Chapter 1. Introducing the JDS Linux Desktop

Welcome to Sun’s JavaTM Desktop System. JDS helps you unleash the power of Linux without much of a learning curve. You get the convenience of a familiar and friendly desktop screen along with the secure, stable, and extensible Linux operating system.

In this chapter, you become familiar with the JDS desktop and quickly learn how to be productive. In later chapters, you will discover many useful and exciting features of Linux and Sun’s productivity tools.

JDS combines many advances in personal computer technology. Sun engineers blended those advances into a progressive and secure system. While you enjoy email, web browsing, and editing documents, you can stop worrying about email viruses. From the ground up, Sun built JDS with security in mind.

As you begin to use JDS, you can sense the power and stability of Linux under the hood. But you do not really have to deal with the engine. You just see a user-friendly and attractive desktop that helps you surf the Internet, send email, keep track of your activities, look at your family pictures, watch videos, listen to music, and use your word processor. You can still create and read PDF files and work with graphics in the same way as you do with Photoshop. You can also use your flatbed scanner to send faxes and copy documents the way you have in the past. You can continue utilizing Instant Messaging and chat.

Sun Microsystems has created the first viable alternative to a Microsoft desktop in 15 years. They offer you the opportunity to use the same computer hardware with which you’re already acquainted. If you’ve been running Windows 98 and don’t want to spring the cash for an expensive new computer and the latest Windows upgrade, you can get a feature-full and secure operating system in JDS. JDS works with the newest hardware, so you can continue to use your flat screen monitor, your DVD drive, and your digital camera. When you balance the checkbook, you’ll notice that, instead of spending $1,200 on software upgrades alone, you’ll spend only around $100 for everything that you’re likely to need.

If you want to use Windows sometimes, you have several options. Chapter 9 shows you how to run Windows applications or the entire Windows operating system together with JDS. You can also set up your computer to offer you a choice when you power it on: you can work on JDS for a while and then reboot into Windows.

JDS runs very fast. As you go about your familiar emailing and document editing, you will notice an overall performance increase on your existing hardware.

Sun conceived JDS as a solution that enables you to work at home or at the office. Even with the low cost, when you start up, you will find more applications loaded on your system than you get on a Microsoft system. You’ll also notice that you have the tools on the system that you need for programming, for running a web server, or for trying out powerful Internet services.

So What Do You Get?

Good question! JDS comes with software applications that differ, but function as well or better, than those distributed by Microsoft. Let’s do a fast recap:

  • JDS provides an intuitive user interface that enables you to locate documents, access menus, launch applications, and personalize your work environment. JDS comes with a set of development tools and utilities. The desktop has a unified look and feel.

  • JDS includes a personal information-management tool that combines email, calendaring, scheduling, contact management, and task lists. This personal organizer works much like a Day-Timer. But it also has workgroup capabilities and can synchronize and manage information, using the included connector to the Sun ONE Calendar and Messaging servers.

  • JDS is compatible with many PDAs (personal digital assistants), as well, and offers several tools for keeping your information up to date.

  • JDS has an Instant Messaging client that supports the Sun ONE Instant Messaging server and other instant messaging clients such as AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo.

  • Sun has taken the flexible Mozilla browser and bumped up its capabilities in JDS, adding commercial plug-ins, network security services, and personal security management. You can use the Mozilla web browser suite to communicate with people over the Internet, participate in discussion groups, and create web pages, in addition to surfing the Web.

  • In addition to replacing the Windows operating system, you now have an alternative to Microsoft Office. The JDS comes with the full-function office productivity suite, StarOffice 7.

    StarOffice 7 provides you with applications for word processing, developing spreadsheets, making presentations, creating graphics, editing photos, publishing to the Web, and connecting to relational databases.

    StarOffice 7 gives you the same features you’ve found in Microsoft Office. You’ll also find that you can save and open your documents in Microsoft formats such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You will find StarOffice to be both user-friendly and compatible with other software.

  • JDS provides multimedia applications such as CD and media players, sound recording, a movie player called Totem, Real Networks media player, and Macromedia Shockwave Flash. JDS comes with CD-burning software and supports XCDROAST, one of the better CD/DVD-burning applications.

  • JDS comes with the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) for the Java Programming Language. This allows applications to work in JDS, as well as other operating systems, without having to rewrite the software for each one.

Table 1-1 summarizes the features and benefits of JDS.

Table 1-1. Key features and benefits of JDS



Simple, complete, and open

  • Integrated desktop environment

  • Simplified user interface, with familiar desktop themes and file manager views

  • Runs on a broad range of desktop and laptop computers

  • Full support of open source components and standards


  • Linux/Unix strict security system prevents viruses and worms from modifying system files

  • Utilizes Java sandbox security infrastructure that prevents viruses from infecting the system environment


  • Leverages common file formats: use/read/edit your Microsoft Office documents

  • Windows, Macintosh, Unix file and printer sharing

  • Communicates with standard communications servers: IMAP, POP, SMTP, Sun Java Enterprise System servers (formerly Sun ONE), etc.


  • Price is approximately 20 percent of the price of a Windows XP/Pro and Office 2003 upgrade, and even lower with special promotions

  • Includes the premium StarOffice 7 productivity suite, at no additional cost

  • Less-demanding hardware requirements that often allow you to extend the life of older existing systems

  • Compatible with hundreds of free open source applications

If you are a Windows or Macintosh user, many things you do now may seem both familiar and logical as you begin to use JDS. But don’t forget that you are using an entirely new operating system. Some things require a few repetitions before you feel comfortable with them.

While putting JDS together, Sun Microsystems ran a usability study with people of many skill sets. Sun engaged people in a series of tasks on both JDS and Windows XP. Sun discovered that moving from Windows 9x to JDS required minimal learning, not much different from moving to Windows XP. This means anyone can easily migrate to JDS.

Get Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.