We tested version KDE version 2.2, and also the KDE 2.2.1 update. We obtained binary RPMs for KDE 2.2 via FTP for our Red Hat 7.1 system; the total distribution was composed of almost 130 files totaling 180MB. The 2.2.1 update--which essentially improves documentation, translations and performance--consisted of 24 files totaling an additional 55MB. During installation we encountered some dependency conflicts, but most were unrelated to KDE and easy to resolve. Even though the distribution size is somewhat large, administrators can still automate the process of installing or updating KDE automatically on networked Linux workstations; a few shell scripts--for downloading the binaries and installing them on remote computers--is all that's needed.The desktop environment of KDE 2.2.1 looks almost identical to previous versions. Managers of Windows systems seeking to make a transition from the Microsoft platform to Linux should find the KDE environment quite accommodating for Windows users. The KDE taskbar includes an applications menu similar to Windows' Start menu; also, like Windows, KDE includes a comprehensive Control Panel with which nearly all desktop environment settings can be adjusted.
Also included is a good selection of system administration tools. A comprehensive user management program, KUser, lets you create, modify, and delete user logins on multi-user Linux systems. KCron provides similar functionality for managing automated background tasks. And KDE System Guard, like Windows' Task Manager, lets you view current tasks and kill problem applications. And since KDE is merely running on top of the X Window System, you can perform remote administration of any KDE-enabled system by redirecting application output to another X server on the network. KDE also features numerous multimedia apps such as KDE Media Player (which supports WAV and MP3 audio formats) and Kscd, a graphical CD player.
KDE is available in binary form for most versions of Linux and Unix, and its feature set and user-friendly look and feel will help facilitate the migration of Windows users to a Linux-based desktop environment. Naturally, the primary downfall of deploying KDE is a lack of mature, enterprise-level Linux productivity apps, especially those that can properly import documents in MS Office format. In deciding whether to implement the KDE desktop, it's essential that IT managers evaluate users' needs and abilities, and take stock of available productivity software that's compatible with the KDE environment.
Michael P. Deignan is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to ZDNet TechUpdate.
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