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

"NLD review, Page 2/2"
NLD includes Gnome 2.6.0 but some of its applications are updated to their 2.6.1 and 2.6.2 versions, so it's a mixed version Gnome. The Gnome DE looks good (even if a bit bright for my taste because of the theme used), it's as functional I would expect it, and the background images included in the distro are beautiful (way better than Red Hat's ;). Problem is that they are scattered on different folders and so not all pre-installed background images are showing automatically on the "desktop background" dialog.

My favorite part of the whole NLD experience is Red Carpet (now called ZenWorks). Red Carpet let's you download updates to the system from Novell's servers and even subscribe to third party channels that might offer free NLD packages to enrich your desktop experience. Its interface is simple, elegant. I wish more distributions would use its engine and GUI to adapt it to their own package formats (e.g. Arch Linux for pacman packages would be great). I used Red Carpet to update the system and also installed the developer's package (gcc, make etc) which is not installed by default.

Click for a larger viewTwo other things that need more work in NLD in my opinion are these:
1. Mono applications! Mono 1.0 is included, but I have seen no actual Mono GUI apps included (except maybe some parts of iFolder) and that's a shame because the Mono team at Novell does a great job. A good idea would have been to include Imendio Blam! as there was no other RSS reader included with the distro anyway (Liferea would been my first option if there was no Mono).
2. There are duplicate menu items. For example, Evolution appears 3-4 times in the Gnome menu (under different names some times), while Calculator and the Unicode/Char map also appear twice under the "Accessories" and its "More >>>" sub-menu. Duplications of this nature are UI bugs in my opinion, plus the Unicode and Char map should become a single tool.

Regarding Yast2, it feels out of place when under Gnome. I hope Novell works on the looks/HIG of it soon. Having said that, Yast2 does the job well (minus the monitor problem). It includes preference panels for most common settings, helping the user to setup services, hardware and software in a logical manner. I much prefer Yast2 over Mandrake's setting panels, however I do prefer Red Hat's over Yast2 in terms of usability (please note that Yast2 is more useful and feature complete than Red Hat's panels though, it just needs to work on its UI). Also, there is a certain duplication going on with Yast2's software package management front-end and Red Carpet. If Mac OS X had two 90% similar "software update" applications I don't think I would feel good about it either...

Real Player is included, but it stopped loading here all of a sudden. It worked 2-3 times, but now it just doesn't load (I reckon this has something to do with my SiS AC97 sound card not providing hardware mixing, an ALSA problem that Mandrake is trying to fix in their latest beta).

Click for a larger viewNow, to the really nasty stuff: Fast forward three days of normal usage without major problems going on. Woke up in the morning, turned on the PC, only to find the whole GConf database buggered. Nothing works correctly, no icons are loaded, no settings, nothing (check screenshot). I suspected that this was probably GConf's error and so I logged out, and manually ran "gconftool-rebuild". This fixed everything, but that wasn't a great experience I got right over there, completely unexpected and without myself having messed up with the machine in any way (note: the gconf crash happened before I even got Red Carpet to update the system, so that was not it).

So, overall, what do I think of NLD9? I like it. It's an interesting distribution, more modern than Red Hat's Linux Desktop for the Enterprise and with some interesting tools integrated to the distro. Cohesion and consistency and interoperability between different applications seems to be the moto for NLD. However, some bugs plague the otherwise good impression I get from the system. For a first version, I find it to be definetely a positive effort and I have absolute trust to Novell's engineer to bring innovation to the desktop. I can't wait for that future version that would include Beagle, for example, and XGL, the OpenGL accelerated X server! That could kick Novell's Unix competition out of the picture easily!

Pros: easy installation, modern looks, bundled with good set of enterprise utils, Red Carpet really convenient.
Cons: more UI clean up required, some bugs, slow boot-up, doesn't push the envelope against its competition.
Overall: 7/10

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