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Red Hat Puts Friendlier Face On Linux

Update to open-source operating system offers improved interface and productivity apps.

Red Hat Linux 8.0, scheduled for release Monday, includes improvements to its graphical user interface, productivity applications, and desktop-configuration tools.

Foremost on the list of improvements is Bluecurve, a desktop interface that Red Hat created to replace its existing GNU Network Object Model Environment. Bluecurve combines elements of Gnome and K Desktop Environment, a competing open-source graphical desktop environment.

Linux's user interface has always been harder to navigate than those offered by Microsoft or Apple. Common sense dictates that the harder an operating system is to use, the less likely it is to be used, says Clay Ryder, VP and chief operating officer of Sageza Group, a research and consulting firm. "It's not surprising that (Red Hat) is putting more importance on the GUI," he says.

Red Hat 8.0 also includes OpenOffice, an open-source derivation of Sun's StarOffice suite that features document, presentation, and spreadsheet applications. The new operating system also includes a number of mail programs, including updated editions of the Sendmail and Samba clients, Konqueror, Kmail, Galeon, and Ximian Evolution, a mail-client application with an integrated contact manager and scheduler. Ximian also offers a connector product that lets users access Microsoft Exchange tools from Linux desktops.

With Red Hat 8.0, people can use graphical interfaces to configure firewall, network, Apache Web server, and Samba settings. Before this feature, users had to add configuration files using command lines for most of these settings.

Red Hat's newest desktop operating system is available in personal and professional versions. Professional is priced at $150 and includes a system administrator's CD, office and multimedia apps, 60 days of Red Hat Network basic service, and 60 days of online and telephone support. Personal is $39.95 and includes 30 days of Red Hat Network basic service and online support.

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