Revisiting Novell's Linux desktop interface

* Novell gives users a choice

A few issues back, in talking about client services for Linux desktops, I mentioned the two major graphical user interfaces for Linux: GNOME and KDE. A few of you wrote in to say that you'd heard Novell was creating a new GUI for its Novell Linux Desktop package which would be a blend, a mélange, a combination of these two. So I looked into it.

I came across an article from eWeek written by my friend Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1679393,00.asp?kc=ewnws101904dtx1k0000599) which said, in part: "Contrary to earlier reports, the Waltham, Mass.-based Novell has changed its plans and will not release a 'best of breed' Linux desktop that combines the best features from the GNOME and KDE environments... Instead, users will be offered an option for either KDE or GNOME during the installation process."

But when I spoke to Ted ("the Rev") Haeger - who was quoted extensively in the article - he thinks that Vaughn-Nichols only got half the message. As Ted and his colleague Bryan Cardoza explained to me, "Our intention was to select specific *components* from each desktop environment and make use of them in the other desktop environment.  For example, the YaST application (an installation and administration tool) is the best choice for system configuration; it is qt-based (KDE) but is still the best choice if you're running GNOME."

Cardoza went on to say: "It's simply not practical to create a third desktop environment for Linux.  The success of desktop environments rests in the larger community of contributors to the desktop environments and the ecosystem of developers who use them.  A new, hybrid environment would be at a significant (and likely insurmountable) disadvantage. Desktop harmony is better addressed through efforts that allow for co-existence between applications from GNOME and KDE.  For example, the System Tray specification from freedesktop.org allows me to create an application that will dock itself in either a GNOME or KDE panel; we've done that in NLD with our monitor resolution and network configuration applets."

In other words, Novell will allow you, the customer, to pick the desktop environment that's right for you, but not force an all or nothing approach. You get to use the best (in your own estimation) parts of each but still have alternatives available should you decide to go a different direction.

Giving the customer freedom of choice - what a concept.

Next time out, I'll re-examine the NetWare client for Linux once again, in light of your many e-mails and some new information from Novell. Hurry on back, you hear.

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