Novell polishes SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop

With the introduction of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop Version 10, Novell is getting closer to shipping a viable competitor to Microsoft's Windows/Office combination.

Integrated into SLED 10 is a combination of OpenOffice applications (including support for Excel macros), Firefox browser and something that starts to compete with Apple's desktop indexing called Beagle. Novell also adds Evolution, which provides direct connections to Microsoft Exchange server. The all-important communications tools are supported via Gaim, which we successfully tested with AOL Instant Messenger, MSN, Jabber and Yahoo Messenger/IM elements.

Although not as slick as Apple's Aqua interface or Vista's proposed GUI, the new user interface has a system menu that's easy to understand and navigate, resembling behavior that will be familiar to both Windows and Mac users. A control center enables setting changes that are very similar to the controls found in the Windows Control Panel, though they take much longer to react, even with the faster systems we used in our tests. Administration is performed via YaST (see SUSE Linux Enterprise Server test), and users can be connected via Samba to the Active Directory.

Linking and synchronizing initial directories can be somewhat difficult and isn't well documented. Serious considerations must be given to making sure the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) schemas are identical - and by default, they never are. Importation of LDAP information into the Active Directory requires adherence to exactly the schema used (or a subset, but never a superset) of the Active Directory. User importation then takes place via either a CSV file or through Microsoft's LDIFDE utility that imports LDIF-based text files of data.

The SLED also contains plug-and-play hardware support that often has been disconnected from Windows 2000 and XP, because of security issues, which don't exist with Linux. We found that like the server version, most items are readily identified and are easily disconnected from a desktop-based system using this technology.

Overall, SLED is a clever integration of the top tools in the open source world, and while not the speediest, has the benefit of providing a long checklist of corporate mandated applications that work well by our estimation.

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