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SuSE updates desktop, corporate Linux

The company begins distributing a free version of its newest desktop software and plans to update its high-end product Tuesday.

SuSE Linux began distributing a free version of its newest desktop operating system Monday and plans to update its high-end product Tuesday.

The company began selling its desktop product, SuSE Linux 9, in October. Now, after SuSE's customary one-month wait, the software is available free as a download. Customers can install the software from a network or hard drive but can't create installation CDs, the company said.

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The downloadable version is missing a few software packages that can't be downloaded because of license restrictions, SuSE said. It also doesn't include support.

SuSE also plans to release an update for its high-end SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) product for corporate customers on Tuesday, with support for IBM's newest thin "blade" servers among the list of changes. The SLES update, Service Pack 3, also includes a more recent version of the kernel at the heart of the operating system, 2.4.21; previously SLES 8 used a modified version of 2.4.19.

In comparison with SuSE Linux 9, SLES changes more slowly, isn't available for free and introduces new features only after more careful testing.

The software products are emerging in the midst of radical change for SuSE, which is based in Nuremburg, Germany. Novell, a Provo, Utah-based server software seller whose star faded after losing the market to Microsoft, announced a plan earlier this month to acquire SuSE for $210 million by January.

The update to SLES will include support for IBM's newest servers using a member of its Power family of processors, SuSE said: the JS20 blade server that uses the PowerPC 970. That chip also is known as the G5 in Apple's latest desktop computers. IBM's JS20 servers aren't scheduled to ship until March.

SuSE said other improvements include better multipath input-output, which lets a computer use an alternate communication pathway if hardware on the primary path fails; support for encryption hardware and Fibre Channel-based storage systems for IBM's zSeries mainframe systems; support for servers with as many as 64 of Intel's Itanium processors; and better support for Intel's hyperthreading technology, which lets a single processor handle multiple tasks more gracefully.

The update is free to SLES customers, SuSE said.