makes Linux an approachable OS alternative
by Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First
published in Business
in Vancouver March 15-21, 2005; issue 803; High Tech Office
looked at security
alerts, most concerning users of Microsoft's Windows operating system.
And "concern" should be the word. Users of non-Windows computers have
been spared the continuing attacks that are productivity-sappers for
Apple's space-saving Mac Mini
affordable to move to Mac. Alternatively, Linux, the poster child for
the open source software movement, offers worry-free computing using
hardware you already own.
Developed over the past decade by volunteer programmers, Linux can be
distributed and installed freely. Software companies as big as IBM can
charge for support and services. Linux has become increasingly popular
powering Internet and network servers. The growth of its acceptance
with users of desktop computers has been slower.
Desktop users dabbling with Linux have found that it might not support
all their hardware and that critical pieces of software lacked Linux
bought Linux software developers SuSE and Ximian, and has been busy
ensuring that its well-known networking products will work with Linux
servers. This winter, it released Novell Linux Desktop 9 as an
alternative to Windows on corporate desktops. US$50 per system gets a
year's worth of support and updates.
I installed NLD's three CDs onto my two year-old Dell Inspiron 8200
notebook. Installation was straightforward, though I had to fuss with
video settings. (As with all operating system installations, your
mileage may vary).
All the Dell's hardware was supported, including its large screen
resolution and the built-in sound and ethernet hardware.
An older WiFi card I plugged in was automatically recognized, though a
new dLink WiFi card lacked Linux support. It automatically located and
installed drivers for networked printers connected to both Windows and
Mac systems, and let me access files across my Windows network.
A graphical control panel lets users customize the look and feel
without needing to resort to the command line or editing obscure
text-based configuration files.
Unlike many other Linux variants, Novell has deliberately simplified
these options, limiting them to what most users will want to see. (The
command line and configuration files are still available for those in
And like other Linuxes, a wide range of applications are bundled with
the installation, letting users get right down to work.
Novell has again set up its system to make it easier for new users to
know what's available: the menu item for Open Office's Text module
reads "Word Processor." Other applications are similarly labelled by
function: CD Burner or Instant Messenger, for example, rather than by
less recognizable program names.
Also in the package: Ximian Evolution, an open source analogue to
Microsoft Outlook, addressing many business users' need to connect to a
Microsoft Exchange server, and like Outlook including e-mail, address
book, calendar, task lists and more.
Novell's ZENworks Linux Management software allows network
administrators to configure and manage Linux desktops centrally.
Despite Novell's simplifications, some learning will be
but Novell has produced a system for people who just want to sit down
at their computer and get to work.
I've been living with Novell Linux Desktop for a couple of months now.
By putting less in the user's face, Novell has crafted the first Linux
that I can live with on my desktop, letting me get my work done without
having to work too hard learning the quirks of a new system. It's well
worth a look. The full version (three CD images) can be downloaded,
along with 30 days of free support at http://www.novell.com/products/desktop/