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Novell Unwraps SUSE Linux 9.2

UPDATED: Novell announced the November availability of SUSE Linux 9.2 Professional.

The SUSE Linux Professional product line is on a six-month release cycle. Version 9.1 was released in late April of this year. According to Charlie Ungashick, director of product marketing of Linux OS products at Novell, there was a 200 percent increase in download volume (FTP or full ISO) from SUSE Linux 9.0 to 9.1. He expects a similar up-trend for the new version.

"A lot of people who are using SUSE Linux 9.0 and 9.1 want the latest and greatest in Linux anyway," Ungashick told internetnews.com. "They'll be very inclined to try it out."

Of particular note in this version are some of the new mobility features, including Bluetooth wireless support and automatic recognition.

"Particularly if they're running a laptop, they'll definitely want to upgrade to 9.2, because they can see some of the new wireless LAN features, suspended disk and power management. A lot of the things that are missing in Linux today," Ungashick said. "It just makes running Linux on a laptop far easier."

SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 updates much of the distribution's core technology, including the new Linux kernel 2.6.8 (SUSE Linux 9.1 included the 2.6.4 kernel). This version also marks the distribution's shift from Xfree86 to the X.Org Foundation's X Window System. The Linux desktop has also been upgraded to KDE version 3.3. In September, the GNOME Foundation released GNOME 2.8, which is already being included in test versions of Red Hat's Enterprise Server 4.0, as well as its Fedora Core community product.

Ungashick characterized the omission of GNOME 2.8 as being a "timing issue," though he noted that the version of GNOME 2.6 that SUSE Linux 9.2 uses is not the same as the one originally released.

"A lot of the features that you'll see in this version of GNOME 2.6 are an improvement over the base 2.6 that you saw in the community when it came out," Ungashick explained. "Usability, Nautilus improvements, file dialogues, browsing for printing, a lot of things are actually improved over the base 2.6."

That said, SUSE Linux has long-standing ties within the KDE development community, which is something that is reflected in this new version.

"Over, arguably, any other distro, one thing we do with KDE is integrate it really well with the operating system," Ungashick said.

SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 also sports new redesigned interfaces to make setup of network services like Samba , DNS and DHCP easier than before. Part of the redesign is just simply part of the evolution of the operating system, according to Ungashick.

"We're also responding to thousands of Netware and Novell users that are considering moving to Linux and looking at the different network services," Ungashick said. "So there is a fair amount of networking acumen that goes into how we're improving SUSE Linux, and that's new to SUSE Linux as far as an organization and as a business unit of Novell."

Distribution Timetable Roundup

Novell released the latest upgrade to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) version 9 in August. Its principal competitor in the Linux space, Red Hat, in September released the first public beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0, which is expected to be finalized in early 2005.

On the non-enterprise side, Red Hat's community-sponsored Fedora Core project is aiming to release new versions three times a year. The latest test version of Fedora Core 3 (test 2) was released on Sept. 16.

Mandrakelinux recently made public its 10.1 community version, which is an incremental upgrade from version 10. Debian is on the verge of its next release, code named "Sarge," which is expected in the coming weeks.

Updates prior version to clarify Debian's next release.