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September 30, 2002—In this issue:
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Red Hat Releases Friendly New Linux Version
- Microsoft, ViewSonic Team Up for Low-Cost PDA
- Planning on Getting Certified? Make Sure to Pick Up Our New eBook!
- Mark Minasi and Paul Thurrott Are Bringing Their Security Expertise to You
3. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Today, Red Hat released Red Hat Linux 8.0, the most recent version of the company's Linux distribution. A major improvement over earlier versions, Red Hat Linux 8.0 represents the company's first stab at creating a simple and friendly desktop that can rival Windows XP and Mac OS X. Despite complexities that continually creep in under Linux's friendly veneer, Red Hat has done a credible job of taking the UNIX-like OS into new ease-of-use territory. As a result, analysts predict that the desktop improvements will at least temporarily stave off Linux defections to Mac OS X, although Linux probably won't make major inroads against XP.
"Red Hat Linux 8.0 is the perfect choice for small businesses and enthusiasts looking for a reliable, easy-to-use operating system with the latest productivity applications," said Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat. "This is a major step forward for users of traditional operating systems who have been looking for an easier-to-use, more versatile open source solution."
Controversially, Red Hat has chosen to obscure differences between the competing K Desktop Environment (KDE) and GNU Object Model Environment (GNOME), each of which usually offers unique features. In Red Hat Linux 8.0, the differences between KDE and GNOME are minimal, all in the name of usability. (Red Hat says that corporate desktop users aren't interested in the desktop-environment debate and simply need to get work done.) Red Hat Linux 8.0 also includes a suite of productivity applications, including OpenOffice.org 1.0, and other important applications and services, such as the Apache 2.0 Web server, simple graphical security, and system-configuration tools, and new accessibility features.
I find Red Hat Linux 8.0 impressive. Set up is quick, simple, and relatively painless, and unlike previous Linux versions, the OS detected and correctly configured most of the hardware on two PCs I used for testing. The default Red Hat Linux 8.0 UI is stunning, with bright colors, smooth fonts, and clean lines. And most impressive, the system handled several multimedia tasks with aplomb, another feat most earlier Linux versions found impossible. For example, Red Hat Linux 8.0 correctly detected my digital camera and scanner, letting me import pictures—an act we take for granted in the Windows world but which is often frustrating on Linux.
Red Hat Linux 8.0 still has problems, of course, and it's still not a suitable Windows replacement for most users. (Because it runs on Intel-based hardware, however, the product is a more suitable switcher choice than Mac OS X, which usually requires an expensive investment in new hardware.) The product's disadvantages include font problems in applications such as OpenOffice.org, whose fonts aren't nearly as nice as the fonts in the base OS, and niggling compatibility problems: I couldn't get wireless networking to work on either system I tested, for example, although I know it's possible with some tweaking. And Red Hat Linux 8.0 doesn't make modem connections easy to find or configure.
All in all, Red Hat Linux 8.0 is a stunning achievement, if only because Linux has been so frustrating in the past. If you're a tech enthusiast or corporate decision maker who wants to replace single-purpose desktops with a simpler and less-expensive alternative to Windows, Red Hat Linux 8.0 is worth investigating. You can download the product free from the Red Hat Linux Web site or purchase various editions starting at $40.
Microsoft has teamed with display-maker ViewSonic to release the ViewSonic V35, a new Pocket PC product that will debut November 1. The V35 will cost just $300, a relatively low price for a Pocket PC device, and its price seems to be its primary selling point. The product features fairly mundane specifications: a 300MHz XScale processor, a middling 32MB of RAM, a 3.5" transflective screen for indoor and outdoor viewing, and one Secure Digital (SD) expansion slot. However, the V35 is entering a crowded market. Although Pocket PC sales are surging, almost 30 different models are available from a variety of companies. So how much of a market ViewSonic will be able to grab is unclear, especially if other companies lower prices on more feature-laden models.
In addition to its Pocket PC device, ViewSonic will release a Tablet PC that will run Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. This product should meet with much wider success than the V35, thanks to the smaller number of competitors in that market and budding interest in Tablet PCs.
I have to wonder whether ViewSonic is jumping into the Pocket PC arena only to please Microsoft, given the crowded Pocket PC market. Other Microsoft partners, such as NEC and Philips, did the same in the past. (Neither of those companies market Windows CE pocket-sized devices anymore, thanks to disappointing sales.) I suspect ViewSonic's largest contribution to the Pocket PC market will be that other companies will lower prices if the V35 is reasonably successful: Because most Pocket PCs sell for $500 to $600, a price cut would be a boon to customers.
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)
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