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Redhat 7.2 launch eclipsed by XP blitz

The Redhat 7.2 desktop is a competitive alternative for home or educational use
The Redhat 7.2 desktop is a competitive alternative for home or educational use  


By CNN's Peter Marks

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- The global road show that marks the release of Microsoft's Windows XP came to Hong Kong this week as part of a $200 million marketing blitz.

In stark contrast, the leading Linux distributor Redhat launched version 7.2 on October 26 without the fanfare, but with significant customer reaction. The new release was downloaded by 15,000 concurrent users on the launch day.

Michael Lim, Redhat's regional manager for greater China, told CNN that the firm is not having a big launch but rather partnering with other vendors.

Linux and related open source software may only have a small proportion of desktop users, but are well established as server platforms.

According to the most recent Netcraft survey, 59 percent of Internet-connected Web servers run the open source Apache, compared to 27 percent running Microsoft's server software.

Installation

To dedicate a fairly modern PC to Redhat, simply boot from the first CD for smooth installation.

There are a few questions about time zone, mouse type, and the type of install desired (workstation or server) -- but nothing technical.

It's a different story, however, if you plan to "dual-boot" your computer with both Windows and Linux. Unfortunately this risky endeavor is best left to an experienced user.

What is striking about the installation is the sight of hundreds of applications being rapidly installed on the machine.

Redhat isn't just a base machine with an operating system, it gives you a machine loaded with ready-to-use application software.

Desktop experience

Redhat 7.2 comes with two excellent desktops, GNOME and KDE.

PRICE COMPARISON
Windows XP Home Edition US$200  
Redhat 7.2 US$60 (or free to download)  

Microsoft Office XP Standard US$400  
KOffice Bundled free  
 

GNOME now includes the beautiful Nautilus disk explorer that shows previews of document content in their icons.

The standout is KDE 2.2 which provides a smooth, quick and totally solid feeling desktop environment.

Out of the box, it reminds the user of MacOS X with a dock where icons enlarge as the mouse rolls over them.

But "themes" are available to make KDE or GNOME look and feel like your favorite desktop -- even Windows XP.

One pleasant surprise is that when a SanDisk USB compact flash reader is plugged in it simply appears on the desktop as an icon that could be opened for simple file copying, as seen on a Mac.

Bundled software

While the box price of the operating system appears to give Redhat 7.2 an edge over Windows XP, it's the additional cost of application software that really shows the price differential.

KOffice's Visio clone
KOffice's Visio clone  

Open source programmers have worked hard to make very functional clones of many of the popular Office suite of programs. KOffice includes: KWord, KPresenter, KChart, KSpread, KFormula, Krayon, and Kivo (a good Visio work-alike).

Aside from the KOffice suite, Redhat ships with Abiword which is like MS Word, and Gimp which many feel to be the next Photoshop.

Web browsers abound and while KDE's Konqueror is now very good, some sites tuned specifically for Internet Explorer don't work as they should.

There is Netscape, Mozilla and others but despite everything, one security-conscious Net bank would not allow transactions from this machine.

Is Redhat 7.2 ready for desktop use?

A week of daily Redhat 7.2 use has shown it to be a stable platform with only a few minor issues. There's a wide range of fonts, and a hard-to-read script-like font sometimes becomes the default in the wrong places.

The question for a potential full-time user is no longer whether this a stable functional platform, but whether the user can live without Microsoft Office.

The ability to import and convert complex Word documents is still not strong enough to handle all situations, and while the email clients are very good, they do not match the depth of Outlook.

Redhat 7.2 is most ideal for home or educational use where there is no need to constantly inter-operate with proprietary document formats.



 
 
 
 


RELATED STORIES:
RELATED SITES:
• Redhat
• Netcraft web server survey
• KDE Desktop home page

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