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Monday, 03 April 2006 19:42

Novell: it's the Linux desktop user stupid - part 1

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Also see
Microsoft moves to Maddog's phase 3
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Office 2007 and Vista not automatic selections: analyst

While Red Hat muddles along ignoring the bulk of computer users, those longing to find a usable alternative to Windows on the desktop can breathe a sigh of relief that another vendor has finally taken the bull by the horns with its latest Linux release.

With apologies to the fine core development teams of Ubuntu (Breezy Badger) and the Red Hat sponsored Fedora Core 5, your latest distros, although relatively easy to install and quite functional, just don’t cut the mustard for a baseline user. Ubuntu is too basic, has an interface that resembles a washed out Leonardo Da Vinci painting and requires too many additional tools and downloads. Fedora wouldn’t even recognise my wireless card. No doubt there was some trick that I missed and someone, somewhere on some forum would be able to tell me how to solve the problem. Maybe I should have chosen the developer’s installation rather than user’s installation. However, there was nothing in the documentation that could set me straight.
Suse Linux 10.0, by comparison, was a breath of fresh air. Although still not quite there yet, Suse goes a long way toward providing comparable functionality, usability and interoperability to the Windows desktop, plus of course all the mountains of applications that you don’t need to bother downloading.

One of the first things I noticed about Suse Linux 10.0 was the quality and detail of the documentation and the care with which the development team has kept the novice user in mind. Each step of the installation process is mapped out to the tiniest detail and, if you happen to be evaluating the distro by downloading disk images from Suse site, even the disk image download process is automated with the aim of making it easy for users. Each of the five disk image downloads arrives on your desktop embedded in its own Burnatonce ISO CD burner. You don’t even need to know that ISO files need to be treated specially (take note Ubuntu forum members).

The installation process itself is quite lengthy. However, the documentation along the way is superb and it’s not easy to make a mistake. You will also find that the system will automatically detect most relatively common hardware devices and configure itself accordingly. What you end up with is a desktop, with a superb, sharp looking user interface and all the applications that an office desktop user is likely to need. What’s more you even get a choice between the Gnome or KDE interface during installation.

In a previous article we complained about how we couldn’t get our old laser printer to work with Linux because there was no manufacturer’s driver available. Suse Linux 10.0 doesn’t solve this problem of course but it does have an extensive printers list and, what the hell, a new mono laser costs a lot less than $200 these days – unless we decide to upgrade to an entry level colour laser.

In part two, we will take a look at some of the things we have been able to do with Suse Linux 10.0 from the point of view of a potential migrating Windows office user and attempt to explain why Microsoft may start to worry.

Also see
Microsoft moves to Maddog's phase 3
and don't miss
Office 2007 and Vista not automatic selections: analyst

 


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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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