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[school-discuss] Re: Linux in Government: Linux Desktop Reviews, Part II | Linux Journal

on Mon, Mar 21, 2005 at 09:08:23AM -0600, Tom Adelstein (tadelste@xxxxxxxxxxx) wrote:
> This week's article on Linux in Government looks at Novell as an enterprise desktop provider. I did a lot of work evaluating the desktop and their service offerings. the outcome surprised me. You might find it interesting.
> http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/8169

Interesting, after a fashion.

I'm doing my own cross-platform eval/testbed with a local school, and
Suse (9.0 or 9.1) is in the mix.  Note in advance I've cut my teeth with
RH, and am a certified, branded, Debian bigot.  Issues I've encountered:

  - SuSE hide their docs behind a registration-only firewall.  Which
    makes it markedly difficult for someone who's not drunk the cool-aid
    to even get a sip.  Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.  There's
    a community page with (outdated) docs.  I've got a mondo PDF telling
    me all about YAST...but nothing on YAST2.  I spend a lot of time on
    Freenode IRC (mostly #debian), and while the SuSE channel folks are
    mostly friendly, it's not exceptionally helpful.

  - The distro is oddly lacking in certain commandline tools.  Little
    stuff that you don't notice until it turns up missing.  I'm don't
    recall exactly which of the following aren't present, but among the
    first-adds I make to any Debian system are:  vim, screen, w3m, sudo,
    lftp, and mc.  At least some of those are missing.

  - 8-character max passwords.  Tsk, tsk....  Need to find out where
    that's being set.  See above WRT docs.

  - Anemic package selection.  In a "soothing the bureaucratic mindeset"
    exercise, we're installing ClamAV on the workstations.  Debian and
    Ubuntu (three of the boxes) no problems.  Suse required going
    outside the package archive to a third-party RPM, with iterative
    attempts via 'rpm -i' and a visit to RPMFind to satisfy

  - Attempting to switch from CDROM-based updates to online updates has
    been unsuccessful to date.  Mind we've got a 56 minute hour to deal
    with such matters during class, and minimal time outside same.
    YAST2 spawns multiple screens, gets unresponsive (PII-233 / 96 MiB
    systems -- yes, they're oldish), and the help system doesn't turn up
    much of interest.  Oh yeah, and there's even ye olde Microsoft Helpe
    Systeme kluge of asking if you want to create a help system index --
    why this doesn't happen at install I've *no* idea.  We're still
    stuck on CDR updates.  And because docs are hidden away (see above)
    I can't research this on my own time.

My experience with proprietary 'Nix in the mid/late 1990s, as I was
starting to become aware of / use GNU/Linux, was that the userland tools
were among the first to go.  That is:  proprietary distros emphasized
their specific GUI toolkits (OpenLook, VUE, CDE) over providing a rich
and/or useful set of commandline tools.  Yet it's the technical folks
who're advocating systems and actually have to admin the damned things.
Novell's failing badly to impress here.

My own forray through the usual suspects:  Debian, Fedora Core / Red
Hat, Gentoo, Mandrake, SuSE, Ubuntu, turns up a few interesting

  - Community-oriented projects tend to have markedly better docs than
    commercial distros.  Debian's are the richest.  Gentoo and Ubuntu
    are coming along well.  The exceptions are FC/RH, and Mandrake.
    Mandrake is a highly community-centered commercial distro, and has
    reasonably good docs.  RH have been around sufficiently long that
    they've got a great docs set.  FC, on the other hand, lacks even an
    installation manual (I kid you not).  Karsten Wade (RH documentation
    team) tells me that the RH docs are recommended for FC, but there's
    not even an indication on the FC website saying this.  My read:  FC
    has major problems.  And SuSE has no visible docs.

  - Package tools matter.  The nice thing about Ubuntu is that
    activating 'universe' sources, it's pretty much Debian.  Total
    transfer of package management skills.  Remote (SSH) management,
    etc.  Very nice.

  - Upgrade paths matter.  The project kicked off with RH 9.0.  Which is
    of course, EOLd.  And the upgrade path is a wipe/reinstall to FC.
    Which itself (AFAIU) has an upgrade path of wipe and rebuild.  For
    an educational institution which has little enough time to throw at
    such projects, that's a lot of overhead.

Ubuntu's being pretty well received.  I'm finding it + Debian are far
more responsive, once stepping outside the narrow ranges defined by a
default install, than the RPM based distros.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    - Princess Bride

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