Linux in Government: Linux Desktop Reviews, Part 2 - Novell Linux Desktop

Focusing on the best desktop candidates for deployment in enterprises; taking a look at Novell Linux Desktop 9.
Features of NLD

In Figure 1, you can get an idea of the functionality available on the Novell Linux desktop. In this figure we accessed the accessories menu. You can see the availability of many applications and tools, including the Microsoft Terminal Server Client and the Novell iFolder.

Figure 1. The Novell Linux Desktop Launch Menu

The Terminal Server Client is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. NLD Bundled Microsoft Terminal Server Client

For users requiring Microsoft or Win-32 applications, Novell has provided a simple way to utilize those applications through a Microsoft Terminal Server. Again, if you believe such applications play a niche role in your enterprise rather than a dominant one, using a terminal server can save your organization significant funds. MS Terminal Server client, for example, uses the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

A second solution bundled with NLD includes the Citrix ICA Client, whose splash screen is represented in Figure 3. NLD also includes the popular Evolution Workgroup client, version 2.0, which can connect to Microsoft exchange as well as to Novell GroupWise.

Figure 3. Citrix ICA Client for Linux

Finally, NLD also provides extensive interoperability with existing Microsoft infrastructures by including Samba, the SMB CIFS client/server solution. We have noted in previous articles (see Resources) how Samba allows Linux to work with Windows clients in peer-to-peer, Primary Domain and Active Directory environments.

Novell's Productivity Suite

Novell has made a major contribution to the Open Source community by enhancing the ubiquitous Productivity Suite. In the past, we have tested and used Sun's StarOffice7 version of and considered it to be the best of class. After using Novell's version of, shown in Figures 4 and 5, we have another opinion.

Figure 4. Novell's Office Productivity Suite

Figure 5. Novell's Star Writer Word Processing Application

Novell has enhanced the major applications in the suite--StarWriter, StarCalc and Impress--such that they perform with exceptional stability and ease of use. If you have utilized Microsoft's Office Productivity suite, you may find the Novell suite to be easier to use and compatible with more versions of the Microsoft file format than any other product.

Also, we anticipate that Novell will offer version 2 within the near future. You can find information about it on the Web site. In the meantime, you can discover how the newest version, now in beta, looks and feels like Microsoft Office. In short, your users should have no problem in migrating to the latest version of

Final Comments

Although we could continue to discus NLD far past our allotted space here, we suggest that you take a close look at the Novell offering yourself. As pointed out earlier, you can download a fully functional version from the Novell Web site. Although you can experience the desktop and try it in standalone mode, you perhaps might find a much richer experience if you set up a pilot project to use the various tools available from Novell.

As a side note, please understand that although I may have written enthusiastically about NLD, I remain an objective third party. Perhaps you can take my enthusiasm as evidence of how impressed I am with both the product and the company.

Tom Adelstein lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Yvonne, and works as a Distinguished Analyst and open-source software consultant with Hiser+Adelstein, headquartered in New York City. He's the co-author of the book Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop and author of an upcoming book on Linux system administration, to be published by O'Reilly and Associates. Tom has been consulting and writing articles and books about Linux since early 1999.



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NLD is not stable...

Anonymous's picture

I've been trying NLD9 extensively in a pilot project, and personally I think this distro is a disaster. The product lacks a lot of packages which are really needed (pam_mount for example is a must if you want to connect your business users to their network shares, there's no (k)vpnc,...), also multimedia support is below par (xine was stripped from the open source WMA and WMV ffmpeg decoders, there's only MP3 support in RealPlayer, no usable multimedia plug-in for Firefox, like mplayerplug-in).

And worst of all, the product still contains a lot of visible bugs, even now at this moment, six months after its original release. To name a few: the use of dead keys hang KDE applications such as Konqueror, KDEs file chooser does not use the correct charset when your locale is ISO-8858-*, USB Mass Storage Devices with FAT partitions are mounted UTF-8, making all file names with special characters written in windows garbled and the file system case sensitive, i18n support is much worse than other distro's (with latest OOo security upgrade, even several languages which were only added in Novells SP1, were removed again), RealPlayer starts copying all files in your homedir to a temporary subdirectory if you start it from the KDE menu because of a bug in RealPlayers launch script,...

On several of these issues, support has confirmed that there is indeed a problem, but there are no bug fixes more than a month after my reports, neither do I have any news wether these bugs actually will be fixed.

I'll be looking to Centos in the future, at least it won't cost anything, and will also have years of updates. With KDE 3.3, it will also solve some of the small issues related to the older KDE 3.2 in NLD, and hopefully it will also be a bit less buggy in general.

I really have the feeling that Novell has rushed out this distro to become the first one before RHEL4 and MDK Corporate 3. I cannot understand why the reviewer has such a positive review about the distro.

This guy bounces from distro

Anonymous's picture

This guy bounces from distro to distro and never remains consistent with what he thinks is the best disrto. I think he just likes to hear himself talk.

take-no-logic-ally I don't

Anonymous's picture

take-no-logic-ally I don't know,
but it looks carefully hand-crafted..... elle est belle.


Anonymous's picture

After 90 days, the my NLD system cannot even surf the net. May be my installation is not correctly down.


AdamW's picture

How can you possibly write a review of NLD without *once* even *mentioning* Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Mandrakelinux Corporate? This is a product competing in a clearly defined and easily covered marketplace, it wouldn't have taken much effort to make at least a small mention of its competition!


tadelste's picture

In case you missed it, this is a series. We're covering RHEL Desktop in Part III. With regard to Mandrake, I do not believe it qualifies as an enterprise desktop.

Mandrake is not an enterprise

Anonymous's picture

Mandrake is not an enterprise desktop? Well, they themselves thinks otherwise, and this desktop has been deployed in France by the goverment / public services.

"Mandrakesoft brings to the enterprise its renowned expertise in Desktop Linux. Now, for Office productivity, Business of all sizes can rely on ease of use, streamlined and intuitively organized software package, as well as leading applications of their kind in every field."

Mandrake is not enterprise; b

Anonymous's picture

Mandrake is not enterprise; but Ubuntu *Bongo bongo* linux sure is.

Linux Novell's Linux Desktop NLD

Anonymous's picture

The site says that it is an evaluation version. updates and support expire after 90 days. how dumb. who is going to reinstall an OS and all the apps and find out about a security or stability problem in 91 days that can't be fixed. Doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

Evaluation version

Aaron's picture

If you buy a license, you'll get an activation key and can use that to continue the update service for a year. You don't have to reinstall.

Also it's a full version-- just with 90 days of free updates.

review vs. production

Anonymous's picture

The reviewer's using the evaluation copy; a business will buy a support contract. They want somewhere to point fingers when a problem comes up. The functionality looks good here, when will the corporate market wise up? 90% of the workforce doesn't need a full Windows+Office build on their desk, why pay for it? Try it in some call-center setting where they're doing green-screen emulation anyway, or a browser-based app where the OS underneath isn't a consideration.

How dumb

Anonymous's picture

I can see your point. But, the whole distro sells for something like $48 for a one year subscription. You can dual boot it - that's built in.

You can even keep it and find an alternate "free" update service - like

It's just an article and a review, why do people have to always vote on everything?

I doesn't cost you anything to read,

Try that and you'll not be du

Anonymous's picture

Try that and you'll not be dumb! You dont need to reinstall the OS, PAY a litte! Help OSS community. Linux is not Free, how can we live forward? All Linux distros are the same, you should pay for support; or donate for us to continue improving linux! Fix it yourself if you want FREE same as other distros! I you have friends that will help you, buy them free BEER and say thanks! Well.. that's maybe another form of paying.

Welcome in real world.

Anonymous's picture

Welcome in real world.


Anonymous's picture

Welcome to the hell