SuSE rolls out Linux desktop

Trying to broaden the appeal of Linux on the desktop, SuSE Linux AG on Wednesday will roll out Version 8.2 of its product that will feature the KDE 3.1 graphical interface, new security enhancements, and the latest version of the OpenOffice.org desktop application suite.

Besides KDE 3.1, the company hopes to attract users through other ease of use improvements including the Yet Another Setup Tool (YaST2), for easier installation and configuration by identifying hardware components, setting up user administration, and automatically configuring Internet access.

A new feature built into KDE 3.1, which SUSE desktop users now benefit from, is the "Desktop Sharing" function that permits the remote control and supervision of several network hosts that stretch across hardware environments. The KDE desktop security system, called Kiosk, also is included and can be used to limit individual configuration changes, which serves to improve administrators' efficiency in overseeing multiple users.

"We look at [KDE] Version 3.1 as major release. [The Linux community has] done some major things to it such as rendering capabilities which has made it much faster,'' said HolgerDryoff, SuSE's general manager in Oakland, Calif.

Responding to an item high on the list of many of its users, SuSE has added in Version 8.2 support for WinModems, one of the best-selling communications products. This support now allows Linux-based users to communicate with wireless networks.

Another important feature of the new release, Dryoff believes, is the KOrganizer application scheduler that allows desktop users to synchronize data with Microsoft's Exchange 2000 servers.

SuSE officials claim that Version 8.2 will be the only shipping version of Linux to include MainActor, a higher end video editing application from MainConcept. Also included are CD/DVD writing applications, sound mixing, editing features, and a built-in synthesizer. The company has also bundled in Kooka, a KDE-compatible scanning application and Kadmos, an OCR tool that allows users to scan both printed and handwritten documents into a word processor, a spokesman said.

Beefing up the product's security, SuSE has bundled in its Firewall 2 product, a crypto file system for protecting data in the event of theft, and the GPG encryption of e-mail messages. It also has a new integrated VPN module for encrypting and authenticating the exchange of data among a range of hosts and networks.

Included in OpenOffice.org 1.0.2 is several enhancements to its word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools applications along with new fax and phone capabilities. In the new version, fax messages can now be received by e-mail, and incoming calls can be automatically received by e-mail as sound files, a company spokesman said.

The release is centered around Version 2.4.20 of the Linux kernel, which SuSE has further optimized, and can support 1,200 different device drivers. The kernel also features the glibc 2.3.1 libraries and Version 4.3 of XFree86.

SuSE will make Version 8.2 available on April 14, which can be downloaded at the SuSE Web site as well as through authorized retail stores, which will sell it for US$39.95. The Profesional version of the product, which includes a user guide, administration guide and 90 days of installation support, goes for $79.95.

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