By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2005-10-31 Print this article Print

Ubuntu and SUSE both ship with The GNOME Projects GNOME 2.12, the latest version of the popular desktop environment. GNOME 2.12, which was released in September, includes some interface improvements in the systems Nautilus file manager, such as a new "location bar," with buttons representing where you are in the immediate file system hierarchy .

Also, GNOME 2.12 sports a much-needed editor for its task bar application menu and a useful log viewer application with a calendar for locating logs from particular days.

On the KDE (K Desktop Environment) front, SUSE 10.0 and Ubuntu 5.10 sport KDE 3.4.3.

The last SUSE version we reviewed, Version 9.3, came with Beagle, a desktop search application that works like Google Inc.s Google Desktop and Apple Computer Inc.s Spotlight for Mac OS X feature. The version of Beagle that ships with SUSE Linux 10.0 is much more stable than the one that shipped with Version 9.3, and its now enabled by default.

Beagle is also available for installation on Ubuntu, although its not part of the supported Ubuntu core—in our tests with Ubuntu and Beagle, however, the search tool worked well.

Because SUSE Linux 10.0 and Ubuntu 5.10 are all-free Linux distributions (meaning, free to download but also free to redistribute or modify), there are certain pieces of software—such as Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java Runtime Environment, Macromedia Inc.s Flash Player and NVidia Corp.s graphics drivers—that cant ship along with them.

Both distributions provide access to these types of software packages for download and installation through separate software repositories. For SUSE Linux 10.0, theres an impressively well-stocked channel for Java applications and components, as well as another repository for other components such as Flash and Adobe Systems Inc.s Acrobat.

Consult www.opensuse.org/Additional_YaST_ Package_ Repositories for more information about SUSEs software repositories.

Ubuntu 5.10 provides similar access to license-restricted software packages in a separate repository channel. In addition to the restricted and core channels, we could configure our Ubuntu system to access additional packages beyond the core officially supported software, thereby expanding the available packages from more than 4,000 to more than 17,000.

Except for Debian, from which Ubuntu inherits its software catalog riches, Ubuntu 5.10 boasts more ready-to-install packages than any other distribution of which were aware—a major competitive advantage.

Whats more, Ubuntu boasts excellent package installation tools—we could install packages from the command line or with Synaptic, a graphical package management tool. New in this version of Ubuntu is another simpler software installation tool, which presents packages that are installed and available for installation in a basic menu structure, with checkboxes for selecting which applications to install or remove .

SUSE Linux 10.0s software installation tool isnt bad, but at times when we wanted to install a single particular package, we found it simpler to do so from the command line.

Although we prefer Ubuntus software tools, the Ubuntu team has some catching up to do with SUSE Linux and with Red Hat Inc.s Fedora Core where the rest of its configuration tools are concerned.

We found it a hassle to switch among different network connections on Ubuntu 5.10, such as from a wireless link to a wired one, or from one wired network to another. Ubuntus network configuration utility includes a profiles feature, but we couldnt get it to work properly—the tool wouldnt save the profile definitions we created and would hang for long stretches during certain operations.

SUSE Linux 10.0 does a better job with network configuration and switching and sported a panel-based applet for switching among networks that we first saw in a previous version of Red Hats Fedora Core distribution—we suggest that Ubuntu pick up this particular panel-based applet as well.

The Ubuntu suite also lacks a configuration tool for its X server. In tests, the Ubuntu installer did a good job configuring the display on its own, but for further configuration tasks, such as setting up dual displays, we had to fuss with text configuration files.

SUSE Linux 10.0 does ship with a graphical X configuration tool and a raft of other helpful modules, which cover the broadest range of system administration tasks of any Linux distribution weve tested.

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As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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