Novell SUSE desktop sports mobile capabilities

Support for wireless LANs (WLANs) is the most notable addition to Novell Inc.’s commercial Linux desktop product, SUSE Linux Professional 9.2, released in early October.

Now v9.2 can automatically recognize Bluetooth-enabled devices and allow users to connect to wireless LANs (WLANs). Novell said Bluetooth configuration could easily be set up using Yet another System Tool, or YaST.

In total, SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 will include more than 3,500 packages, including the KDE 3.3 and GNOME 6.2 graphical user interfaces (GUIs) — users can choose which one they want to use — and 1.1.3 Other applications include the Novell Evolution e-mail client, the GIMP 2 open source alternative to PhotoShop and Nvu, a Web authoring system.

While SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 is Novell’s commercial release, Novell’s corporate desktop, dubbed Novell Linux Desktop, will be available in early 2005.

Linux Desktop will include fewer applications so corporate users aren’t overwhelmed with choices, and will be better tuned than 9.2, said Ross Chevalier, chief technology officer at Novell Canada. He said Novell will use the feedback from SUSE Professional 9.2 users to improve the Novell Linux Desktop. However, Chevalier said SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 will give corporate users a glimpse of what to expect with the Novell Linux Desktop.

Although Microsoft Corp. still dominates the desktop operating system market with its Windows operating system, software developers usually favour Linux or Unix environments. Linux is especially popular because it can be customized. That means users can choose which elements of the operating system to install and which applications they want to use on their system.

John Chufar, systems analyst, operational support systems at data and IP services provider Equant in Oak Hill, Va., has been using SUSE Linux on the desktop since 1998. He started out with SUSE 6.0 and Red Hat Inc.’s Linux 5.2.

“The whole administration of the environment was cleaner, which was the main reason I decided to go with the SUSE,” he said. “Plus, it had a much fuller suite of applications so you got a lot more software.”

Chufar also said SUSE desktop Linux has come a long way in the past six years, especially the integration between SUSE and other open source applications.

“There’s a lot of good of software and it has been really bundled nicely,” Chufar noted. “SUSE put a nice front-end against the administration installation and have even customized the desktop to a degree because it is a highly flexible and configurable.

Right now Chufar uses SUSE Linux Professional 9.1, the predecessor to 9.2 and uses the KDE desktop, which has a similar look-and-feel to Apple Computer Inc.’s Mac OS and Windows, he said. However, with SUSE Professional 9.2 users have the option of running the GNOME GUI.

Chufar said most of the non-Windows users at Equant are developers and power users running a mix of SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux and Unix on their workstations.

When asked if his firm would ever move over the Linux on the desktop, Chufar said it is unlikely right now because Equant has a relationship with Microsoft it plans to continue.

Still, the biggest impediment to attracting a larger install base is lack of support from third-party software vendors; Chufar would like to see more independent software vendors (ISVs) hop aboard Linux. He said there are equivalents for some home user programs such as Intuit Inc.’s tax program Quicken, but there are often no equivalents for some professional programs and higher end tools. He added that there are similar programs available but they are not as good.

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