Linked by Eugenia Loli on Thu 10th Feb 2005 05:42 UTC
Novell and Ximian Novell's Linux Desktop distribution was widely expected last year. When it finally got released in December 2004, it had to compete with Red Hat's own Enterprise Desktop solution and Novell's very own SuSE. So, how does Novell Linux Desktop 9 (NLD) fairs?
Order by: Score:
Not GNOME-centric
by Anonymous on Thu 10th Feb 2005 06:01 UTC

After reading the review you could get the impression that GNOME is the default desktop of NLD - which it is not because there is no default.

RE: Not GNOME-centric
by Eugenia on Thu 10th Feb 2005 06:02 UTC

No, but the installer gives you the CHOICE (as I already mention in the aricle), and I made that choice. I told it to install Gnome. And so the rest of the review would --naturally-- be about that DE more than anything else.

Great for new users
by Che Kristo on Thu 10th Feb 2005 06:15 UTC

It is amazing where Novell have taken the Linux desktop, one of our employees has pushed it upon a total newbie and had amazing success, you can read the article at http://www.xolinc.com/blog/index.php?cat=4 .

I think it is great that they have remained fairly neutral with regard to Desktop Environments, overall it is a great way to ween people of Windows based solutions.

I have found the Java Desktop System from Sun Microsystems to be a great solution when it comes to business desktops.

RE: Not GNOME-centric
by James on Thu 10th Feb 2005 06:29 UTC

>No, but the installer gives you the CHOICE (as I already >mention in the aricle), and I made that choice. I told it >to install Gnome. And so the rest of the review would >--naturally-- be about that DE more than anything else.

Still, you could have said up front you were only doing the GNOME aspect. I kept reading the article hoping to find something of interest to me (hmm... gconf meltdown, wouldnt affect me..). At least some KDE screenshots wouldnt have taken too much time and been very interesting.

Mono
by Ernst on Thu 10th Feb 2005 06:30 UTC

iFolder is made with Mono!

iFolder
by jorge on Thu 10th Feb 2005 06:44 UTC

The version of iFolder shipped with NLD is 2.x, not the Mono-based version.

Bleuh
by Your name on Thu 10th Feb 2005 07:52 UTC

>> Your monitor didn't report its X- and Y-Size, this might
>> cause display problems like unreadable fonts.
>>
>> Do you want to configure your monitor geometry manually?

Reason 1 for not using SuSE/Linux/NLD: those error messages are crazy.

Yet another "consumer" review
by Mongrol on Thu 10th Feb 2005 08:23 UTC

When are these reviewers going to view these distro's properly? NLD is aimed at the corporate market yet time and time again we see reviews aimed at "prosumers". As a Senior Infrastructure Admin what I want to see is how it fits in the Enterprise. Does it have remote managability? (Zenworks/NDS), can we do mass installs simply and easily? What about mass patch management? Desktop lockdown and policies? These are major issues which stop Linux getting on corporate desktops.

RE: Yet another "consumer" review
by Eugenia on Thu 10th Feb 2005 08:28 UTC

>Does it have remote managability?

Via VNC or X11 or SSH, I guess it easily does. Most Linuxes do that.

>(Zenworks/NDS), can we do mass installs simply and easily? What about mass patch management?

Yes. With Zenworks.

>Desktop lockdown and policies?

Didn't see anything of this nature under Gnome/Yast2.

RE: Yet another "consumer" review
by Eugenia on Thu 10th Feb 2005 08:43 UTC

To be a bit more specific, there is a "remote administration" pref panel on Yast2 where you can turn it on and off.

As for lockdown/policies, I see no such thing, except if you manage to work around the "security settings" and "profile manager" panels and work through these for a satisfiable desktop configuration.

DE choice in NLD
by Anonymous on Thu 10th Feb 2005 08:55 UTC

You CAN install both KDE and Gnome with NLD - just do a custom install and choose all KDE and all GNOME and then you get the usual choice on login.

I wasn't too impressed with NLD 9 but then ymmv

v Not just installation
by Julian on Thu 10th Feb 2005 10:01 UTC
v RE: Not just installation
by Eugenia on Thu 10th Feb 2005 10:03 UTC
Weird bugs unacceptable
by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Feb 2005 10:34 UTC

Good review Eugenia.

I must say I do like the overall look of NLD; and I used RedCarpet before and that product is a major plus for any Linux distro. However, those weird bugs you mentioned are imho unacceptable for an enterprise-aimed product.

But that theme; it rocks ;) .

I'll stick with Ubuntu for the time being.

RE: Not just installation
by Julian on Thu 10th Feb 2005 10:59 UTC

Eugenia, you somehow misunderstood me. I just wanted to thank you for writing a review that actually covers the characteristics and specific strengths and weaknesses of NLD, unlike most reviews of Linux distributions, which mainly cover the installation procedure.
I'm not pissed off at you at all, and i didn't submit any news about my product, because i have none.

about X.org configuration - try Elektra http://elektra.sourceforge.net/. It makes X.org configuration xml aware.

first, it's great to see a review which is not written by a high scool student as part of his homework,
secondly I just wonder why you did not install the nvidia binaries drivers ? are they supported on NLD ? is there a problem between their respectives license ?



Cheers,

Djamé

RE: Bleuh
by Harry on Thu 10th Feb 2005 11:37 UTC

Obviously you don't know what you're talking about. This error message is totally valid, and could affect the quality of your display (fonts)

Black screen & subsequent audio failure
by tc on Thu 10th Feb 2005 13:46 UTC

I had a similar experience on a test install of NLD9. The install crashed on an attempt to use the i810 video driver for my intel extreme graphics 2 notebook. Afterwards, every reboot would disable audio, and reset my keyboard to German layout.

After several retries, I found out that the best install option was: during install, select the VESA framebuffer graphics. Now both video + audio settings are saved correctly. After install, use Yast2 to select the i810 driver, do not test it, but save settings; then, manually edit /etc/XF86Config, "Device" section, add line:
Option "DisplayInfo" "FALSE"
(xfree86 output here: Broken BIOSes cause the system to hang here.)
Several other distro's (Linspire 4.5, Mandrake 10.1, SUSE 9.1, Libranet 2.8.1) were at least as troublesome in enabling video acceleration, so in the end, I couldn't hold it against Novell.

Apart from that, it's a very nice, slick, GNOME-defaulting distribution. On my machine, KDE's installation was broken every time I tried (thrice), and there seemed to be an inconsistency between the distributed Mozilla (1.6) and some packages that required mozilla 1.7. Apart from these bugs though, it felt better than SUSE 9.1, and it encouraged me to upgrade to SUSE 9.2 eventually. SUSE 9.2, by the way, has no trouble enabling the i810 driver (probably because it's using X.org). But it's definitely less slick.

I had a similar experience with X under SuSE Pro 9.2
by Jocknerd on Thu 10th Feb 2005 14:18 UTC

I installed SuSE Pro 9.2 on a couple of servers. The initial setup was great. Display was working perfectly but when it rebooted I got a black screen. Apparently, it rewrites the XF86Config file when I chose to change the resolution, to something a little bit incompatible. I fixed the problem by copying the XF86Config.install file that SuSE had written in the default setup over to the new XF86Config file. I can't remember the name of the file. Problem solved. I'm pretty sure the Novell Desktop works the same way.

Is there a free version?
by Montana Dan on Thu 10th Feb 2005 14:27 UTC

I remember seeing a few places saying you could download NLD that wasn't an evaluation, but so far everytime I look, I only find the eval download.

Would really appreciate it if anyone who knows where to download it would pass it on.

Thanx...

YMMV
by viniosity on Thu 10th Feb 2005 15:26 UTC

I did an install of NLD9 b/c I was looking for a way to replace all the win98 installations in my office. I have to admit I was really impresses by the ease of installation. Unlike other distros I've worked with, setup was painless. I also did not have any of the nasty bugs that Eugenia ran into.

Despite that I had to ask myself whether saving 20-30 minutes on each install (7 workstations) is worth the constant subscription fee required to keep Zenworks patching and updating after the eval period. In my case the answer was 'no' but for others I could see how NLD might be worthwhile to look into.

Re: Is there a free version?
by Alien CZAR on Thu 10th Feb 2005 15:34 UTC

The "evaluation" is actually the full version:

http://www.novell.com/products/desktop/eval.html

The evaluation only allows up to 30 days of free package updates through ZenWorks (Red Carpet). As I understand it, everything else is the shipping version and will keep working beyond the 30 day timeframe.
If you buy the full version, you are basically paying for the upgrade support channels via ZenWorks.

Desktop Lockdown Functionality
by brockers on Thu 10th Feb 2005 16:03 UTC

If you are using KDE as the basis of or NDL install you can use Kiosk to control almost all aspects of the UI. Everything from command line access to editing controlling desktop backgrounds.

...and Yast does follow a HIG. It follows KDE's HIG just fine and sense it uses QT it makes sense it would

Minor correction
by hac on Thu 10th Feb 2005 16:05 UTC

Eugenia, would you please correct "fairs" to "fares" in the summary?

I'd hate to see OSNews fall to the level of Slashdot, where errors such as the use of "loose" for "lose", "mute point" for "moot point", and misuse of apostropes in plural forms abound.

RE: Minor correction
by Julian on Thu 10th Feb 2005 16:18 UTC

I'd hate to see OSNews fall to the level of Slashdot, where errors such as the use of "loose" for "lose", "mute point" for "moot point", and misuse of apostropes in plural forms abound.

At least in the comments section OSNews is already there. Surprisingly, it's primarily the native english speakers who have problems with words that sound the same, but make absolutely no sense (note the widespread use of "I could care less" for "I'm totally uninterested").

Nice
by Chris on Thu 10th Feb 2005 16:31 UTC

But not quite as well integrated as JDS for Linux. JDS gets rid of the redundant stuff and focuses on desktop use, especially in corporate use. NLD and JDS are both designed for the coporate enviroment so when evaluating, keep that in mind.

Yet another consumer here ...
by kit on Thu 10th Feb 2005 16:40 UTC

I've been using NLD9 since the day of its release. Before that, I was generally a SUSE user, so NLD is quite familiar.

The Gnome install is clearly more polished than SUSE 9.1. It wasa real pleasure to find an out-of-the-box distro that logged into our Exchange server without a bit of drama. Great.

Gotta agree that having YaST and Red Carpet side-by-side is a bit ungainly. You'd hope Novell will eventually build all the setup and prefernce menus into a unified panel (including package management).

With ZenWorks for corporate administration, a clean Gnome desktop (or KDE -- take your pick); Red Carpet; Novell support; and the power of YaST, I really think this is an impressive business desktop.

Re: Not GNOME-centric
by Eike Hein on Thu 10th Feb 2005 16:48 UTC

> Still, you could have said up front you were only doing the GNOME aspect. I kept reading the article hoping to find something of interest to me (hmm... gconf meltdown, wouldnt affect me..). At least some KDE screenshots wouldnt have taken too much time and been very interesting.

You're new to OSNews, aren't you?

what is so great about yast?
by mattb on Thu 10th Feb 2005 17:52 UTC

i really dont like yast, and yes, i know pretty much everyone disagrees with me. i find anaconda blows it out of the water at install time, and for configuration i greatly perfer DrakX. not only does it do pretty much everything yast does, i find the interface is better designed, snappier, and depends on python, not qt (which i never install).

imho, the whole idea of a massive distro centric control panel makes no sense in a more general way. in gnome, yast really sticks out like a sore thumb, as gnome config dialogues really arnt done that way. i would imagine even in kde it wouldnt really fit in, since they already have their uber-panel. wouldnt it make sense to snap yast modules into the kontrol panel (or whatever its called), and have each module as a seperate applet in gnome. that way it would actually fit in. the bar is alot higher then it was five years ago when it comes to coheasive desktops in linux. (to my knowledge) redhat is the only one with gui config tools that actually looks like they fit in, and then only in gnome.

anyways, was just wondering if someone could explain why yast rocks so hard, cause im obviously missing something.

NLD
by RJD on Thu 10th Feb 2005 17:53 UTC

I like Sun's JDS a lot more than I do the NLD. JDS seems more polished

CRN
by ChanMan on Thu 10th Feb 2005 18:09 UTC

Latest issue of the mag has the software packaged with it for free. full support and updates until January 2005.

http://www.crn.com/

But this is for channel folks...people that sell, support, design-- software and hardware for a living. If you fit that bill you can also get it for free via becoming a Novell partner at http://www.novell.com/products/desktop/trynld/

@mattb
by Zeke on Thu 10th Feb 2005 18:32 UTC

Technically since Yast is GPL now any distro could use it and included it in to their setup (I believe Debian is working on it, not sure though). As far as integrating in in to Kontrol Center -- it already is since 9.0 I believe. No integration with the Gnome Control Panel though. Of course that makes sense since it might be hard to do because of gtk/qt differences.

Re: Bleuh
by Your name on Thu 10th Feb 2005 18:34 UTC

>> Obviously you don't know what you're talking about.
>> This error message is totally valid, and could affect
>> the quality of your display (fonts)

Oh I sure do know what it means, and I did not say the message was invalid in any way. It's just the geek-level of the text I was talking about.

What's up with the "X- and Y-Size" instead of just width and height?
And "monitor geometry"? Uhm hello, what's wrong with monitor settings, preferences or properties?

Anyway, my point was that error messages should be in normal English (or Dutch, or Spanish, or any other language), not some geeky devspeak (at least, that's what it looks like to me).

your name:
by AdamW on Thu 10th Feb 2005 19:03 UTC

It doesn't want settings, preferences or properties. It wants to know how big the monitor is. That is not a setting, preference or property, unless you have some sort of secret NASA monitor the rest of the world doesn't know about. 'Geometry' is a perfect sensible word to use.

on configuration integration - I really like the GNOME project that's dealing with this, gnome-system-tools. They're doing a heroic job of keeping their tools working across many distributions. For everything it covers, I like using it a lot more than drakconf, although they do the same job. It's not as comprehensive, yet, but it's excellent at what it does. Is there an equivalent KDE project yet? I'd like to look at it if so.

Silly Question about RPMs
by I'm not telling on Thu 10th Feb 2005 19:21 UTC

OK,I got the install disks from a magazine (www.crn.com, refrenced a few comments ago). The install was a breeze and the Geek-speak X-Size, Y-Size doesn't bother me, since I did pass my Middle School geometry class. The automatic updates work fine. So, I'm doing OK at getting started.

But, how do I find RPMs for this distro? It easy to google for "SuSE 9.2 RPM", but googling for "Novell Desktop Linux RPM" doesn't work so well. I would like to install Plone, Eclipse and KDevelop. Installing Plone from a source RPM is no big deal, but KDevelop and Eclipse would be rather taxing to install from source. Does anyone know it I can safety use SuSE 9.2 RPMs or if there is a repository of NDL RPMs?

Is the answer so simple that I'm overlooking it?

RE: Silly Question about RPMs
by mgpeter on Thu 10th Feb 2005 20:16 UTC

I converted a lab over to Novell Linux Desktop and in the process I created quite a few custom RPMs for NLD. You can download them at

http://www.pcc-services.com/files/NLDRPMS/

Basically I just downloaded the SRPMs from Suse9.2, edited the SPEC file and rebuilt them on NLD. I also rebuilt an updated KDE (3.3.2) if you want to run the latest stable KDE. All in all these packages are cleanly built, pretty stable and won't bork your system up.

@AdamW
by Cosmo on Thu 10th Feb 2005 21:19 UTC

on configuration integration - I really like the GNOME project that's dealing with this...

Yes, me too. Especially the network monitor applet in Gnome 2.9.6 is awesome.

Re: Silly Question about RPMs
by Your name on Thu 10th Feb 2005 21:29 UTC

>> The install was a breeze and the Geek-speak X-Size, Y-Size
>> doesn't bother me, since I did pass my Middle School
>> geometry class

..and so did I, but you and others fail to see the point.

I would just like to see normal, no nonsense, English messages. That's it.

Is it that hard to just have something like:


NLD could not query the size of your monitor. Would you like to configure it manually?

[yes] [no]

RE: mgpeter
by I'm not telling on Thu 10th Feb 2005 21:41 UTC

Thanks!

YaST Theme...at least
by bandwagon on Thu 10th Feb 2005 22:44 UTC

Maybe it's more than just the theme that Eugenia doesn't like, but there is a full Industrial KDE theme included with NLD that makes YaST feel much more unified with the system. Why it's not set by default is beyond me but...

- run '/opt/kde3/bin/kcontrol' as root
- go to 'Appearance & Themes'
- under 'Style' choose 'QIndustrial'
- under 'Colors' choose 'Industrial'
- Apply your settings and exit

Now all KDE apps (YaST included) will run with a more unified theme...you might want to do this under your normal account as well.

...
by Anonymous on Fri 11th Feb 2005 04:10 UTC


Now all KDE apps (YaST included)


YaST is not a KDE application.

YaST and SuSeConfig
by Johnathan Bailes on Fri 11th Feb 2005 04:24 UTC

Eugenia interstingly enough has run into one of my major issues with using a Suse based distro in a corporate environment.

What hosed her manual settings was not so much YaST (the gui) but a background script run after almost any YaST change called SuSEConfig.

It tends to whack manual settings of almost any kind especially LVM settings btw. In addition, any sort of setuid changes including ones necessary for LinNeighborhood to act correctly will get changed by this script on most YaST updates.

This along with the fact I like gnome and the fact many projects do not support Suse as well as RH/Fedora for rpms led me to try out RH8 and ever since I have been working off of RH/Fedora but Suse is an incredible desktop distro for a KDE person if ....

they ever put a leash on that damn SuSEConfig script.

It essentially IMHO breaks a major tenet or philosophical principle of a Unix-like system.

"Unix was not designed to prevent you from stupid thing because that would prevent you from doing clever things."
-- Doug Gwen.

Annoying to say the least. Disruptive actually in some situations. This is not to say I would not love to see a Fedora distro with a good partitioning tool for install that allows resizing of partitions like SuSE or allowed for on first update the installation of the nvidia driver automatically for the user.

I use NLD 9
by John on Fri 11th Feb 2005 13:46 UTC

Love it! I use it at home...and is the smoothest and best performing (read that as USEFUL) Linux distro I've ever used.

Real Player 10 and Mozilla Firefox are nice built-in touches.

This is a very solid Windows substitute.

JM

USB malloc() bug
by Chuckles Barnes on Fri 11th Feb 2005 16:08 UTC

The nice thing about Novell is that they have the resources to put engineer time into the USB malloc() problem. A segment of Linux users actively use their webcam on a ( sometimes ) daily basis. This type of problem puts a damper on their fun ;)

Chuckles-

bailes:
by AdamW on Fri 11th Feb 2005 16:31 UTC

they're still doing that?! Holy cow, I thought they would've given up years ago. Yeah, that was one of the things I hated the most when I had to use SuSE on my laptop for a while. If I go to YaST to change ONE THING I don't want YaST to apply all the settings it has for everything else automatically! Sheesh.

Well Done, Eugenia
by John on Fri 11th Feb 2005 22:10 UTC

I almost forgot...thanks Eugenia for a well written piece. (I describe NLD to my co-workers...and I'm sure I leave great features out all the time.)

One final cool note: As a beta-tester for SuSE/Novell, I received the 3-Dosk software a few weeks ago. I have one full year of upgrades for free...and all of the other "benefits" that come from doing this. (I had Enterprise Server 9 before release...that was cool, too)

Looking Forward to Spring....(agus La Feile Phadraig!)

JM

Let me help you out...
by fred on Sat 12th Feb 2005 00:03 UTC

Good review BUT, let me help you out...

1) NLD is for the Corporate Environment, which means:
a) To do a "real" test, you need a corporate network
with SERVERS, hopefully all integrated with a
directory service like eDirectory. Think of managing
100s of workstations, not just one. Typically you
would have:

* ZenWorks Server
* Bordermanager Proxy Server
* Groupwise or OpenExchange Mail Server
* File/Print/SQL Server


b) The way it works is that eDirectory is distributed
accross servers for fault tolerance, so each server
has a copy. Anyway, say you're the sysadmin and your
company hires a new employee. You run your web based
management utility and create a new user, assign rights
and security policy, etc. This information is
replicated through all your servers automatically,
then within seconds the mail server notices the new
user and creates a mailbox, the proxy server enforces
internet access policies and the Zenworks server
creates a roaming user profile, all automatically!

c) When the user logs-in to the network FROM ANY
WORKSTATION, RUNNING ANY O/S, all of the policies,
security, etc are automatically implemented. You
didn't see a place to configure security policies
because that is done at the server level.

A network running integrated eDirectory servers is nothing
short of a SysAdmin's wet dream. I encourage you to retest
NLD with all of the proper equipment in place and you'll be
amazed. It is that good.

Please also note, NLD is based on SuSE Linux and thus runs
a LOT better with KDE.



Fred
by John on Sat 12th Feb 2005 02:58 UTC

Point very well taken. Well done, Lad.


JM