OpenSuse 11.1: Quick review

When it comes to the big distros I tend to stick to the ones that are based on Debian. Apt just is simpler and faster to me than rpm. But since I reviewed Fedora 11 (or tried to, in any case), I thought I’d have a go at the other big two RPM distributions: OpenSuse and Mandriva.

OpenSuse’s last release came out last year, so it doesn’t offer the latest and greatest out of the box, but I that wouldn’t matter. I’d use the GNOME 64-bit Live-CD, and there isn’t much difference between GNOME 2.24 and 2.26 anyway. As long as it provided me with an easy, stable OS, that would be enough for me.

LiveCD

These days, there’s not much to say about Linux Live CDs. They tend to work well, detect all your hardware, and let you discover the OS while providing an easy way to install it. OpenSuse was no different. Three remarks though: I thought the CD booted a bit slower than I’m used to (though after boot, overal performance was good), I thought the Gilouche theme looked a bit dated when compared to the crisp, green looks of Linux Mint, and the resolution was no higher than 1280×1024@60Hz. Now, I know that even the nv driver can do a better job than that on my system, so it’s odd that while openSuse correctly identified my nVidia 8600GT videocard and my Samsung 22″ screen, it couldn’t give me better than that.

Installation and configuration

The install was easy and went well, but I missed the options to give the hostname and install grub on the root partition instead of the master boot record. In any case, the installer correctly identified my Arch install and added a meny entry. Grub also looked much nicer than it does in Ubuntu, which has provided a functional, but boring white on black menu for ages. Ubuntu 9.10 is supposed to remedy that, but openSuse already offers it. Good marks here. The install went past much faster than I remember. I used Suse for a while a couple of years back, and I remember an install taking the better part of an hour. These days, first-boot configuration included, everything was finished after a good 15 minutes. Nice.

The screen resolution was still criminally low though, and looking through Yast, the configuration tool, I didn’t find an easy way to install the nVidia drivers. A quick google search helped me out here, and the one-click install was very easy. However, ideally the OS would have pointed me in the right direction, and ask me for a reboot/restart of X afterwards. It did neither.
Strangely enough, at this point all the Dutch translations were downloaded and installed, and after a reboot my system was in Dutch at last, and I could pick a higher resolution. Again, I feel that openSuse should have done this automatically. A 1280×1024 resolution is never going to be right for a 22″ widescreen.

Look and Feel

OpenSuse looks good, but as I mentioned before, if you’re going for a green theme, I feel Linux Mint does a better job. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, so I won’t elaborate on it.
The menu though is completely idiotic. It takes a lot of screen estate but takes far too much clicks to navigate through, and it doesn’t really offer a way of opening your applications. Your favourites are there, and the last opened applications, but everything else needs the “Applications…” button, which opens another window. Again, Linux Mint offers a better implementation of the same idea, especially by letting you search not only for files, but also for applications, even the ones you haven’t installed yet. I quickly disposed of the menu, and added the standard GNOME “Applications – Places – System” applet. It’s simpler, and easier to use.
I felt the same way about Yast. I’m sure it offers endless possibilities to configure your system, but it still felt slow and complicated to me. I spent a lot of time searching through it, looking for various functions, and that takes a while. Luckily, most of the system configuration can be done with the standard GNOME tools.

As a final test, I decided to install LXDE, just like I had done in Fedora. To my surprise, it wasn’t present in the standard repositories, and neither was Openbox. I found this One-Click install, but the latest offering was for 11.0. There’s a version for 11.1 on the LXDE wiki, which looked beautiful, was much faster than the standard GNOME desktop, but ultimately disappointed because lxpanel kept crashing. I can’t hold this against openSuse since it’s not an official repository, but in any case it’s disappointing that this distrbution doesn’t even offer it.

Conclusion

There was nothing really wrong with openSuse 11.1, but on the other hand it didn’t convince me either. It felt a bit like a throwback to the Linux of a couple of years ago, where everything would eventually work if you tried long enough. Except, it’s not aimed at those kind of users who like to tinker with their PCs until sunset. It’s meant to be an easy, complete desktop system, and as such, in my opinion it fails. For users looking for that kind of operating system I’d recommend Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

San

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22 Responses to OpenSuse 11.1: Quick review

  1. checkout says:

    Openbox is available in the Opensuse repositories:

    http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/X11:/windowmanagers

  2. dedguy says:

    That was a very week review of OpenSuse (and yes I’m a fanboy). Don’t get me wrong I know there are lots of room for improvement, like the fact that the repo refresh process takes forever, and hardware detection could be better. But if you are a person who has half-a-brain then this distro is much better than ubuntu. No offense, but the ubuntu repository is alway a bit dated, do they even offer eclipse 3.4 of jdk 6-u14? And in the ‘States’ any how, the Mint Linux server is almost at 56k speed, and that’s after searching for the best mirrors. After a slow refresh of repositories in OpenSuse, at least they offer mirrors world wide at top rate speed. The distro isn’t as user friendly (ie for the super stupid), but it is more flexible, and more robust than ubuntu. Ubuntu is a great desktop PC, but OpenSuse is a just a great all-around distro. Fedora is a great server distro. OpenSuse meets in the middle, and does a great job. I install OpenSuse on everybody’s pc who let’s me. They are not dissapointed
    And they also have a great community, great documentation, I’m suprised that it’s not more popular than “Tie-your-hands” Ubuntu. Don’t get me wrong, I got started on Ubuntu, and after a month I realized, that It was like ‘Windows’ for Linux. I hope the whole world uses it as opposed to the other option, but let’s face it, it is Linux on training wheels. The other thing I noticed is that you used the Gnome desk top? Why not kde, that’s what’s OpenSuse is known for, and they have the best KDE4 experience of all distros. I use Arch Linux on my laptop, but for my main Desktop, it OpenSuse. It’s just stable.

    • joe florida says:

      ubuntu is for the super stupid? wow what a dumb, comment. openSuse is nice but i want to use, my os not spend lots of time learning how to use it. nothing said in the review was untrue, if your feelings got hurt thats cause your super sensitive. compare synaptic to yast, hands down ubuntu wins, like i said openSuse is a nice distro. ubuntu is faster less learning curve, and it works great right out of the box. your os should make your interaction with your pc fast and painless not confusing and frustrating, if you feel the need for snobishness go use BSD.

  3. celettu says:

    checkout:

    all I can say is that, after default install, openbox was not found when I searched for it. I have no idea why.

    dedguy:

    To everyone his own opinion of course :)

  4. Sam says:

    I used to be a SuSE fanboy until the package installation hell of 10.1 knocked me off track. Even though I’d keep trying to go back to SuSE with each subsequent release, my time away from the Distro (Ubuntu, then Mandriva, then Debian, then Ubuntu, then Fedora) exposed me to its limitations.

    What finally sold me on Fedora 10, my current distro I’ve been using since maybe a month after it was released (a record for my distro use time!)? Two things: 1. Packagekit runs circles around the dependency hell I’d encounter in SuSE EVEN with the web-based “One-Click” install — some software I need and with the extensions I need simply didn’t play nice in SuSE (not necessarily SuSE’s fault), but in Fedora Packagekit had no problem resolving dependencies AND keeping me in updates. Second, on my Thinkpad R61i, everything short of the fingerprint reader (which doesn’t work in any Linux to date) just works — music player connects, plays, transfers music in Rhythmbox, sound buttons and all the Fn keys I need work, networking is a breeze, external monitor support, etc., etc.

    I think at the end of the day the “everything just works” — and that’s a state that depends on how much tinkering we’re comfortable with/capable of — feeling is what makes a distro the one we stick with.

  5. mj says:

    I think it was a very _SAD_ review of opensuse. Why
    should anyone waste their time. This is why linux will
    never go anywhere, you put down mature and very well
    designed O/s and put linux down as a whole.

  6. celettu says:

    MJ:

    Unfortunately, none of that addressed the points I made in the review.

    Sam:

    I’d have to agree…I put my Fedora 11 experiences above those of openSuse.

  7. mj says:

    Hello, Celettu

    Thanks for the response, I must admit that I’m mostly using windows xp, with no plans to move to windows 7 at this time. Now I used fedora,mandriva, opensuse,ubuntu.etc.etc……..and I think
    the closest linux for my needs is opensuse. Okay colors? screen res? A distro colors can be part of the distro’s character And since I do not have a 22” monitor the res looks pretty good to me.
    but even though much of linux is free, and starting to become pretty good, many of the user’s are
    ungrateful. Maybe by the time fedora 39.6 opensuse 71.2 or ubuntu 99.04 comes out windows
    may bow under.

  8. [...] OpenSuse 11.1: Quick review When it comes to the big distros I tend to stick to the ones that are based on Debian. Apt just is simpler and faster to [...] [...]

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  10. Eddie Wilson says:

    The review of OpenSuse was more or less on point. While the Kde 4 version of OpenSuse is nice the Gnome version is an epic fail. I do believe that from what I’ve seen in the past OpenSuse puts a lot more into the Kde version.

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  12. Deb says:

    Very immature review – i agree with @mj.

    We are talking linux here and how can you compare 2 linux distros based on Yum or Yast or synaptic alone. Linux distros like OpenSuse, Fedora, Ubuntu are all good. That’s because they are based on different philosophies – so you cannot compare them really. With respect to their philosophies, they are the evangelists – so they are all best of breed.

    • celettu says:

      <>

      Because that’s where they are different. Also, I never compared package managers in this artcile, so I don’t know why you mention yum and synapyic.

      <>

      Not in my experience.

      <>

      No they’re not. Philosophies aside, they all try to provide an OS for the average, non-tech user, so they can be compared.

  13. Deb says:

    I have experiences of both OpenSuse & Fedora and i can tell you that if you are a believer of the evangelism of Fedora then the price that you have to pay is a lot of kerneloops & bugs ; but an excellent system with upto date patches. If you are someone who wants a stable system and ready to pay the price of not staying extremely cutting / bleeding edge then it’s OpenSuse for you.

    My review would be as simple as that.

    I teach children & conduct linux awareness for adults as well and believe me people don’t understand if it’s a Fedora or an OpenSuse if you show them the same GNOME desktop (without showing them the boot up splash screens) with changes made to the layout of the menu.

    So know the philosophy of a distro, look for community support on it, and as long as it’s linux – it’s good to go !

  14. Json says:

    Whats the big deal about Linux mint? it’s the same as any other distro! i mean all they did was take ubuntu and put a pretty theme on it! i’m sure any experienced user can understand that default look and feel is nice but doesn’t really mean a whole lot of anything! you know? you can change it filp it clip it! and change it again! anyway you’d like! but its still ubuntu!. i’m somewhat disappointed that the default look and feel (pretty icons/theme) can start a brand new knock off that just changes these things like mint! so for now on know linux mint is nothing special i can name 20 distros that are pretty off the top of my head all based on ubuntu! it’s crazy! Opensuse is awesome give it a try!nice review btw !

  15. lth says:

    tried opensuse —> not really for me
    why:
    *dependencies (i had synaptic, apt-get, and pacman withdrawal symptoms)
    *RPM (if they just fixed it up like fedora did)
    *wireless (ubuntu 9.04 kills it in just about all hardware)
    *package management (YAST must be replaced in this regard)
    *get go (ubuntu owns all here | with exception of Fedora for servers)
    *repos (i can actually scale BACK my software in other distros | option to use older “ancient” software and kernels)
    – i admit this is probably because of canonical’s large (filthy rich people) server base (as in amount of of repo servers)

    could care less about look and feel, i could change all that to my liking (that is linux after all)

    p.s. i do concede, go KDE opensuse (they where meant for each other)

    p.s.s. i use gnome (that is why the above comment should have some weight, shutting down that live session hurt)

  16. lth says:

    to summarize:

    -Yast for software
    -stuff out of repos (why must we devs suffer T-T )
    -very good KDE look (my gnome side almost had a heart attack)
    – bad rpm management ( just sad :( )

    p.s. my gnome side made a full recovery and s living a full happy life :P

  17. oldcpu says:

    The state of all Linux distributions is constantly in flux, and openSUSE is no exception. Thanks to the Build Service available for openSUSE and also the Studio, a number of liveCDs (plus many many repositories) are springing up in support of openSUSE.

    Hence the comment about LXDE for openSUSE above is now dated. There is an openSUSE-11.1 liveCD, that is installable.

    The current location for the live CD (and this link is time limited, as a new link will be created when a new LXDE version is released for openSUSE):

    http://lizards.opensuse.org/2009/09/13/opensuse-lxde-live-cd-1-0-0/

    There are many other liveCDs for openSUSE-11.1 which one can learn about here: http://en.opensuse.org/Live_CD

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