Linux Desktop News
A look behind the latest headlines in the Linux desktop arena.
by Web Editor
Looking for a Tier-One Linux Desktop? Try a Workstation.
What's the difference between a desktop computer and a workstation? At Dell, the difference is one comes with Linux and one doesn't. eWeek.com has an interesting article, "When Is a Linux Workstation Really a Desktop?, that explains how Dell has started advertising the availability of three workstations that come with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) WS installed. Currently, however, the only open-source Dell desktop systems available come with the pretty obscure FreeDOS OS. And if you choose to install Linux, Dell will not support it.
So far, none of the tier-one computer sellers offer a pre-installed, fully supported Linux desktop system. Many believe this is because the vendors don't want to risk their relationships with Microsoft by offering Windows alternatives. So, is offering RHEL WS on "workstations" Dell's first step towards going after the home user crowd with a Linux alternative? It's hard to say, but if sales on these three Dell RHEL workstations are high enough, the company most likely would look at expanding its Linux offerings.
As the eWeek article notes, Dell says it's been selling workstations with Linux options since 1999. But these options often have been narrow and the support has been second-rate at best, according to various user experiences. These three new offering with RHEL WS appear to be the most straightforward Linux systems Dell has offered to date.
Back to the difference between a desktop and a workstation. Workstations appear to be offered through the Small Business section of the Dell Web site. They also appear to be a bit better equipped--more storage, better graphics, higher processor speeds--than the typical desktop offered in the Home User/Home Office section. The price is steeper than it is for a desktop, but not that much more than what I paid for my last computer system. I walked through the steps of ordering a Dell Precision 380n with RHEL and other than supplying a company name of "My Name Company", I encountered no road blocks to ordering a Small Business workstation to be shipped to my house.
In short, the desktop/workstation distinction in this particular case may be little more than a marketing decision. And considering that Dell offers more Linux options abroad--including a Linux desktop in France--this all may be one way of sticking the company's toe in US water before diving in.
Preview of GNOME 2.14
The newest version of the GNOME desktop environment will be available in a couple of weeks. A preview by one of its developers indicates that one of this release's goals is to help administrators roll out GNOME on business desktops. New GNOME 2.14 features include Pessulus, part of the redesigned admin tool suite. It allows admins to disable portions of the desktop, which can be useful in business settings. Another new admin tool is Sabayon, which allows administrators to create profiles for groups of users and to set specific default and mandatory settings for them. The preview explains that "Administrators can quickly edit and deploy profiles by changing settings inside a live, nested GNOME session."
Other new desktop features include an updated version of Ekiga, formerly known as GNOME Meeting; updates to Metacity, the GNOME window manager; the newest version of Evolution and more. GNOME 2.14 also comes with a new applet, Deskbar, that allows users to execute programs, open bookmarks, use search engines and more, all from a single on-screen drop-down style list.
Colorado City Switches to Linux One Piece at a Time
Steamboat Springs, a small ski town in Colorado, has been moving steadily to Linux over the past few years, as detailed in this ZD.net article. The city's information systems manager, Kent Morrison, explains how the city started with a Linux server to support e-mail and has since switched to open-source Web applications, collaboration software and more. Currently, Steamboat Springs is working with neighboring towns on open-source e-governance projects.
Also in the works is moving desktop users to Linux and open-source applications. Currently, OpenOffice.org and Firefox are installed on most city workers' computers, and a complete switch to Linux is being negotiated. Overall, Steamboat Springs is a good example of what can be done with open source in the public sphere is politics stay out of the way.