Tech Talk 2 by Ken Baker
A (Very) Happy Desktop
Checking Out SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 - The Most Interoperable Linux Desktop
More Granular Security
In addition to greater interoperability, they've also built in greater security to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11. The prime example of this is the PolicyKit, a new feature that gives you increased flexibility in granting your users the ability to make some system changes without having to give them root access to the system. While the major use case for the PolicyKit will likely be in allowing users to install applications without them needing root privileges, it provides a number of other controls as well, such as controlling access to removable media, adding or removing printers, modifying the backup schedule, enabling or disabling Bluetooth, and more.
When a user attempts to carry out a privileged operation that is PolicyKit enabled, PolicyKit will be asked whether or not the user is entitled to perform that operation. Possible answers include “yes,” “no,” or “authentication needed.” In the “authentication needed” scenario, you have the option to require users to authenticate as themselves or as root. Additionally, PolicyKit privileges can be either implicit or explicit. Implicit means that the policy applies to all your users and explicit applies to specific users or groups.
To set or modify PolicyKit privileges you can use either the graphical Authorizations tool inherent to the GNOME graphical desktop interface, the PolicyKit command line tool, or by directly modifying PolicyKit configuration files. (See Figure 2.) To manage the privileges on an enterprise-wide basis, it’s probably best to make changes at the configuration file level. You can then push those policy settings out to your users’ desktops through a variety of options. If your policies are fairly uniform, it can simply be part of an AutoYaST image that you use for all your Linux desktops. To give you more granular control, you can distribute the policies settings based on roles using group policy objects or the policy-driven automation of ZENworks Linux Management.
In regard to other aspects of security, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 continues to use AppArmor for application security. While the AppArmor functionality in this release is essentially identical to that of the previous release, it has been updated to work with newer applications and software updates.
Green IT Innovations
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 features key green IT innovations without impacting productivity. It includes new smart power management capabilities such as CPU throttling, switching off the hard drive when not needed and dimming the display when idle. It also includes improvements that put the desktop into hibernation and sleep modes. Finally, a new Power History interface makes your green IT experience very visual. You can see how your usage behavior is impacting battery life and how the operating system is adapting to this usage.
In addition, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 features Nomad. Nomad is a suite of remote desktop protocol tools that delivers near-native graphics performance when you access SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop remotely. This allows you to dramatically cut costs by configuring SUSE Linux Enterprise for green, server-based computing environments. For instance, you can now run SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop virtually in the data center or in the cloud without compromising the high quality and performance you would expect from a local desktop experience.
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Productive Usability and Deployment Flexibility
The overall look and feel of the GNOME desktop graphical interface is basically unchanged in this release. It still provides integrated search capabilities and real-time indexing of the desktop, new accessibility features for disabled users such as the Orca screen reader and 3D desktop effects that enable more effective organization of your desktop. In the area of 3D desktop effects, one visual enhancement, known as the application switcher, has been added to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11. When you Alt+Tab through your open applications, the application switcher rotates through 3D thumbnail views of your applications, making it easier to see and find the application you want. (See Figure 3.)
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 also provides you flexible deployment options. You can use it as a general-purpose desktop platform or tailored for use in thick- or thin-client configurations. To facilitate deployment, you can take advantage of the automated installation provided by AutoYaST, the central management capabilities of ZENwork Linux Management, or both of them together. Finally, Novell is continuing to work with its hardware platform partners to preload SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop on a wide range of form factors, including desktops, notebooks, netbooks, nettops, workstations and thin clients. But don’t wait until then to check out the enhancements that make it the most interoperable desktop available and the market’s only enterprise-quality Linux desktop. To see what SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 can do for you, check out the sneak preview today. (See www.novell.com/promo/home/sneakpreview.html.)