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Novell dishes up OpenSuse 10.3

The latest version of Novell's free Linux product includes new graphics interface and virtualization options.

Novell released OpenSuse 10.3 Thursday, its latest free version of the open-source operating system.

Fancy 3D effects include windows that flame out when closed. Novell

For those who need a refresher, OpenSuse is the faster-moving but mostly unsupported version of Linux from Novell and various outside contributors. It competes most directly with Linux versions such as Canonical's Ubuntu and Red Hat's Fedora. Novell has tried for years to pit it against Windows as well, even as it cooperates with Microsoft in a legally thorny partnership. Novell's supported product, Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server, is sold in the form of an annual support subscription.

Like most versions of Linux, OpenSuse has a choice of graphical interfaces. Version 10.3 includes new versions of the two most widely used, GNOME 2.20 and KDE 3.5.7, along with some elements of the forthcoming KDE 4.

Novell has been an eager adopter of fancy interface graphics, and 10.3 includes the Compiz and Compiz Fusion infrastructure for 3D effects such as desktop workspaces that map to the faces of a cube, or slightly blurred background windows, or windows that burst into flames upon closing. For those who want to head the other direction, version 4.4.1 of the minimalist graphics interface XFCE is an option.

You can either download OpenSuse for free or buy a $60 two-DVD set with a manual 90 days of installation help.

There are some notable new features, according to Novell and OpenSuse News:

• Version 2.6.22 of the Linux kernel.

• 2.3.

• Xen 3.1 and VirtualBox 1.5 virtualization software, handy for running Windows software but a complicated technology. Also included is virtual machine configuration support in the Yast management tool and an experimental version of the KVM virtualization software.

• A one-click install option to more easily add OpenSuse packages stored online.

• A new set of installation discs. Instead of coming on 5 CDs, OpenSuse comes on just one--one for KDE and a different for GNOME--with extras downloadable. Alternatively, the whole kit and caboodle is on a DVD.

• Easier installation support for proprietary audio and video "codecs" needed to decode files. When the Amarok or Banshee media players encounter an MP3 file for the first time, a dialog box will appear presenting the option to download the MP3 codec.