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New GNOME Released

The GNOME Foundation today released the latest evolution of its widely used Linux desktop GNOME version 2.8. The new release adds some significant new features and further expands the usability of the Linux desktop.

The Linux desktop currently has two principal open source projects, GNOME and KDE that are both vying to become the dominant technology of choice. GNOME is the default desktop for a number of Linux distributions, including Red Hat, and is the basis for Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS). It is available as a user option on most other major distributions, including Mandrake, SUSE, Debian and Gentoo.

Version 2.8 comes six months after GNOME's last release and one month after its chief rival KDE released its latest desktop.

Improvements and new features in GNOME 2.8 include an integrated VNC (virtual network computing) remote desktop server, which allows for remote desktop sharing and control. That control is granted via a new Remote Desktop Preferences control panel, which allows the user to determine permissions and remote access rights to the desktop.

In addition, 2.8 includes the Evolution 2.0 groupware application, which includes the Apache SpamAssassin application to help in the fight against spam.

However, according to Stephen O'Grady, Red Monk senior analyst, Evolution may introduce some new risks.

"Evolution opens the possibility of the same issues Microsoft has faced with its 'integrated innovation' strategy," O'Grady told internetnews.com. "Namely that the more broadly functional a desktop is the greater the risk of vulnerabilities and exploits."

Overall, though, O'Grady said the release is an excellent upgrade. "I think it is a significant boost to the Linux desktop, in that it greatly simplifies typical user tasks, such as time/date settings to the use of USB keys."

The new GNOME release also includes a number of features that many would consider to be standard items for a modern working desktop.

A revised File Manager now performs automatic file associations so a user can simply click on a file, rather than having to open it from its associated application. Finding network shares has also been simplified with a new DNS-based Service Discovery, allowing users to view all available shares in a dialog window.

Also, USB memory sticks, which have suffered somewhat on Linux because of a lack of support, will now be easier to use. And GNOME 2.8 makes use of the Hardware Abstraction Layer, from standards group freedesktop.org, which is intended to automatically recognize and mount removable storage media like USB memory sticks, as well as digital cameras, DVDs and CDs.

"This release demonstrates GNOME's major steps toward 'just works' hardware support, system configuration and deep collaboration integration," said Jeff Waugh, GNOME Release Team Manager, in a statement. "These features will have immediate value for our users, and long-term value for application developers who will be able to integrate important user data, such as contacts and calendaring into their applications."