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Network World - My daughter recently attended a party where an artist twisted black, white and orange balloons into a penguin. When she happily showed me her prize, all I could think of was Linux. Now that the open source operating system has become so pervasive I see it symbolically everywhere.
True, the buzz over Linux is hardly new. Vendors of every ilk have tripped over themselves to announce Linux-related products. We have Linux CD players, firewalls, intrusion-detectors, IP phones and routing software platforms - and the list grows daily. Applications that perform every task imaginable (and some tasks you don't want to imagine) have gushed from the open source community
But even in the deafening noise surrounding Linux, four topics stand out: the duel for the desktop, 3-D desktop tools, isolated virtual environments (also known as containerization or virtualization), and mobile Linux devices.
Linux on the desktop has long been a trendy topic, but these days makers of distributions are as interested in duking it out with each other as they are in taking on Big Bad Bill. Generating the most buzz is the head-to-head battle between Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED 10) distribution and Ubuntu 6.06. Novell seems to have had a bit of an edge in features that appeal to the enterprise, according to my colleague Don Marti, editor of Network World's LinuxWorld Web site. Novell has enhanced OpenOffice to run Visual Basic macros, making the operating system more appealing than Ubuntu for replacing Microsoft on a work machine.
Users agree. At the University of New Mexico's Office of Contract Archaeology in Albuquerque, LAN administrator Adel Saad is using SLED on about 10 machines. "The unique thing about SLED is that it comes with OpenOffice - an entire office suite fully compatible with Microsoft Office," he says. With the sweet prices offered to schools, he paid $25 per machine for the package. Microsoft's pricing for XP couldn't compete, he says, and it didn't include Microsoft Office.
For Saad, the savings on SLED continue, because his 10 desktops can support 100 users as if each had his or her own machine. He's using a SLED add-on product from Omni Technology Solutions called Linux Desktop Multiplier. He buys one desktop machine, adds graphics cards, monitors, keyboards and mice, and as many 10 users can access the CPU simultaneously, each accessing their individually configured settings.
"I am moving toward Linux, because of the cost savings with open source, plus stability. And Linux generally isn't getting hacked as much as Microsoft," he says.
But Ubuntu 6.10, released last month, will give SLED a run for its money, promises Matt Zimmerman, Ubuntu CTO. Ubuntu also offers a commercially supported version, and because of its zealous user base, some 16,000 applications are available for the distro, he says.