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The open source development model lowers barriers to innovation. To IT administrators and end users alike this means more options and functionality at a fraction of the cost of proprietary software. SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is an excellent example of the speed and quality of innovation that Novell and the open source community deliver.

"If you can use Windows, you can use SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop."

—Gary Chen
August 30, 2006, DecisionNote

After a year of awards and successes with the likes of InfoWorld 1 and Peugeot 2, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 continues to forge ahead, and the release of Service Pack 1 (SP1) does not disappoint. SP1 delivers a host of new capabilities designed to enhance usability, strengthen security and improve productivity.

To frame the conversation, Vista need not be the next de facto standard in your organization or on your personal desktop. At roughly one tenth of the cost, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 offers a compelling, cost-effective alternative. In this article we'll explore what's new in Service Pack 1 and discuss which users are ripe to move to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop.

> Usability
Novell continues to enhance the desktop experience with an array of new usability-focused features. Service Pack 1 sports a refined main menu that requires fewer clicks to access common resources. (see figure 1.) A menu editor called Alacarte is also included, and allows you to easily customize system menus to display the appropriate programs and resources to your end users.

Network Manager, an applet to choose wireless and wired networks, now has a tool that lets you prioritize and edit the order in which your networks are chosen. Another enhancement is the international clock applet, which lets you display a number of time zones with a single click in the system tray—very handy for scheduling meetings with coworkers in different parts of the globe. (see figure 2.)

 

Compiz, the compositing engine behind the desktop effects, has a number of performance enhancements in SP1. Users will notice smooth animations and support for more graphics cards. Compiz also now supports dual-head monitor configurations (both cloning and xinerama).

Compare the functionality of Compiz in SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop to the equivalent in Vista, Aero. Both include window animations, translucency and live thumbnails; however, Compiz differentiates itself through features such as the Window Picker, which takes all your open, cluttered applications and neatly tiles them across the current desktop, allowing you to view all applications simultaneously and choose the one you need to use. (see figure 3.) Vista's close cousin to Window Picker is Windows Flip 3D, which shows all open windows in a rolodex fashion and allows sequential access to open applications, similar to ALT+TAB functionality. (see figure 4.)

Of course the hallmark of Compiz is the desktop cube, a feature that allows tasks to be logically separated on different faces of the cube and provides more desktop real estate from a single monitor. Vista has no equivalent to the desktop cube. (see table 1.)

> Virtualization
Integrated virtualization in a desktop OS? Yes, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1 includes support for Xen virtualization out of the box. Xen allows multiple operating systems to run as guests on top of a single SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 host.

 

Given enough system memory, any machine that is capable of running SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 natively can also run Xen-optimized SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 guests virtually. Desktops and laptops with more recent processors from Intel and AMD that include hardware virtualization extensions (Intel VT and AMD-V) can also run unmodified operating systems including: Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2000, Windows XP, Vista, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4/5. (see figure 5.)

Technology aside, a subscription to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop or Server 10 allows you and your users to run as many virtualized instances of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 as your hardware will support without incurring any additional subscription costs. In other words, you need only purchase a SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop or Server subscription for the physical machine or the first virtual instance on that machine (in the case of VMWare ESX or Microsoft Virtual Server).

"We found SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop to be well supported and extremely user friendly. Novell's commitment to open source and close collaboration with leading hardware and application vendors to ensure the support of our IT requirements were key factors in our choice. In addition, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop integrates seamlessly in our Windows-based infrastructure." 4

—PSA Peugeot Citroën IT Representative

Virtualization in Vista is offered via Virtual PC 2007 as an available download after install. Additional virtual instances of Vista or XP running in Virtual PC must be licensed individually. Only Microsoft customers with access to Windows Vista Enterprise (available through software insurance) or those with MSDN subscriptions are entitled to run multiple virtual instances of Vista without incurring additional licensing costs. 3

VMWare virtualizaion products are also supported on SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (as a host and a guest), including VMWare Workstation, Server and VMPlayer.

> Security and Management
Service Pack 1 includes home directory and partition encryption, an option that allows you and your users to encrypt the entire OS or specific user data. Similar functionality is also available in Vista, albeit only in the Enterprise (software assurance required) and Ultimate editions.

New management and security-geared features are also available in the SP1 release. A desktop lockdown tool called Sabayon gives you granular control over what desktop elements are available to your end users. For example, you can easily lock the task bar and restrict menu and system access with this tool.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1 features tight integration with ZENworks Linux Management. In addition to mirroring OS patches and managing software distribution, ZENworks Linux Management also includes desktop lockdown policies that you can apply to device groups, keeping desktop security policies uniform across your organization.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 supports authentication to a number of credential stores including Active Directory. SP1 adds support for AD offline authentication, enabling users to authenticate to local machines when disconnected from the network.

> Application Updates
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1 is packed with updates to your favorite productivity and multimedia applications. Here's the rundown on what's new:

OpenOffice.org 2.1 Novell Edition
OpenOffice.org Novell Edition is installed as part of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. It contains all the goodness from the community plus support for Visual Basic macros and additional fonts licensed from AGFA to maintain document fidelity (for example, pagination, spacing and kerning) between office suites.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1 includes the latest enhancements from OpenOffice.org 2.1. It features embedded video content in documents and dual monitor support to display presentation slides and notes simultaneously. As part of the interoperability agreement with Microsoft, the Novell Edition also supports MS Word 2007 OpenXML documents.

 

Contrast SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop's support for Microsoft Office file formats with that of Windows XP or Vista which both require the purchase of Microsoft Office in addition to the operating system. Out of the box with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1, the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org supports past Microsoft Office formats as well as the most recent MS Word 2007 XML format (docx). Support is also anticipated for OpenXML Excel and PowerPoint (xlsx, pptx) files later this year.

A migration to OpenOffice.org isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. Organizations can leverage the office suite's support for popular formats, such as Microsoft Office or WordPerfect, to allow easy collaboration and exchange of documents with those still using other formats. (For a quick guide on how to change the default file format of OpenOffice.org see: Getting in Touch With Your Inner Geek, Fourth Quarter 2006 issue.)

"SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop gives business users new reason to consider Linux for Enterprise Desktops."

—InfoWorld
June 2006

Firefox 2.0
Mozilla Firefox, an open source success story in its own right, has also been updated in SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1. Firefox 2.0 includes a host of new features including refinements in tabbed browsing, session resume, in-line spell checking and phishing protection. Adobe Flash 9 is also delivered as part of SP1, enhancing the Firefox experience for Web sites that leverage the latest Flash technology.

Firefox in SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 also includes the Beagle Indexer Add on. Beagle Indexer integrates with desktop search to provide fast access to content from past page views. You can configure Beagle to exclude indexing of specific Web sites and secure URLs.

Helix Banshee 0.12.0
A full-featured audio player and library application, Helix Banshee, receives a bevy of new features in SP1 including support for the latest iPod models. Podcatching and Internet Radio are now integrated as part of the player. It now includes a mini mode display plugin, which takes up less of your precious desktop real estate. I think the coolest update is the music recommendation plugin that displays related bands and artists as you're listening to tracks in Banshee. (see figure 6.)

Of course, Banshee deftly handles CD ripping and burning, a variety of audio codecs such as MP3, OGG, AAC and FLAC; and easy music tagging and cover art downloading.

F-Spot 0.3.5
F-spot is a feature-rich, photo management application that's great for cataloging pictures and publishing Web Albums. Version 0.3.5 includes new editing effects such as soft focus, straighten and autocolor. Slideshows can now leverage OpenGL extensions in modern graphics cards. You can now export Web Albums to Picasa and automatically scale pictures when sending them through e-mail. (Flickr support was there previously.)

Ekiga 2.0.5
New to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1 is Ekiga, an open source VoIP and video application. Ekiga uses both the H.323 video and SIP audio protocols. It supports a number of audio and video codecs and is interoperable with other SIP-compliant clients with support also coming for Microsoft NetMeeting.

Additional Resources

For an in-depth view of how SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop stacks up against Vista, check out the following URLs:

> Cost
At a list price of US$50, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop is the compelling alternative to Vista. Pricing for Windows Vista is not only more complex, but significantly higher. (see table 2.)

Add to that the cost of an office suite and the gap in price becomes even more striking. SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop bundles OpenOffice.org at no additional cost. As mentioned above, OpenOffice.org has all components required in a modern office suite including: word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database applications. Outstanding compatibility with Microsoft file formats lets you edit and save documents to Microsoft Office formats or the open standard OpenOffice.org formats.

Let's Compare

Potential hardware costs should also be considered as part of the equation. A new hardware purchase will almost certainly be required to run many of Vista's new features (such as Aero Glass). If you've not upgraded hardware in the last year, you might need new hardware just to run Vista.

Microsoft Office 2007 Professional has a list price of US$499 per user, while Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate is a jaw-dropping US$679 per user. When you add the costs of Windows Vista Business and Microsoft Office 2007 Professional, it's nearly US$800 per user. The cost of Windows Vista Ultimate and Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate reaches US$1,078. SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 delivers 90 percent of the functionality of Vista and Office at less than 10 percent the cost.

> Who's Ready?
Roughly 800 million desktop workers fall into one of three categories:

  • Transactional: Those who use one or more applications developed in-house or delivered by a third-party application vendor. They might need a browser to access applications, but they are usually not given e-mail access or productivity tools.
  • Basic Office: Those who need a browser, e-mail access and productivity tools.
  • Advanced Basic Office: Those who need a browser, e-mail access and productivity tools, and who also use various in-house developed and third-party applications. It is important that they are able to connect to people and interoperate with the systems in their organization.

Almost all organizations have users in each category, some large enterprises and government agencies have thousands of desktop users in each category. Most transactional and basic office desktop users are ready to move to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. Given application support, many advanced basic office users are ready to make the move as well.

Novell does not position SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop as a wholesale replacement for Windows XP or Vista across the enterprise. Rather, it is targeted firmly at the transactional, basic office and advanced basic office users where organizations can best leverage the significantly lower total cost of ownership of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop.

> Application Support
Many applications run natively on Linux, such as Real Player, Citrix client and Acrobat Reader. Other applications available from the open source community offer outstanding compatibility with file formats and protocols such as OpenOffice.org's support for Microsoft Office file formats and Gaim instant messenger's support for AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk and others.

For Windows applications that are not yet supported on Linux or for those where there is not a suitable equivalent, running a Linux desktop is still possible and may still offer better total cost of ownership over a Windows desktop. Let's a explore what options are available to organizations and end users to run Windows applications on SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop.

Emulation
CodeWeavers is the primary contributor to the Wine project, a technology that emulates the Windows API on Linux and Unix systems. Leveraging Wine, CodeWeavers offers a product called CrossOver Office that provides tools to install and run Windows applications on Linux. Advantages of Wine and CrossOver Office include local application execution and no additional network infrastructure requirements. Not all Windows applications are supported by CrossOver Office (or Wine); however, the supported application list continues to grow as CodeWeavers contributes to the Wine project and regularly certifies new applications.

Application Publishing
A variety of software vendors offer application publishing technology, including Citrix, Ericom and soon Microsoft (coming in the Longhorn Server release). All publishing solutions leverage Windows Terminal Services. They improve on the experience of presenting a full remote desktop (which Windows Terminal Services offers natively) by presenting only the required application in the context of the local desktop. To the end user, a published application appears as if it is running locally. Support is guaranteed because the application is running in its native environment and centralized administration.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop includes a number of terminal services clients as well, including Citrix, Ericom and rdesktop (RDP). Application publishing does require additional server infrastructure and carries it's own licensing costs that should be evaluated. (For a more in-depth discussion of application publishing and terminal services see Wait Loss, First Quarter 2007 issue.)

Virtualization
In some cases full OS virtualization might be the best solution for a target application. Virtualization, leveraging VMWare or Xen, allows you to run multiple guest operating systems on top of a single host OS. The classic scenario is running Windows XP virtualized on top of Linux. This gives users access to the full operating system and all of its features along with the target application. Virtualization will not save you any money in licensing costs, but it will give you access to all of your applications at the same time, whether Windows or Linux, from a single machine. Virtualization may be the best option for IT Administrators and power users.

> Make the Move
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop is loaded with the applications and features you need to deploy a desktop operating system with confidence, integrating seamlessly with Windows and Unix environments. Service Pack 1 continues the SUSE tradition of innovation with enhanced usability, robust security and native virtualization.

Designed to meet the needs of a broad audience of desktop users, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop SP1 packs real totalcostofownership savings and flexibility not available from a Windows platform. Your upgrade path need not be to Vista. It's time to take a closer look at SUSE Linux on the desktop—are you ready?




Table 1
Functionality SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop Windows Vista
Usability-tested user interface "Design first" methodology Extensively tested interface
Integrated search Beagle Vista Integrated Search
Complete Web browsing Firefox Internet Explorer
Multimedia support
  • RealPlayer from RealNetworks
  • Macromedia Flash Player
  • Totem
  • Helix Banshee
  • F-Spot
  • Microsoft MediaPlayer
  • Microsoft Photo Editor
  • Windows Movie Maker
  • RealPlayer from RealNetworks
3-D rendered interface 3-D desktop effects Aero Glass
Productivity applications
  • OpenOffice.org with Visual Basic support
  • Gaim
  • Novell iFolder
No Office suite included. The standard choice is Microsoft Office 2007 at an added cost.
Collaborative applications
  • Novell Evolution
  • Tomboy
  • Outlook Express



Table 2
  SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 Windows Vista Business Windows Vista Ultimate
License / Subscription Fee US$50 US$299 US$399
Maintenance (per year) Included in subscription fee US$87 (29% of license) US$116 (29% of license)
Total (one year) US$50 US$386 US$515
Total (three years) US$125 US$559 US$746
Pricing Information:



Table 3
  SLED 10 Compiz Ready Windows Vista Premium Ready
Processor 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
System Memory 512 MB 1 GB
GPU

Most 3D capable graphics cards sold in the last three years from the following vendors:

  • Intel
  • NVidia
  • ATI

For a complete list of known supported graphics cards, see: (ii)

Windows Aero Capable DirectX 9-class GPU that supports:

  • A WDDM Driver
  • Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
  • 32 bits per pixel
Graphics Memory 32 MB 128 MB
Hard Disk Drive 10 GB 40 GB
Hard Disk Drive Free Space >2.5 GB >15 GB
 

Optical Drive

DVD-ROM or CD-ROM Drive

DVD-ROM Drive


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