SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11
Novell recently released SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 based on the newest openSUSE 11.1. It comes with Linux kernel 126.96.36.199, X.Org X Server 1.5.2, and is built with GCC 4.3.2.
The default filesystem is Ext3 and the default desktop environment is GNOME 2.24.1. The most touted feature set of this release is their Linux-Windows Interoperability. Along with those in the separate server edition, virtualization and Microsoft Office compatibility are at the forefront with SLED.
GNOME Application Browser
The GNOME application browser extends the function of the limited list of favorites in the main menu. Listed within are all the applications installed. Some of the applications found are Brasero CD/DVD burning suite, Citrix Presentation Server, Midnight Commander, Pidgin, Gnome FTP, Inkscape, Cheese, Acrobat Reader, Okular, GNOME Do, CompizConfig Settings Manager and lots more.
Email is still one of the most important tools in any office environment and Evolution, the default mail client, offers support for a wide range of mail protocols. Among these are Microsoft Exchange, POP3, IMAP, local mbox and maildir. This easy-to-use setup wizard walks the user through the necessary steps.
Evolution isn’t just a mail client, it’s a full-featured personal information manager. Seen here is the compact calendar interface, handy for scheduling and keeping those important meetings and dates. Other amenities include a Task list, Memo taker, and address book.
Surfing the Web
Firefox 3.0.6 is the default browser included for the GNOME desktop. It has some plugins available for streaming media and other Web enjoyment. Some include Moonlight and Moonshine Media Player, Quicktime, DivX, VLC, Totem, Flash, and Java. While these formats played with acceptable performance, Firefox crashes during playback weren’t uncommon. Firefox 3.0.7 is included in an early batch of updates, while the recently released 3.0.8 is still pending.
Banshee and Amarok are included for media enjoyment. Ogg format presented no problem, but it seems MP3 and audio CDs did. Although they appeared to be playing, no actual sound emitted from the speakers. The commercial Fluendo Gstreamer codec is included as well for the iPod MPA format.
Video Needs Some Work
Local video file playback was even less successful than audio as none of the players seemed to be able to handle any format on hand. Some tried were AVI, MPG, and encrypted DVDs.
Better USB Support
Removeable media is automagically mounted, triggers a Nautilus file management window, and places an icon on the desktop for convenience.
Plays well with Windows
Windows shares are easily navigated with Samba and Nautilus file browser. It may be required to enter local machine IPs and hostnames in the /etc/hosts file for seamless operation.
The included OpenOffice.org 3.0 displays and saves Microsoft Office files fairly accurately. While perfection isn’t claimed, the various formats from the different versions of MS Office rendered exceptionally well in tests here.
SUSE’s YaST Control Center is undoubtedly the best control center of any Linux distribution. Some of the broad categories include Hardware configuration, Network devices and settings, Security elements, Software management, System component options, and Virtualization. Autoinstallation, Network Time Protocol configuration, and AppArmor Security policy are among the dozens of the useful functions.
These are just three of the system tools found in the YaST Control Center. Pictured here are the Firewall Configuration, System Backup, and Local Security settings.
The powerful software management system will install, uninstall, or upgrade applications with no learning curve required. One can search or filter on specific categories such as the software group inclusion, repositories, or package patterns.
Other tools found in the YaST Control Center include Network configuration, LDAP Client Configuration, and SaX2 X11 Configuration.
Also from within the YaST Control Center one can add or manage virtual machines using the bundled Xen virtualization software.
Either through the YaST Control Center or with the update applet in the panel the Online Update tool will check for and install any updates and dependencies required. The panel applet monitors and alerts the user of any updates available.
The Customer Center Configuration helps register your new Novell enterprise system (required for some updates) and configures repositories for the software and update managers. It can optionally send your hardware specifications to aid in support issues as well as help developers form a profile of systems in use.
Available on the install DVD is KDE 4.1.3. While not default, it can be selected in addition to or instead of GNOME. The SUSE KDE 4 experience is acceptable without a lot of issues except with Phonon multimedia framework which often couldn’t find or utilize the sound chip.
Of course, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 includes a lot more than what is highlighted here. SLED is very much a commercial desktop aimed at a professional audience, with all the polish that implies. With improved support for a number of Windows-specific formats, Novell has a created a distro that may integrate well into Microsoft-heavy environments.
Basic subscription fees start at 50 USD per year and then scale up from there. Free evaluation copies are available with registration for those wishing to testdrive the OS first.