktop operating system as well. Vista continues to be troublesome, and it's looking more and more like Vista may not ship in January. XP remains a bad security joke and an operating system all in one.
If you're considering a business desktop alternative, SLED 10 should be at the top of your shopping list.
SLED 10 for x86 and x86-64 will soon be available from resellers and solution providers. The list price for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop for x86 is expected be $50.
SLES Server 10 has subscription-based pricing, available for a one- or three-year period. The subscription fee entitles customers to receive software updates and support
No matter the time-period, there are three levels of support. These are: Basic, which comes with web support and unlimited incidents; Standard, which gives users 12-hours of support per business day with unlimited incidents; and Priority, which provides 24 by 7 support and unlimited incidents.
On the x86 and related architectures and the POWER-based architectures, support for one year is $349 for Basic, $799 for Standard, and $1,499 for Priority. For three years, it's $873, $1,998, and $3,748, respectively. Mainframe pricing goes for $11,999 for Basic, $15,000 for Standard, and $18,000 for Priority. For three years of z390x support, it costs $29,997, $37,500, and $45,000 for each service level. Other pricing is also available, Novell said.
-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
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