OpenSUSE 11 a redemptive OS with a Mactastic shine
For newbies and Linux dark-lords
Review 2008 is proving to be a banner year for Linux distributions; so far we've seen Ubuntu 8.04 and Fedora 9, both of which go a long way toward making Linux painless for newbies.
You can now add OpenSUSE, the community-driven sequel to Novell's SUSE Linux distribution, to the list of significant releases. Version 11.0 of OpenSUSE is set to ship this week, ushering in a number of new features and solving most of the problems that saw OpenSUSE 10 get off to a bumpy start.
Many Linux purists will bristle at the mention of Novell since the company caved in and signed a patent protection agreement with Microsoft. Novell's business decisions, however, have little, if anything to do with OpenSUSE 11, and it's worth moving beyond the rhetoric to check out the new OpenSUSE release.
You're probably used to choosing your desktop - generally GNOME or KDE - before you download, but that isn't necessary with OpenSUSE since the live DVD takes an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach by including the GNOME, KDE and XFCE desktops as well as just about every package under the sun.
If you haven't got the bandwidth (or time) for the 4.5 GB DVD download, there are live CDs with either GNOME or KDE and somewhat fewer included packages.
Take that, Mac
The most noticeable thing when you start up OpenSUSE is the new installer which is just about the slickest setup app this side of Mac OS X. The easy-to-follow installer will walk you through everything with a level of handholding even Ubuntu can't match. Note that if you opt for the DVD installer you'll have the option to install all three desktops, while if you opt for the GNOME only distro you won't see the new installer.
On the KDE side you'll have the option to install either KDE 3.5 or the new, more experimental KDE 4. We did our testing on the release candidate build, which didn't offer the recently unveiled KDE 4.1 beta, though we've found the 4.1 beta to be more stable and useable than KDE 4.0.
Given that KDE is in something of a transitional phase we opted to install just the GNOME desktop.
Bespoke Gnome - Not Just a Band Name Anymore
Once OpenSUSE finished installing (around 30 minutes on our three-year-old Toshiba laptop) and rebooted, we were confronted with one of the most heavily customized versions of GNOME that you're likely to come across.
It might take seasoned GNOME vets a bit to work out what all OpenSUSE has done, but once you figure it out, the customizations are actually quite nice - for instance the somewhat scattered system configuration panels are all unified in one spot and there's a slick KDE-esque launch panel.
If you're a OpenSUSE 10 user, most of this will look familiar since the customized interface made its debut there (it's also part of SLED 10, Novell's corporate Linux desktop).
While there are OpenSUSE downloads with non-OSS software available (which include things like the Flash plugin, MP3 codecs, etc) installing such software from the normal installation isn't hard. Just point your favorite browser over to the OpenSUSE Community site and click the installer links.
And now to the major issues.
Next page: Zypper Woes - Also Not a Band Name
Linux distros of all flavors support a very wide variety of hardware, including Microsoft's Intellimouse. Keep in mind that you are hinging your support for a non-Microsoft OS on a Microsoft piece of hardware that has been optimized to work with the mysterious innards of the Windows OS and no other. Apple users also need to jump through hoops to get them to work with their systems, and versions of Windows published prior to the introduction of the Intellimouse do not exploit all of its features, either.
MS has never been friendly to anyone other than themselves. Their hardware is built for their microverse only. It is a testament to the OSS community that one can configure their non-MS OS to use Microsoft hardware, despite Redmond's best efforts to stymie them.
An excuse for not working with a non-MS OS because your Microsoft mouse may need additional configuration is like insisting on continuing to drive a Humvee because your beaded seat cover won't fit into a more eco-friendly vehicle. Simply get a new seat cover.
I am now a happy bunny continuing over 10 years of continuous SUSE use with 11.0, however, let me assure you that the 1-click install took out my X server, and then when I repaired it, for reasons I didn't know, it removed my kernel too. Luckily, "update installed system" cured that too.
If (as acknowledged by Nvidia) you are using an FX 5200 card don't use the 1- click install, use the shell script. A little note or an updated RPM from openSUSE would be useful.
If you are upgrading from 10.3 you might find this helpful too
rpm -e MozillaFirefox-220.127.116.11-5.1 --noscripts --nodeps
Try the One Click install for NVIDIA driver
"Among the potential gotchas for new users is the lack of readily available NVIDIA drivers."
"One click" install found here: http://en.opensuse.org/NVIDIA
thanks for playing, mjt - author: Inside Linux