No wonder a lot of people think the stock market isn't for them. A glance at the headlines this morning reveals the following interesting tidbits about Novell (NASDAQ:NOVL). "Revenues are up." "Revenues are flat." There's nothing to do but put on our jester caps and figure out what's really going on.

First, though, some important history. Last fall, Novell coughed up $210 million to purchase No. 2 Linux distributor SuSE, having spent $40 million a few weeks before to gobble up Linux application maker Ximian. The idea is to take the old-school networker out of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) playground, where Novell's NetWare gets daily lunch-money beatings, and move into the land of open-source solutions, where such competitors as Red Hat (NASDAQ:RHAT) aren't as quick with the fists. So, has Novell been saved?

First-quarter revenues were $267 million, up $7 million from the same period last year. But it was revealed in the conference call -- though not disclosed on the earnings release -- that $12 million of the total revenue is due to the dollar's plunge. Let's call the revenues down, then, or flat, at best. And let's call "shenanigans" on Novell for leaving this important tidbit out of the press release.

That's not the only shining mediocrity in the numbers. New software licenses fell 10% year over year to $54.8 million. (True, these licenses are only a fifth of the top line, but license margins are around 90%, and they provide the setup for the larger line-item maintenance and services revenues.) I can manage a polite golf clap for net earnings, which came in at $0.03 per share, beating last year's $0.03 loss.

Investors should note that shares have more than doubled from $6 since October, though they've cooled down lately. Trading at around $11 per stub, the company sits on a forward P/E of 65 based on estimates of $0.20 per share for 2004. But in the midst of the firm's Netware-to-Linux conversion, the numbers are pretty squishy, so the fair price will depend on your faith in Novell's ability to peddle Linux as an enterprise contender.

If software turnarounds seem a bit too high risk for you, you might enjoy the value plays Tom Gardner digs up in Motley Fool Hidden Gems .

Fool Contributor Seth Jayson is glad he doesn't have to compete with Microsoft. He owns no stake in any companies mentioned here.