Feeds

OpenSUSE 11.3 delivers spit, polish and niggles

Tabs, windows and hiccups

Boost IT visibility and business value

Truth in advertising

If you'd like to try openSUSE 11.3, I highly recommend installing the KDE desktop. Not only is openSUSE shipping with KDE 4.4.4, but there are several potentially nice customizations, including the KSuseInstall app that purports to automatically fetch needed software — Amarok codecs, for example.

Unfortunately, KSuseInstall is sometimes more hassle than help. For example, when Amarok starts up it will helpfully remind you that openSUSE doesn't ship with MP3 codecs installed. That will kick in the KSuseInstall app, which will tell you it can automatically install them. Sadly, it can't.

You'll need to go through a total of six dialog boxes and one YaST module to add the necessary repositories before you get the MP3 codecs installed. Of course, the hoops aren't openSUSE's fault — they exist because of legal issues — but to offer what appears to be a one-click install tool that turns out not to be seems a bit like false advertising. The truth is that no Linux distro can make installing MP3 codecs a one-click process — and it's probably high time they stopped trying.

The Slab menu in OpenSUSE 11.3

The Slab interface doesn't live up to its potential

Aside from some hiccups with KSuseInstall, KDE 4.4 brings a few nice new features, such as the ability to group multiple windows in a single window. Billed as way to streamline your workflow, window groups make it possible, for example, to bind together a Dolphin window, terminal session, and chat client all in the same window.

That's great news for power users, but it also means that it's easy to end up with tabbed windows within tabbed windows — potentially very confusing for newcomers. Luckily the window groups feature is hidden away in the right-click menu so unless you go looking for it, it won't get in your way.

While KDE may be the focus, GNOME is still around, and according to openSUSE's own statistics roughly a quarter of users install the GNOME desktop. Although openSUSE may be using KDE as the default, it hasn't neglected GNOME, though the GNOME version of openSUSE feels vaguely KDE-like, with only a single bottom toolbar by default and the "Slab" menu.

The Slab menu functions much more like the "start" buttons in KDE or Windows 7. Fans of Linux Mint will be familiar with what's possible with Slab: easy access to everything in your system from one, unobtrusive panel.

OpenSUSE 11.3 control center

Control center delivers quick access to GNOME settings from a single panel

However, the openSUSE version of the Slab menu is not nearly as powerful as what you'll find in Linux Mint. In fact, aside from a three-button interface that lets you see a limited number of apps, recent documents, and the usual Places menu options, the Slab doesn't have much to offer.

In Mint, searching, clicking the "more applications" button, or any other Slab buttons will load the new content within the menu. In openSUSE, clicking those buttons will just open a new Nautilus browser window on your desktop, making the Slab menu of dubious value.

No matter which desktop you opt for, one place openSUSE really excels is the number of included packages. On the GNOME side you'll find extras like the Liferea RSS feed reader, gFTP, and even the XChat IRC client. OpenSUSE also includes the helpful GNOME control center that gives quick access to just about every GNOME setting available, all from one convenient panel.

Overall, openSUSE 11.3 does a decent job and packs the usual extras you would expect from a project that feeds into a commercial, enterprise Linux distro like SLED.

However, there are lingering niggles and some further polish is needed. Hopefully, openSUSE can finally solve these on its way to establishing its identity clear of Novell. ®

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.