Author: Preston St. Pierre
The corporate desktop GNU/Linux distribution is a relatively new invention, having begun with SUSE Desktop, then followed by Sun’s Java Desktop System and Red Hat Desktop. But with much less fanfare, Mandrakesoft released a Corporate Desktop product last January. It’s cheaper, has no minimum purchase requirement, and has support options ranging from one to five years. Compared to the alternatives, Mandrake Corporate Desktop is suited more for smaller shops that need a cost-effective and reliable desktop platform with corporate support.
Mandrake is traditionally known as a cutting-edge desktop GNU/Linux distribution. It is often the first distro recommended for many people when they consider switching to GNU/Linux. Unlike other desktop distributions, Mandrake has never been shy about including the most up-to-date software packages in each new release.
Mandrake Corporate Desktop is a little different, though: it is based on Mandrake Corporate Server, which is a tested and mature product on a calculated and lengthy release cycle. If you’re used to some degree of instability or unpredictability with Mandrakelinux, you won’t find it in Mandrake Corporate Desktop. One could roughly equate Mandrake Corporate Desktop to Red Hat Desktop, and Mandrakelinux to Fedora Core.
Software and features
Installing Mandrake Corporate Desktop from scratch is identical to the standard Mandrakelinux installation procedure in its partitioning, package selection, and so forth. The package groups are streamlined for workstation and business use, though, so there are no development, server, and other software groups that are unnecessary for a corporate desktop machine. Some of the programs that were in these missing groups are still available through individual package selection, so if, for instance, you need your desktop users to have K3b for writing CDs and DVDs, you can add it to the installation group.
The default install gives you a KDE 3.2 desktop with OpenOffice.org 1.1.2, Mozilla 1.6, GIMP 1.2, and Evolution 1.4.6, among all of the usual KDE and Mandrake tools such as KsCD, Kopete, Harddrake, Drakconf, and Menudrake. Mozilla has the Java, Flash, and PDF plug-ins installed by default. You also get IceWM installed by default in case some of your users need a different style of interface.
The basic, familiar Mandrake desktop with the Galaxy theme is the same as it is in the consumer desktop edition. You also get the same basic software set, but the menus are rearranged to make it easier to find and use the tools that will be most useful to corporate desktop users. For instance the star menu (K menu) options are: Use office tools; Organize; Surf the Internet; Enjoy music and video; View, modify, and create graphics; Administer your system; and All applications. The last option gives users access to the usual Mandrakelinux base system tools, utilities, and programs.
In the above-mentioned specialized menus there are icons for synchronizing PDAs, sending and viewing faxes, instant messaging, IRC chat, and video conferencing, and clients for FTP transfers and newsgroup reading. Also included is a 30-day trial edition of CrossOver Office.
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Mandrake Corporate Desktop comes with an NX (NoMachine) thin client to connect to an NX server and an ICA client to connect to a Citrix server. Mandrake includes its own Drakauthentication program, which allows the operating system to authenticate against an Active Directory server.
Newer machines may have trouble with Mandrake Corporate Desktop’s 2.6.3 kernel, which misses out on drivers for some new LAN, sound, video, and RAID peripherals and onboard components. We had difficulty with sound and LAN in our Intel D915GUX-based machine, but slightly older technology, vis the VIA Epia MII-12000 and Asus K8V Deluxe motherboards, seemed to work quite well.
Mandrake’s support cycle is five years, which is identical to Windows. The included support is pretty lean: one year under the standard contract, but as always, upgraded and extended support options are available. The upgrade cycle is 12 to 18 months, which is much greater than Java Desktop System and about comparable with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. In other words, you’re not going to be forced into an upgrade and you’ll have a lot of time to plan and implement an upgrade if you should need one.
Summary and conclusions
While a few big corporations — Sun Microsystems, Red Hat, and Novell –are fighting over the business desktop space, Mandrake has quietly created a competent, stable, compatible, and well-equipped operating system at a lower price and with more flexible purchase options. There’s a reason why it’s cheaper, though: Mandrake Corporate Desktop doesn’t have any fancy EAL, Open Group, or military certifications like some of its direct competitors, so some larger companies might prefer not to use it. Mandrake Corporate Desktop is well-suited to small and medium-sized businesses that are considering Windows. In outward-facing networks, Mandrake will be much cheaper and more reliable, secure, and stable than a comparable Windows operating system.
|Purpose||Desktop operating system|
|License||GNU General Public License, although some included software is under proprietary licenses|
|Market||Small/medium business desktops|
|Price (retail)||U.S. $100 or €90 for the download edition, $110 or €99 for the boxed edition|
|Product Web site||Click here|