Top Three Linux Desktops

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-03-18 Print this article Print

Personally, my favorite Linux desktop is Xandros Desktop 3. This, in turn, is based on the popular Debian distribution. Besides being my own desktop of choice, I also think its the easiest for a Windows user to sit down and start using without a lot of fuss or muss. The default look and feel is a lot like XP. Click here to read a review of Xandros Desktop OS 3 Deluxe Edition.
I dont really care that much about the interface per se. What I like about Xandros is that it comes with all my favorite Linux desktop applications such as OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird, and with the CrossOver Office bundle I can run Microsoft Office applications when I must. In addition, it comes with the best Wi-Fi support Ive seen to date on a Linux desktop. It can also boast of easy-to-set-up firewall and VPN wizards. Like Linspire (the former Lindows), Xandros also makes updating your system a snap with a combination online store and patch center. My only disappointment with this desktop is that its copy of Ximian Evolution, a popular e-mail that I like because of its scheduling functionality, is the long-in-the-tooth 1.4.6 version. To read more about Linspires latest desktop OS, click here. Lets say, though, that you want more of a hands-on Linux experience but youre new to Linux. If thats you, the best beginners Linux I know comes from my old university town, Morgantown, W.Va.: Mepis LLCs SimplyMEPIS 3.3. Its a Debian-based release, which, while its not as Windows-user-friendly as Xandros, makes it very easy for a Linux newbie to get his or her feet wet. It also has advantage of being supported by the best, bar none, "introduction to Linux" book I know: Robin Millers Point & Click Linux! I recently reviewed the book, so I wont go into any more detail on it. Suffice it to say that if you want to give Linux a try, theres no better introduction. Finally, for businesses that want a thin-client-style Linux desktop, I currently favor NLD (Novell Linux Desktop.) Now, this is not a full desktop the way Xandros is. Its got all the office basics—the Novell Edition of, Firefox for its default browser, Novell Evolution 2.0 (the latest and greatest version of Ximian Evolution) for its e-mail and groupware client, and your pick of the multiprotocol Gaim and Kopete for instant messaging. It doesnt come with much in the way of bells and whistles. For those, you can get Novells SuSE Linux Professional 9.3, a fine Linux desktop in its own right. But if what you want is an inexpensive desktop that covers the office basics, uses ZENworks for easy management, and has wide support from integrators and resellers, NLD is your desktop. In short, NLD and Red Hat Desktop are easily the best available options for businesses that want to roll out hundreds to tens of thousands of desktops. I give Novell a slight edge myself because I really think that Evolution is a great groupware client. Besides, when youre talking big deployments, network and client management costs become close to all-important for bean counters, and Novell does well in this area with its ZENworks management software. The forthcoming ZENworks 7 Suite and ZENworks 7 Linux Management will let administrators run and control not only Novells Linux boxes but Red Hat and Microsoft Windows systems as well. Sweet! OK, so NLD may still not be as much fun as the others, but for an enterprise watching its IT dollars like a hawk, its an excellent choice. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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