Corel "windowises" Linux

In an attempt to lure a broader, less technical audience to Linux, Corel has developed its own free and simpler distribution of the open source operating system, called Corel Linux.

Built from the Debian/GNU distribution using the KDE Desktop, Corel Linux offers new and simplified features such as a four-step installation process. This contrasts with other sources of Linux that typically take 40 steps. The free downloadable beta distribution of Corel Linux will be available in September.

Corel announced the product at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Jose this week.

"Our goals were that Linux had to be easy to install, easy to use, and easy to integrate into an existing Windows environment," says Erich Forler, product development manager at Corel Linux. Partitioning is one area of Corel's focus. A process that splits your hard drive to make space for Linux, partitioning is, according to Forler, "the ugliest part of installing an operating system."

Corel Linux partitions automatically, with options that can use free disk space, edit the partition table (for experienced Linux users), or install Linux into the DOS/Windows partition. This last feature lets you create a Linux subdirectory within Windows so you can try the Linux operating system before replacing Windows.

A Linux browser, too

A new all-in-one browser, Corel Explorer, browses local drives, local networks (including Linux drives on an NT network), and the Internet. You can even use it to drag and drop FTP files into your hard drive. For networking, Corel rebuilt the KDE Control Center to facilitate network and printer configurations for an easy, Windows-like set-up.

Corel Linux's Event Viewer scans the system to determine activity. With a Windows-style interface, it tracks completed actions and displays kernel or error messages by type and priority for troubleshooting. To update files and applications, you can set the package source to look for updates by location within an FTP address, or on a CD-ROM drive.

Corel expects to post the final version of Corel Linux for free download in November. A stand-alone CD-ROM with the software, including support, will also be available for under $US100, "a comparable price to other distributions," Forler says.

Users: cautious, interested

At LinuxWorld, traditional users of Caldera, Slackware, Red Hat, SuSE, TurboLinux, Mandrake and other Linux distributions had mixed reactions to the Corel Linux presentation. Its ease of use appealed to some, such as Terry Amos, a technician for the US Army, who uses Mandrake 6.0 and dual boots his PC with Linux and Windows.

"It took a while to set up my version of Mandrake," Amos says. "I like [Corel's] new version a lot. It looks really easy to set up and easy to use. I definitely want to try it."

Another Mandrake user, who preferred to remain anonymous, described Corel Linux as "the AOL of Linux operating systems; For people who like Windows, this is great. But they've got Windows modems and printers so why would they switch?" he asks.

Corel plans to bundle its Linux version of WordPerfect Office Suite, due to ship at the beginning of next year, with the Linux OS. But the company stresses its commitment to open source and to offering a stand-alone version of Linux.

With its new distribution, Corel may have simplified the installation and setup of Linux -- but its challenge will be to reach the coveted Windows user without discouraging Linux fans with a reduction in user control.

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