Ubuntu Edgy Eft is available for free download at www.ubuntu.com/products/GetUbuntu/download#currentrelease. In addition to the standard LiveCD Ubuntu install disk, we could download an alternative installation disk that features a text-mode version of the installer. The text-mode installer loads faster than the LiveCD and offers expanded installation options, such as the ability to install Ubuntu in an LVM (logical volume manager) configuration. OpenSUSE 10.2 may be freely downloaded at download.opensuse.org/, either in a set of five CDs or in the form of a single DVD. Alternatively, OpenSUSE 10.2 is available in a $60 retail version that includes printed documentation, installation media for x86 and x86-64 platforms, and 90 days of installation support.Both Ubuntu 6.10 and OpenSUSE 10.2 are available in x86, x86-64 and PowerPC versions. For Ubuntu, theres also a server variant thats available on all of these platforms, as well as on Sun Microsystems UltraSPARC architecture. eWEEK Labs tested the x86 versions of both Ubuntu 6.10 and OpenSUSE 10.2 on a Lenovo ThinkPad T41. Whether we were running Ubuntu 6.10 or OpenSUSE 10.2, our ThinkPads suspend and hibernate power management functions worked well. (Suspend sends PCs into a low power mode, and hibernate saves PC state to disk and turns systems off.) Whats more, the sound volume, screen brightness, display switching, and Wi-Fi on/off and sleep buttons worked as expected, without requiring any tweaking at all. Edgy Eft ships with a kernel based on Linux 2.6.17, an upgrade over the 2.6.15-based kernel that powered its predecessor. During this version span, the Linux kernel accrued a list of updates, including improved power management support, ACL (access control list) support for CIFS (Common Internet File System), a driver for Broadcom 43xx-based wireless cards and support for the multicore Niagara series of CPUs from Sun. OpenSUSE ships with a slightly newer Linux kernel, based on version 2.6.18, which adds improvements for SMP machines and SATA (serial ATA) devices. For more information on Linux kernel developments for particular versions, check out kernelnewbies.org/LinuxChanges. Software support Ubuntus software management tools and catalog of ready-to-install software packages have, in the past, been the Ubuntu attribute weve most prized. In Edgy Eft, these tools continue on more or less unchanged, and software management remains a particularly bright spot for Ubuntu. OpenSUSEs software management tools are pretty good. The transition from the classic SUSE software management tool set to the new ZENworks system based on Ximians Red Carpet is moving along well, but we found it more difficult to browse through available software on OpenSUSE 10.2 than on Ubuntu 6.10. We also found that OpenSUSE 10.2s software tools were noticeably slower than those of Ubuntu 6.10. For example, we installed the FTP client gFTP on both OpenSUSE and Ubuntu. Since we knew the name of the package we were after, we used the command line. On our OpenSUSE machine, we issued the command "rug install gftp," and the operation took 1 minute and 50 seconds (45 seconds of which was spent waiting for the ZENworks Management Daemon to wake up). On our Ubuntu system, the same operation, which we launched with the command "sudo apt-get install gtfp," took 35 seconds. In both cases, the time it took to complete the operation included downloading gFTP from the Internet, but we were using the same mirror repository for both systems. (The kernel.org mirror, in San Francisco, hosts both Ubuntu and OpenSUSE mirrors.) Edgy Eft and OpenSUSE 10.2 each ship with a very good selection of desktop applications, and, for the most part, these applications are integrated smoothly into the system. One negative element we encountered in Edgy, however, was the state of spam filtering support in the Evolution mail client thats included as Ubuntus default mailer: Out of the box, spam filtering with Evolution did not work. We did find a how-to on the Ubuntu forums that led us through the process of installing and configuring SpamAssassin and/or Bogofilter to handle spam filtering, but we hope to see this tedious configuration task excised from future Ubuntu releases. OpenSUSEs Evolution implementation, on the other hand, filtered spam well right off the bat, without need for further configuration. Click here to read more about Evolution. Edgy Eft was originally slated to become a more bleeding-edge release than previous Ubuntu versions had beenthus the name. However, the only part of Edgy that lives up to that handle is the systems built-from-scratch replacement for Linuxs sysvinitthe program thats responsible for launching all the other programs that constitute a running Linux system. The Ubuntu replacement, which is installed by default in Edgy, is called Upstart, and is intended to enable Ubuntu systems to better navigate dependencies among the services its responsible for launching. In our tests, we did notice somewhat shorter startup and shutdown times, which, for now, are the primary advertised benefit of Upstart. OpenSUSEs GNOME desktop now sports the Windows XP-like Start menu that debuted in last summers SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. The new menu makes it easier to launch recently used applications and documents, but we found that it took longer to navigate to other installed applications than with the traditional GNOME menu (which is still available). While the new menu does include an integrated search box, search results dont appear immediately within the menu, as is the case with Windows Vistas search-enabled menu. Wed like to see Novell add this functionality to its menu-borne search in future versions. Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.