02-Dec-08

Well bugger me, a post on Linux (amongst other things). If you’re in the world of Linux, and more specifically in the world of Novell’s Linux product offerings, you may wish to know where in the development cycle SLED11 is, as Novell to my knowledge have made no real announcements (other than the usual “coming soon” crap). In case you don’t know, SLED (and for that matter SLES) are the harder Kray twins of what comes from the openSUSE movement. At the moment, this group is days away from releasing the latest iteration of openSUSE, version 11.1.

Historically, NLD (as was) and SLED have been inextricably linked to the progress of the “free” variety of SUSE Linux, and this is still the case. NLD was based on SUSE Linux 9.1 and SLED based on 10.1. So you can see here already a picture is forming – if we extrapolate this further, we can deduce that SLED11 will be based on openSUSE 11.1. There are a couple of things to mention here, firstly that is assumption is correct – Although openSUSE is days away from release, the same codebase for SLED11 is currently at Beta 5 as I write. I’m not on the official beta test program, but as I work for a Novell partner, I do have access to the code itself. My guess would be that sometime mid-January or early February, you will see a public beta, with the big fanfare reserved for Novell’s annual festival of geek, BrainShare.

The other thing to mention about this is that as we have observed that previous enterprise versions of desktop linux have been based on “free” SUSE Linux versions 9.1 and 10.1 and SLED11 will be based on 11.1, it seems fair (and accurate) to assume that SLED12 will be based on openSUSE 12.1. OK so far, but then again, so what? Well this also means that we can be pretty accurate on the future roadmap of when this product can be expected.

openSUSE follows an interesting development cycle, much the same as other distros such as Ubuntu and Fedora. Essentially, then development cycle and release dates are set well in advance and the code basically always ships on time as up until late beta stages, the development carries on in a state of flux until which point the distro vendir locks down the versions and functionality and makes sure polish is applied and no showstopping bugs are in there. What you then get is a guaranteed new version of the distro every six months.

Clearly this is not to everyone’s liking, hence the enterprise versions. In this case, we had SLED10 in July 2006, we will most likely see SLED11 in March 2009. 2 1/2 years is around the optimum time between releases, in my opinion. Compare this with the devlopment hell that was Windows Vista. Late, buggy, bloated and promised features (WinFS) stripped out before the end and shunted to future releases. What have Microsoft learned from this? Well, they already brought forward the release of Windows 7 to “sometime” 2009 (probably Christmas). They’ve also said it’s just called Windows 7. Not Vista, Keith or Dave. Just 7. They’ve removed some bloat (mainly because they need to compete in the netbook space without XP). In all, they’ve looked at the Linux development lifecycle and decided it might work for them.

So what’s new in SLED11? As much as I’ve seen (which isn’t a great deal), take openSUSE 11.1, add Novell branded graphics and some Novell centric apps such as GroupWise (version 7, 8 won’t be in there I don’t think) and GroupWise IM and that’s pretty much it. Maybe they will put some extra work into the networking stack so that it can be incorporated into an AD or eDirectory environment, but that’s all. The main time lag behind 11.1 will be the test and beta phases, which are much more limited in the “free” product.

I’ve also never liked the idea that the openSUSE product is somewhat or in any way deficient or inferior to the SLED product. Some commentators like to say that the openSUSE releases are “only for gurus” or for “brave people only”. What rot. If you’re competent using graphical user interfaces, you can use it just fine. Also, there’s no implication in there that the software is ropey, it all just works.

That’s the Linux stuff out of the way, now to the Manchester Congestion Charge Referendum. JUST SAY NO! The government state that we can have £1.3bn funding for public transport improvements, but this can only be found if we vote yes. Hmm..On the other hand, the same government can find countless billions to bail out banks that nearly went bust owing to “wanker bankers who played poker with other people’s money” (credit to David Mitchell). Sorry, I’m not voting for another hideous tax when we pay enough tax as it is. Make the money go further or bugger off and give us a government that realises you need to run the country’s transport system at a loss because that way the country can reap the benefit of a first class system designed to get a person from A to B as quickly as possible as cheaply as possible and not this decades old thinking that it must generate some kind of profit in order to be sustainable.

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