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Koolu Thin Client
Desktop Environment Evaluation

Jim Carter, 2007-12-16
Contents Product Page
KDE (Version 3)
Microsoft Windows XP


While Jacinth is primarily a home server, I need to be able to work on it for maintenance, and also, colleagues at work are interested to know how useful this class of machine might be as a substitute for conventional Pentium-class desktop machines in the student computing laboratory, and on the desktops of faculty and office staff. Therefore I installed the complete Gnome, KDE and XFCE desktop environments, using the SuSE standard package groups and not trying to suppress elements that I normally do not use.

This is not a comparative evaluation of the desktop environments; I'm trying to evaluate whether they start up, behave reasonably normally, and do the functions people expect to have. Some activities were tested more extensively in one of the desktop environments; one may reasonably assume that similar activities would proceed at a similar speed in the other environments.

Also, is included as a separate section in this evaluation because its functions may be needed in any of the desktop environments.



This is KDE version 3. Version 4 is available as an experimental edition in SuSE 10.3, but many elements were not available and I did not test it. (Starting with the official release of KDE-4 on about 2008-01-15, SuSE has an add-on DVD with the complete KDE-4 suite.)


I did a simple evaluation of this suite of programs, particularly whether they function with reasonable alacrity on the Koolu, since they are notorious bloatware analogous to Microsoft Office, with much of the code in Java. This is version 2.3.0. I had a bad experience with an early version of OpenOffice and avoided it after that, but evidently the current version is a lot better, and I should put more credence in this software suite.

It appears that each program takes about 15 seconds to start up; most of the work is in setting up the OpenOffice framework. Writer (Word Processing)

After I dug around in the help viewer I was able to create a short inter-office memo and print it. The process was generally smooth and did not overload the system's resources. In particular, Writer sent PostScript to the printer and it was rendered successfully and without overloading the CPU, unlike other PostScript documents I tried -- but it was very short. After a little training, your users will find this program to be a reasonable substitute for Microsoft Word and they will not regret running it on a Koolu. Calc (Spreadsheet)

Again after a trip to the help viewer, I was able to create a simple spreadsheet (computes the powers of 2) and print it. The features seem generally similar to what's in Gnumeric or Microsoft Excel. Although some complex spreadsheets can require a lot of CPU time to evaluate, and the Koolu would then be at a disadvantage, this simple one gave essentially instant results. Impress (Presentation)

I didn't finish my presentation because it was too easy; I was putting too much time into fantasy content as the big business executive, and not enough into evaluating the product. I'm not familiar with Microsoft Power Point, but this program seems to do the job very effectively. There were no speed or resource issues from running it on the Koolu. Base (Database Access)

This program competes with Microsoft Access, and unlike previous versions it has a backend for databases in local files, in a private format, as well as a variety of database engines either natively or through ODBC or JDBC. It was noticeably slower on the Koolu than the other OpenOffice programs, though not really slow. To evaluate a database GUI for functionality takes a lot of learning, but comparing it to the ones I'm familiar with, it seems to have a similar range of functions. Draw

This is a vector graphics program; in the corporate world its main use would be in drawing organization charts, but it seems to have facilities also for CAD-CAM type drawing. Not being familiar with the program I was not able to give it a rigorous test, e.g. importing and modifying one of my architectural blueprints, but I was able to make a simple drawing. The program performed competently and promptly. Math

This appears to be a subsystem which the other components can call to compose mathematical formulae to be displayed in a document, not really intended for standalone use. (It is not a super-calculator like Octave or Matlab.) Nonetheless, by using the help system I was able to create some equations. My impression was that it was using the CPU a lot more than the other OpenOffice components do, and in particular, some of the help pages have long lists of examples created by this program, and it took quite a long time to get them all rendered.

In conclusion about, it performs competently, and with the good hard disc I have in my machine, all the programs load and execute reasonably quickly. The Koolu would be a good choice for a machine to run them on, particularly if other considerations add to the need for an inexpensive or low-power machine.

Microsoft Windows XP