Red Hat upgrades Linux desktop OS

Red Hat Inc.'s desktop operating system for consumers has been enhanced to handle multithreading better than its predecessor.

Red Hat Linux 9, which will be available for download as of Monday by members of the Red Hat Network (http://rhn.redhat.com) and in retail stores a week later, features new threading technology called NPTL (Native Posix Thread Library) that its predecessor Red Hat Linux 8 lacks, said Matt Wilson, manager of base operating systems at Red Hat.

"This is by far the largest new feature in Red Hat Linux 9," Wilson said.

NPTL will allow the operating system to better execute applications that perform multiple tasks simultaneously, something commonly called multithreading. The improvement should come in the form of better performance, scalability and stability, Wilson said.

Red Hat engineers developed most of the NPTL in conjunction with the open source community of developers, he said.

Another enhancement to the operating system is its tighter integration with the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS), which will make it easier for users to print files by dragging and dropping them to a printing icon on the desktop. CUPS was included as an option with version 8, along with other printing utilities, but it is now integrated with Red Hat Linux 9 as its default printing system, offering a more unified capability, he said.

Also improved in Red Hat Linux 9 is the Bluecurve graphical interface, which was introduced in Red Hat Linux 8 and which now has been polished to further enhance its ease of use, Wilson said.

Red Hat Linux 9 also ships with upgraded versions of the open source OpenOffice.org office productivity suite, the Mozilla open source Web browser and Ximian Inc.'s Evolution e-mail and groupware client software, Wilson said. For example, the Mozilla Web browser in version 9 features anti-alias font rendering capabilities, whereas the Mozilla browser in version 8 did not. This feature improves the way fonts are displayed on the screen, he said.

Users will also benefit from later versions of core Linux components in Red Hat Linux 9, such as version 2.4.20 of the Linux kernel, whereas Red Hat Linux 8 carried version 2.4.18, Wilson said. For users planning to perform Web server tasks with their PCs, the open source Apache 2.0 Web server software is also included.

This product is aimed at mainstream individual users, such as students and home users, as well as more technologically savvy enthusiasts. Red Hat has a separate line of operating systems tuned for companies, called "Enterprise."

Red Hat Linux 9 will be available for download on March 31 and a week later it will be in stores. The product costs US$60 if downloaded and includes a one-year subscription to the Red Hat Network and full electronic access to the product's documentation, as well as automatic security updates, bug fixes and other product information.

In stores, buyers get two options: Red Hat Linux 9 for US$39.95, which includes 30 days of access to the Red Hat Network and Web-based support; and Red Hat Linux 9 Professional for US$149.95, which includes the operating system on a DVD, extra software, extra documentation and 60 days of access to the Red Hat Network and to Web-based support.

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