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Enterprise Toolbox

Corel Linux poised to challenge desktop rivalsIt's obvious that Linux, the "operating system that could", is well suited for server-based tasks. In larger outfits Linux is also viable as a mid-tier platform, and is equally qualified to tackle server functions at smaller agencies or in a departmental setting.

But for all its reliability and strong adoption rate to date, Linux can afford to mature and grow in new directions. Among other things, Linux will need to gain additional power to successfully take on the tasks associated with back-end servers. Likewise, it needs some added usability features to increase its appeal to end users.

Current Linux distributions from companies such as Red Hat, Caldera Systems and SuSE can most certainly be run on the desktop. However, the installation procedures and software that is bundled with those Linux distributions often can be confusing to the average end user.

The folks at Corel are preparing to move ahead of the pack with their forthcoming release of Corel Linux, available in Australia from February 7 but pricing has not been announced. During tests of the Preview 1 version of Corel Linux, we found the operating system and application bundle appealing on several fronts.

Corel has neatly solved a problem that has stymied the growth of Linux on the desktop -- namely, installation. You can install Corel Linux via bootable CD-ROM or floppy disk and then install it across the network. In testing all of those installation types, the desktop machine was up and running in less than 30 minutes. The process is simple and does not require adjusting graphics adapter settings or other geeky parameters.

When it comes to the Corel Linux desktop interface, you might say the folks at Corel have 'Window-ised' it. If you didn't know better, you'd think you were running Microsoft Windows. Corel Linux offers File Manager, which is much like Windows Explorer. You can use File Manager to drag and drop files between your local and network drives, access World Wide Web pages, minus using a Web browser, and access FTP services as needed.

We especially liked how well the test Corel Linux desktops fitted in with a mixed network configuration. We could graphically access the Solaris, AS/400 and Windows NT servers using Corel Linux. And, as with the Windows event viewer, we could use the Corel Linux Event Viewer to see what was going on under the covers on the desktop.

Corel Linux's Control Center is easy to use and is much like the Windows Control Panel. And you can add other applications to your desktops by using the Corel Linux Package Manager, which is much the same as the Windows add/remove programs option. Several applications come with Corel Linux that will fit the bill for many end users. The company includes its WordPerfect 8, Netscape Communications' browser, e-mail, graphics applications and more. We were able to easily add Sun Microsystems' StarOffice. The company expects to add several of its applications to the Corel Linux bundle while partnering with other third parties to increase the number of available end-user applications.

Some company officials have indicated that they will offer both free and fee-based support options once the product ships. Corel Linux has resolved many of the issues that have kept Linux from being widely adopted on the desktop, and will certainly be a viable alternative to the higher-priced Windows platform. If you're seeking end-user computing cost reductions without losing out on functionality, you should definitely take Corel Linux out for a spin.

Maggie Biggs evaluates enterprise technologies and has more than 15 years IT experience