Its been approximately a year since Novell Inc. absorbed Ximian Inc. and SuSE Linux AG, a pair of acquisitions that netted Novell a popular Linux distribution, a team of desktop-focused Linux developers and a central position in the growing enterprise Linux market. eWEEK Labs tested Novell Linux Desktop 9, the first specifically Novell-branded Linux operating system to ship since the company began flying its penguin flag, and we found the product to be as capable and well-made as any desktop Linux distribution weve seen yet.NLD 9, which was released in November, bears a strong resemblance to Sun Microsystems Inc.s JDS (Java Desktop System): Both products are based on versions of Novells SuSE Linux Enterprise Server. NLD is also similar to Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Desktop Linux.NLD 9, JDS and Red Hat Desktop Linux ship with roughly the same set of open-source desktop applications, anchored in each case by the OpenOffice.org productivity suite, Novells Evolution groupware client, and either The Mozilla Foundations Firefox or namesake Web browser. Whether these key productivity applications or others available on the Linux platform can fulfill the requirements of users in your organization is what will determine if NLD can suffice as a credible replacement to Windows at your site. Many applications on which companies now rely run only on Windows, and NLD or any Linux desktop will prove a poor fit unless companies dependent on Windows-only applications arrange to deliver these resources via Citrix Systems Inc.s namesake product or Microsoft Corp.s Terminal Services (clients for both ship with NLD 9). However, where application availability permits, NLD 9which is priced at $50 per machine per yearcan offer companies cost savings, protection from Windows-targeted worms and viruses, and maintenance gains through the package-based software management system that NLD and almost all other Linux distributions boast. We recommend that companies interested in trying NLD 9 download an evaluation copy at www.novell.com/products/desktop/eval.html. NLD runs on x86 systems, but a Novell spokesperson told us that we could expect a version of NLD for x86_64 machines to become available next month. We tested NLD 9 on notebook and desktop machines, mostly without incident, although NLD did not include the driver for our test notebooks Broadcom Corp. 802.11g wireless adapter. We had to use a Windows driver with code from the NdisWrapper project (ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net) to enable this device. Next page: Look and feel.