Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4
Manufacturer: Caldera Systems, Inc.
Price: $39.95 US
Reviewer: Jon Valesh
Enthusiasts have a real advantage in the Linux world. For them, the value of Linux is self-evident: it is Linux—Linux is cool. Spending long hours and sleepless nights keeping up with the latest drivers, the greatest new applications and all the hot news is entertainment for a real enthusiast. Like a video game or a puzzle, it is a chance to think, learn and show off. It can even be financially rewarding for those with talent.
Businesses have a different perspective. Hours spent working with Linux (or any OS) aren't fun or rewarding—they are a wasted resource, also known as lost money. Businesses, especially businesses that do more than develop tech gear for tech people, have real-world problems, and the only reason they want computers is to help solve those problems. They don't even care how the problems are solved, as long as the solution works, and when they choose a computer system or OS they aren't interested in new drivers, hot applications or cool news. They are interested in enhancing their bottom line.
Caldera Systems, one of the first companies formed specifically to “productize” Linux, understands the distinction. They know that, unlike the techno-freaks and Linux fanatics that give Linux its technical drive, business users don't care what goes on under the hood and behind the scenes in an OS, as long as it works. They understand that the people who make corporate technology decisions must justify—in cold, practical terms—the technology they adopt. They must be able to point to clear benefits that will positively affect the corporate bottom line, not just say, “This is neat, let's use it!” They must also be able to allay the fears of upper management, fears ranging from reliability and product support to the simple fear of change. They also know that if a technology change turns into a fiasco, they will have a long time to think about what went wrong as they search for another job.
Caldera understands the business view of technology and has been working for years to turn Linux into a product that businesses, businesspeople or anyone new to Linux can be comfortable using. The latest product in Caldera's business-friendly lineup is eDesktop 2.4, designed to bring the power and cost-effectiveness of Linux to the corporate and home desktop. It is easy to install, 99% pre-configured, uses the elegant and easy-to-use K Desktop Environment and comes with a complete set of administration tools, so anyone with even basic computer skills can configure and maintain their system. Caldera has also bundled, developed or encouraged the development of Linux versions of many of the tools, protocols and features that businesses want and IT managers need. Interoperability with NovelT NetWare servers, web-based remote administration and a suite of Internet applications, including Netscape Communicator 4.7 which is pre-loaded and provides most of the plug-ins people need (news, mail and chat clients), Macromedia Flash Player, Real Networks RealPlayer, Adobe Acrobat and a host of other applications and servers.
Caldera eDesktop 2.4 has a little something for everyone, including techno-freaks and Linux fanatics, but nowhere does it shine brighter than as a Linux for non-Linux users—at home or in the office.
For anyone not totally committed to a self-image of superhuman technical ability, a well-written manual is important. When delving into an unfamiliar technology, the manual must be especially good. A poorly written manual can mean the difference between a useful product and a frustrating waste of money. Caldera obviously knows most of their target audience won't know a lot about Linux when they begin using eDesktop, and the manual is both well-written and complete. When it comes to pertinent, easy-to-follow documentation, Caldera has done their job by describing the installation, configuration and administration of eDesktop in excellent detail. They also include many references and links to other information sources for users who wish to learn more.
While the manual is very good, “User's Guide” may be a bit of a misnomer. It is more an “Installation and Administration Guide” for people new to Linux than a user's guide. The manual tackles, fearlessly and with admirable clarity, the task of getting first-time Linux users comfortable making configuration changes, managing users, working with the command-line interface and doing everything else that longtime Linux users take for granted. It spends very little time on the minutiae of actually using the eDesktop, which is perfect for home or small business users, who usually manage their own systems. Corporate IS departments will probably not want to hand out the manual to office staff who need to get up to speed on using Linux/KDE, though—of the roughly 500 pages of manual, about 75 are specific to using, rather than administering, OpenLinux eDesktop.
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