GNOME Beta Shows New Desktop Strength

Version 2.4 boosts accessibility and file management, still lacks some features.

Version 2.4 of the GNOME Projects namesake desktop environment provides a smooth, well-performing graphical interface for companies looking to expand their Linux deployments from the data center to the desktop.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
GNOME 2.4 Beta 2

The GNOME Projects GNOME 2.4 exhibits continued improvement over previous versions, with particular gains in its Nautilus file manager and accessibility. GNOME 2.4 can form the foundation of an effective, usable mainstream corporate desktop. As open-source software, GNOME 2.4 is freely available, but most will acquire it through their Linux distributor.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

USABILITY

GOOD

CAPABILITY

EXCELLENT

PERFORMANCE

GOOD

INTEROPERABILITY

EXCELLENT

MANAGEABILITY

GOOD

SCALABILITY

EXCELLENT

SECURITY

GOOD

  • PRO: Nautilus file manager is faster and more capable; easy-to-use client software.
  • CON: Still carries awkward file selector dialog; lacks configuration lockdown; clipboard functionality incomplete.

EVALUATION SHORT LIST
• KDE Desktop 3.1.3

eWEEK Labs tested Beta 2 of GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) 2.4 and found it notably faster and more mature than the 2.2 release we tested in the spring, particularly in the Nautilus file manager. (See eWEEK Labs review of GNOME 2.2.)

Of course, room for improvement remains. Wed like to see Version 2.6, which is slated for release next spring, include support for locked-down configurations and remote desktop sharing. These are two features that the rival KDE (K Desktop Environment) already includes, and KDE, which is set to see its 3.2 release in December, isnt standing still.

The battle that GNOME, KDE and other, smaller projects wage for the hearts and minds of Linux users remains a hotly contested one, although GNOME is emerging as the primary face of Linux on the enterprise desktop.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has announced plans to swap out Common Desktop Environment for GNOME as Solaris default interface beginning with Solaris 10. Suns forthcoming Linux desktop product, code-named Mad Hatter, is based on GNOME, and Novell Inc.s recent purchase of GNOME distributor Ximian Inc. indicates that GNOME will be the face of Novells Linux offerings as well.

Dominant Linux distributor Red Hat Inc. ships GNOME as its default desktop environment, and the company is heavily involved in GNOME development.

However, Red Hat also ships KDE with its Linux distributions, and KDE is the default interface for enterprise Linux player SuSE Linux AG.

The final version of the GNOME 2.4 platform is scheduled for release this month, and its source code is available for free download at www.gnome.org. However, most users will consume GNOME 2.4 as part of a vendor release.

We tested GNOME 2.4 Beta 2 on a desktop machine that was running Red Hat Linux 9.0. We used Garnome, a free command-line tool for automating the GNOME source code download-and-compile process, which we recommend highly for testing the latest GNOME code.

Next page: Speedier Nautilus