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Novell Linux Desktop--A Linux Distribution for Enterprise Desktops - page 4

Re-Inking the Big Red 'N'

  • December 27, 2004
  • By Bill von Hagen

Figure 2 shows the Novell Linux Desktop's default KDE look and feel, with the traditional SUSE Control Center displayed. NLD provides a stable KDE environment based on KDE 3.2.1, adhering to the NLD mantra of stable, proven software.

As with the latest version of SUSE Linux, Novell has done a fair amount of branding to the traditional Linux desktop and KDE experiences. Figure 2 shows the "big red N" prominently as the icon for NLD's start menu replacement, but the branding also pops up in a variety of surprising places. The SUSE Control Center shown in Figure 2 has the traditional SUSE look and feel, showing the YaST tools as started by selecting the "YaST Modules" menu item. However, if you start YaST manually by selecting it from the System menu, you'll see Novell's branding arm at work, as shown in Figure 3.

While I understand the rationale behind branding the desktop product and related system administration tools with the Novell logo, things sometimes go a bit too far. It's not like Novell really needed to look for the splash screen of every significant application and hack in a Novell pixmap, but that's often the case. For example, Figure 4 shows the GIMP's splash screen ala Novell.

NLD's KDE desktop implementation provides a much more extensive set of menus than GNOME, perhaps still showing SUSE's traditional KDE roots. The menu hierarchy is a nice combination of task-oriented menus and the names of specific KDE applications. As examples of the former, Graphics -> Image Editing is actually the GIMP, Office -> Word processor is actually the Open Office word processor, and so on. Specific KDE applications such as KSnapshot (a great screen and window capture tool, BTW), KFloppy (remember floppies?), and KDiskFree are present under their own names, but typically only when the purpose of the application is fairly obvious from its name.

One disappointment in NLD's KDE environment is that it is purely a KDE environment. On machines that I use every day, such as the laptop at my office, I run a light-weight window manager (FluxBox, if you care) and mix and match the best utilities from the KDE and GNOME environments. I would expect the same to be true in a distribution targeted towards enterprise users. Therefore, I was surprised that NLD's KDE install didn't include the Evolution mail client or the Firefox browser, which are best-of-breed applications in my opinion. The basic GTK requirements necessary to run applications are installed to enable applications such as GIMP to work, so I would have thought that installing Firefox would be a no-brainer. Evolution has much higher GNOME infrastructure requirements, but if you need to exist in a business environment with Microsoft infrastructure such as the Microsoft Exchange server and its calendaring ilk, Evolution is the way to go.

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