Thursday, February 02, 2006

Book - Exploring The JDS Linux Desktop

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In 2003, Sun Microsystems released the Sun Java Desktop System, a Linux operating system (based on SuSe Linux - a Novell company) with the look and feel of Windows, bundled with the StarOffice suite, a productivity suite comparable to Microsoft's Office. Later that year, Sun announced that it had struck a deal with the China Standard Software Company, a consortium of Chinese tech companies supported by the government, to install between half a million and million installs of the JDS on Chinese computers, making it the largest Linux OS install base in the world. The end goal of that project would see some 500 million installs, which would be a remarkable coup for Sun.

The JDS essentially is sold at the rate of $100 per employee per year, or half for licensed users of the Sun Java Enterprise System.

With all the interest in the OS and office productivity suite package, someone had to come up with a book to take IT enthusiasts along for the ride. O'Reilly Media's "Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop", by Tom Adelstein and Sam Hiser, is an ideal introduction for the novice to more advanced user, especially since it is packaged with a live cd-rom that lets you run the OS from RAM without installing it on your computer. The book is clearly designed for getting people up and running on JDS fast, so while it will be of great interest to hobbyists and employees who have been switched over, it's not designed to make the reader a systems engineer or serious administrator. It's also one of the few JDS books that I've found on

From my experience, certain installs of Linux can really test your patience. Often, you need to change video cards, for example. Once you actually do have a Linux install up and running, if you have only been exposed to Windows, you are suddenly in a new world where there is much unfamiliarity within the attractive GUI. You can now imagine how many non-users feel when they begin to use a home computer for the first time. JDS is specifically designed to be an "easy" version of Linux to use and if you had to add up the comparable cost of Windows software, you would have to spend over $1000. Finally, JDS and Linux in general isn't as much a resource hog as Windows. JDS Linux runs very nicely on your old Windows 98 computer. You can't run Windows XP as nicely on a Win 98-era computer due to the amount of resources like RAM, for example, that XP wants. Sun states that the minimum requirements are a PII 266 MHz CPU, 4 GB hard drive, 800 x 600 resolution-capable monitor and 128 MB of RAM. The recommeded requirements are a PIII 600 MHz CPU, same size hard drive, 1024 x 768 resolution and 256 MB of RAM. If this sounds like the old junker that you kept, just in case you could find another use for it, or if you are about to ditch a similar computer in favour of a new one, consider installing JDS and it will seem like you have a new computer.

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Linux can be an intimidating topic to the uninitated, but this book is an easy, straight-forward read. For such a potentially intense topic, the book is fairly non-technical. I also liked the fact that it covers the StarOffice suite, the open source "equivalent" to Microsoft's Office. You can download OpenOffice for free and give it a whirl. For most people, it is an excellent alternative to MS Office, and you can't beat the price.

Some of the topics covered in the book include:
*installing JDS
*e-mail/ calendar/ PIM
*running Windows applications
*the RPM package management system

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Will the Sun JDS Desktop catch on in the corporate environment as a MS Windows and Office alternative and killer? Time will tell. In the meantime, I can recommend this book to the curious as it explains the similarities between Windows and JDS and walks you through how to be just as productive as you are or were with Microsoft's offerings, with relative easy. If your expectation for the book is that its a guide to quickly getting up and running, then you may enjoy it. It's not a seriously in depth guide.

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