posted by Eugenia Loli on Thu 10th Feb 2005 05:42 UTC
IconNovell'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?

Click for a larger view NLD came in 3 CDs. Installation is almost identical to SuSE's and so there is nothing new to report here apart from the screen that lets you choose between Gnome and KDE as your main interface. Everyrhing got autodetected automatically, except the monitor. In the second stage of the installation, right at the end of the configuration wizard, the machine froze with a black screen. The CapsLock was working, but there was no way I could bring the machine back, changing consoles didn't help and SSH wasn't loaded at the time.

Click for a larger viewAfter resetting the machine, NLD loaded fine. The framebuffer background is beautiful and elegant. The only things that weren't configured at that point was the keymap and the sound card. Running Yast2 fixed these issues easily (however on a consequent boot a few days later, the sound card stopped working all of a sudden for my user and I had to re-setup it via Yast2, see screenshot). When tried to run Yast2 to fix the monitor/resolution it would again result to the same black-screen freeze as earlier. The monitor was defaulted with the fbdev driver running 1280x1024 at 60 Hz, while my 19" Envision monitor can do 1600x1200 at 75 Hz and 1280x1024 at 85 Hz. The graphics card is a GeForce2-MX PCI 64 MBs and works well with the "nv" driver (the onboard SiS AGP card is disabled). Other distros and Mac OS X don't have a problem with this monitor/card combo, the monitor is fully compliant in the way it reports its VESA capabilities.

I edited the XF86Config file myself to make it load the "nv" in the requested resolution/refresh rate. Problem was, when I got to Yast to deal with the keymap (it seems that it defaults to the DE keymap if no setup takes place like in my case because of the crash) , it would overwrite my XF86Config and produce a version that's not parsable by XFree86. Ah... I wish for some XML-based configuration for XOrg...

Click for a larger viewAnyways, things got smooth after passed that point. The OS seems to be of the same performance as Red Hat's solutions, including boot times (tested on a 1.2 GHz Duron with 384 MB RAM). With a quick look in "top" over the default installation, it seems to require about 130 MBs of memory for an empty Gnome desktop, which is far better than Fedora's default 145-160 MBs (my very lightweight Arch Linux setup --most services removed-- requires about 112 MB with an empty Gnome 2.8.2, barely running on my old 128 MB laptop when Firefox is loaded). I quickly also loaded KDE and it requires 'only' 98 MBs of RAM for its empty desktop, so I must call for Gnome optimizations, once again.

The distribution includes the applications everyone would expect from an office-oriented distribution: OpenOffice.org with the GTK+ widgets (looks really good), Evolution, Firefox 0.10 and even a Citrix ICA client. Then, there is iFolder, a major part of NLD. iFolder let's you synchronize your files between different machines at home or work. It's a super-convenient tool for business professionals who travel a lot or who work from home a few days per week.

Some of the neat tools included is the netapplet and the resapplet (both reside on the gnome-panel) that allow one to change a wireless/wired network and monitor resolution respectively, on the fly. Also, apparently there is a mail merge ability of OpenOffice.org against Evolution's address book. It is nice to see some interoperation between Evolution's address book and other apps, like Gaim's contacts for example.

Table of contents
  1. "NLD review, Page 1/2"
  2. "NLD review, Page 2/2"
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