Novell SUSE Linux 10

Pros: Good behavioral security system,easy-to-use help system

Cons: Wireless connectivity problems

Price: $60

Features: B

Value: B+

Security: A-

Ease of Use: A-

SUSE 10 has many of the same features as version 9.1, but with a greater emphasis on security. The biggest addition is Novell's AppArmor, which, like SELinux, is a way the OS can detect unauthorized access to programs and system applications.

The OS goes through a learning mode where it watches every application to see how it's used by authorized users.

Once it thinks it knows how a program should be acting, it will set up a security policy based on usage. Then if the program suddenly starts to behave outside the norm, the OS will contain it until a user specifically gives authorization. In this way, it is actually characteristic- or behavioral-based.

AppArmor was, in fact, included in SUSE 9.3, but it was disabled by default because the company was still working out the kinks. Now ready for prime time, AppArmor adds a level of security around every program that's a good second line of defense behind the firewall. The only potential downside would be vulnerability to attack during the learning mode. But AppArmor seems good at spotting extremely unreasonable behavior from the start, which we tested with a replication virus written in Perl.
While using the OS, we were prompted numerous times with security questions, which helped to configure the system. On the Internet, SUSE even told us how many cookies each site placed on the system'a surprisingly large number.

All three test peripherals installed easily without user intervention. We noted, however, that SUSE didn't recognize the internal Centrino wireless chip in our notebook and we were unable to get wireless connectivity. We were able to get SUSE to work with a NetGear PC Card, and we had no problem connecting to a Windows network over Ethernet.

Fortunately, SUSE's help system was more visible than other distributions' and available in many languages. We liked the user guide, which was easy to find and dealt with a wide range of topics from telecommunications, to digital cameras and scanners, to using the Linux shell.

SUSE's OpenOffice suite was much like the other distributions' although its presentation app had more sophisticated templates and backgrounds. The most annoying thing was that the system persisted in trying to enroll us in KWallet, the KDE environment's password store, after we'd already refused.

Minor annoyances aside, it's clear Novell has caught up with Red Hat in the power and functionality of its Linux distributions.

If you are inclined to move to Linux on the desktop, you'll want to evaluate Novell.

Novell Inc., Cupertino, Calif., (800) 529-3400,,/a>


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