Sun Rising on JDS

While writing Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop for O’Reilly & Sons,
Sam Hiser and Tom Adelstein realized that Sun’s Java Desktop System (JDS)
was underrated by many desktop users. And even its creators. So to try and garner some
industry-wide JDS respect, the authors Monday launched JDShelp.org.

“We were monitoring the Sun JDS forum and saw that there were users of the
software that were outside the scope of what Sun’s
enterprise distribution and support channels are designed to accommodate,”
said Hiser. “Sun’s documentation was not so great; it was the typical rush job to do the
software, and they didn’t document it so completely,” Hiser said. “Also,
their documentation seems to be written for each other, not for your mom.”

JDS
2.0
is Sun’s answer to the enterprise
Linux desktop, competing for market and mind share with the
GNOME
and KDE
projects; all three are seeking Windows converts. JDS includes the GNOME desktop,
StarOffice application suite, the Evolution
e-mail and calendar client, the Mozilla Web browser and Java 2 Standard Edition
for developers.

Despite much fanfare from Sun executives, JDS has been met with
underwhelming support in the Linux community. Primarily designed for the business user, it
has been attracting consumer types, folks who received little attention from Sun officials.

The biggest knock against JDS is its use of stable versions of Linux code to run their platform.
Hiser said Linux users want the latest versions of software applications running on the JDS,
which is designed more for corporate use.

“In some cases, you see this sniping by the open source people, ‘oh, it’s
old stuff, it’s no good.’ But what they don’t realize is that [JDS] was made
for the enterprise — where you’re not supposed to break, you’re not supposed
to fail,” Hiser said. “Also, the code libraries have stopped changing.
That’s the key. So that if there are vulnerabilities, Sun can just send a
patch.”

For example, GAIM, the Linux instant messaging client on JDS 2.0, runs
version .70, even though a more recent addition, .79, adds key support for
MSN and Yahoo Instant Messenger.

Nor does JDS support the Linux driver
for Winmodems. As an enterprise system, Sun officials don’t expect many
companies to need dial-up modem support, so they’ve left it out of the final
product with no future plans to incorporate the driver.

To address these issues, the site features the basic help you’d find at many community sites — news,
“howto’s,” links to the JDS forums and resource links. It also includes
such items as online tutorials for “newbies” and the latest Red Hat Package
Managers (RPM) of Linux-based applications. RPMs are the designated install
tools for software packages on the Linux Standard Base version 1.0.

Hiser said volunteers monitor the site, but he doesn’t
rule out the possibility of making money from it in the future. Down
the road, and depending on the interest level the site generates, Hiser said
they might start a paid services and support program, or
professional open source.

Hiser noted that many of the Linux distributors, while they may have
begun their existence as a consumer friendly organization, have turned
corporate in their structure — if only from a pricing standpoint.

Enterprise editions of Red Hat , once the
standard-bearer for enterprise-quality Linux in the open source community,
sells its first 10 seats for $2,500 (single licenses are unavailable);
SuSE, Novell’s Linux distro, costs nearly $600 a seat, he said. JDS, on
the other hand, currently costs $25 for a business user and $50 for an
individual user, Hiser said.

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