SuSE 7.1 Professional Still in Minor Leagues

Software offers Linux perks; desktop focus puzzling

SuSE Linux 7.1 professional, the first product eWeek Labs has seen thats built around the new Linux 2.4 kernel, is easy to install and well-documented—but its aimed at the wrong market.

SuSE 7.1, released last month, supports 64GB of RAM, SMP and unlimited running processes. These attributes, improved in the 2.4 kernel, will give Linux the necessary scalability to continue its run up the corporate ladder.

However, eWeek Labs finds it odd that SuSE 7.1 Professional is positioned as a desktop operating system, given Linuxs more natural fit on the server side. Missing from the product are the tools and documentation for serious server work. In six manuals and nearly 1,000 pages of documentation, there is virtually no information on the applications that have made Linux a contender for corporate servers such as Apache, Sendmail and Samba.

The desktop client, with its new KDE 2.0 screen, is friendlier than previous versions of KDE and GNU Network Object Model Environment. Likewise, SuSE 7.1s Yast2 administration tool is a major improvement over the linuxconf tool included with all distributions.

Dont bar the windows

At $69.95, SuSE 7.1 professional is much less expensive than Windows desktop competitors. Nevertheless, the costs of retraining and lost productivity associated with migrating from a Windows desktop environment to Linux would be prohibitive.

As a desktop operating system, SuSE 7.1 Professional would be a good fit only for Microsoft haters and cash-strapped companies installing systems for the first time. Even with Windows 2000 Professional selling at close to $300 per user and Microsoft Office 2000 Standard at close to $500, we see no compelling reason for companies to shift from Windows on the desktop.

We installed SuSE 7.1 Professional on a Compaq Computer Corp. Professional workstation with a 733MHz processor and 256MB of RAM; a Dell Computer Corp. OptiPlex with a 600MHz processor and 256MB of RAM; and a white-box computer with an Intel Corp. 400MHz Celeron processor and 128MB of RAM.

After years of fighting with Linux to configure device drivers and peripherals, we were impressed with the ease of installation on the OEM boxes and the level of device detection enabled. During installation on the Dell machine, the Yast2 install program picked up a writable CD player and configured the software to support it.

However, installation on the white box wasnt as smooth. It took three attempts to detect a video card and actually begin the SuSE 7.1 Professional installation.

SuSE 7.1s root file system showed standard Unix structure, but, strangely, the CD-ROM and floppy drives were placed in root files.

SuSE 7.1 Professionals Yast2 administration tool was most impressive. Unix has been traditionally configured by editing configuration files, and this is still the most flexible way in corporate environments. However, Yast2s graphical interface allows junior administrators to tackle day-to-day tasks such as configuring IP addresses and mapping network file systems, leaving more experienced IT hands available to deal with more critical responsibilities.

Yast2 enables graphical setup of many common options, including printers, Network File Systems and Network Information Services.

Yast2s printconf setup utility was also handy in tests. This utility provides a logical setup for various printing methods, including Windows, serial, parallel, Universal Serial Bus and others.