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Linux 2.4 sports improvements over previous versions, but you'll only benefit from those improvements if you're looking for a business or enterprise server.

Linux 2.4 sports improvements over previous versions, but youll only benefit from those improvements if youre looking for a business or enterprise server. If youre not, well, ah, theres not too much to get excited about in Linux 2.4.

In my tests to date, Linux 2.4 works slightly faster on my Linux workstations running on 233MHz Pentium IIs, compared with a 766MHz Pentium III with 96MB to 256MB of RAM. On my old, slow Linux boxes, however, a 90MHz Pentium and a 486 33/66MHz with 33MB of RAM, things have slowed down. Now, with some tuning and turning off unnecessary applications, like Sendmail, even the slow workstations perked up. But, lets face it, theres no compelling speed argument to upgrade an old workstation from a 2.2.x Linux.

Now, if you have a workstation with Universal Serial Bus (USB) support, thats a horse of a different color. Linux 2.4 has much better support for USB devices. It also includes support for IEEE 1394, ak.a. FireWire, devices. PCMCIA card support, once only available as an external package, is now sewn up inside the kernel for improved performance.

The file system changes also help with workstation hard-drive access. While the results are much more noticeable on servers, file access was clearly a bit peppier on my workstations. Finally, the new Linux also provides plug-and-play for cards in older Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) slots.

All in all, however, theres nothing about Linux 2.4 thats so compelling that many users would feel a need to update their systems.

Instead, if you want to get more out of your Linux PC, you should look to upgrade your GUI. The Gnome desktop environment ( has been making a big splash with corporate support from both old technology companies like Sun and new technology businesses like Helix Care.

The next version, 1.4, will be released this month. Besides bug fixes, the new Gnome will include the long-awaited Nautilus file manager from Eazel. Gnome developers like to boast that theyre on the leading edge of technology, but in my experience, Gnome is more often on the bleeding edge.

For my own desktop use, I like Gnomes chief rival, K Desktop Environments ( KDE 2, released in October 2000. Besides simply being more stable than Gnome, I find its network transparency features, which enable you to manipulate files the same way without a hitch—regardless of whether theyre on a network file system (NFS) server, a Web site, either an NT or Samba server, or even an ftp site—to make day-to-day workstation use much easier.

Regardless of your choice between desktop environments, upgrading to either the Gnome or the KDE 2 will give you a much more visible improvement to your everyday work than moving up from a Linux 2.2.x system to 2.4.