Linux option offers business smooth sledding
Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business
September 5-11, 2006: issue 880
High Tech Office column
In last week’s column
saw that users looking at the Linux operating system to replace Microsoft
Windows on their computer desktops faced not just a single alternative
but a potentially overwhelming range of distributions.
That column looked at the Ottawa-developed Xandros
Linux, which is targetting Windows 98 users with tools to migrate
documents and settings and to run Windows programs from Xandros.
Judging by its name, Novell
recently-released SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED 10) would seem
to be aimed at the large corporations and other organizations that have
been customers for Novell’s networking solutions. And it does
include tools to gladden a large organization’s IT department.
But because it’s perhaps the slickest of the many Linux
distributions, Windows users in smaller businesses could also move to
SLED 10 comfortably.
SLED 10 costs about $55 with one year of support; there’s a
downloadable 60-day trial version. Novell also offers the similar but
open source OpenSUSE Linux distribution for free with no formal support.
Novell has taken a leaf from Windows XP with an XP-friendly start menu,
including built-in search, recent documents, favorite applications and
more, which replaces an application menu that too often hid commonly
used applications several levels deep. Users can conveniently browse
the application menu, searching by category or other ways.
Like most other Linux distributions, and unlike Windows, SLED bundles a
set of open source productivity applications along with the operating
system. Users can get right down to work with an office suite, photo
editor and more. Shipping on five CDs (or a single DVD disc), SLED has
room to include a larger range of these applications than most versions
of Linux, with more easily downloadable from Novell’s update
Multimedia fans will appreciate the F-Spot photo manager and Banshee
music jukebox, and, yes, SLED worked with my digital camera right out
of the box. SLED can generally be used on corporate, small business and
home Windows networks without problem. SLED also includes a number of
features that users sticking with Windows won’t see until
Microsoft releases its next-generation Windows Vista sometime next
year. One example is the Beagle desktop search tool, which indexes
files on the hard drive in the background, making it quick and easy to
locate content in a large collection of saved documents.
Installation asks more questions than in some other Linux distributions
but should not be too intimidating for most users. It does a good job
in identifying most standard computer hardware and installing the
proper drivers, though there may be problems with some recent WiFi
Like other Linux versions, SLED is safe from computer viruses and
spyware designed to infest Windows systems. That doesn’t mean
it’s all smooth sailing, however. Linux users get the same e-mail
spam as Windows users, for instance. And a Linux user who enters bank
account information on a phishing website is just as much a potential
fraud victim as is a Windows user.
Users looking for a Windows alternative and wanting support from a
large corporation should put Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise
Desktop onto their short-list.