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Product Review: openSUSE 10.3

The developers at openSUSE have done a great job

Sunny Talks Tech Blog

For the last 10+ yrs, I have spent quite a lot of my PC experience on SuSE beginning with v4.2.

openSUSE 10.3 was released October 4 2007.  A lot has improved over the years and I've seen how it has improved with every new version. My last Linux installation and review was Shift Linux 0.5 RC2 some days back and I was eagerly waiting for openSUSE 10.3 to be released. I have been following the development of v10.3 and installed a few milestone builds on the way to the final release.

What's New
There are a plethora of improvements in openSuSE 10.3. I wouldn't go through all the changes, since the link explains everything. But I wouldn't mind mentioning my special favorites in this version. 1-Click Install, Official Repository List, Improvements in YAST, Compiz-Fusion, KDE4 Games. These are some of my favorite enhancements in openSUSE 10.3.

Installation
Over the years, Linux installation has simplified and become user-friendly. SuSE was probably the pioneer in simple, intuitive GUI installation through a tool called YAST. It's my favorite system administration and configuration tool among all distros. In openSUSE 10.3, YAST has some interesting improvements. It's faster and better integrated. One example of this is, when you right-click on an rpm in konquerer's file browsing, you'll see an install option. This will call YAST and install the package.

I downloaded the i386 DVD version from BitTorrent. openSUSE 10.3 is also available in CD versions of KDE and GNOME. Burned the DVD and booted. And yes, I was happy to see the "Green Welcome Screen" (see below). The green of the chameleon is back and it looks great! Then, it asks me to choose if I wish to boot from HDD or Install. I selected "installation" and the linux kernel loaded and the installation started.

Other than the openSUSE branding, the loading process is the same as in other distros, with a loading process happening the background of a graphical screen.

After, the loading completes, YAST starts up the installation. YAST shows a language selection screen and contains Bengali, Gujrati, Hindi, Marathi, Sindhi, Tamil among the Indian Languages. This should be helpful for the uptake of Linux in India, since the recently passed an order in India makes it mandatory to use free-software in schools. The next few screens ask for installation type and desktop environment.

I like KDE and hence installed it as my default environment.  openSUSE 10.3 installs a few non-opensource stuff like Flash Player, agfa-fonts, jdk 1.5.0, JDK-plugin in the default and asks the user for agreeing to some license agreement. The default installation size is 2.2GB, not too much, not too small!! Expert Settings tab on this screen allowed me to change grub bootloader settings. People will multi-boot can change the default from openSuse to anything else.

It also shows -
Processor: 2x Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 6300 @ 2.13Ghz &
Main Memory: 512 MB


The file-copying process starts and takes about 20min to complete on my system. In the meantime I read the release notes. The following are from the release notes:


==> By default, the new YaST gtk front-end runs on the GNOME desktop,
and the YaST qt front-end on all the other desktops.

==> GNOME 2 is installed under the /usr file system hierarchy since openSUSE 10 3
and KDE 4 now follows KDE 3 will stay in /opt for compatibly reasons



The desktop looks neat and clean. The Beagle Search, Clipper and AutoUpdater Applet and placed in the tray icons at startup. Every piece of hardware from my system was detected including webcam, HP Printer, USB Cable Modem, Wireless Router...

The AutoUpdater Applet is an interesting addition to openSUSE 10.3 and is extremely useful for quick updating and bug fixes. It uses YAST's modules (which inturn uses zypper) in the background and works pretty good, checking from openSuSE's official update repository. It downloaded 12 updates, including security and package updates and installed it, without me having to worry about anything...

1-Click Install:
1-Click Install is an extremely useful feature included in openSUSE 10.3. Completely rocking... and is the need of the hour for success of Linux on the desktop. apt-get is easy, but then this is even better. I installed the Compiz Fusion through the 1-Click Install link provided on openSuSE website. Clicking on links for 1-Click Install opens a .ymp file and the associated application is called "YAST Meta Package Handler". In reality, it required 3 clicks, but one was "Next" and other was a security warning. Both good things, right?? I think Linspire tried something similar, but openSUse's technique looks slick and is free. Great work Benjamin Weber and other devs!!

openSUSE 10.3 contains the latest Compiz 0.5.4 installed by default and Compiz Fusion (Compiz + Beryl) is available in the official online repository. Like I said, I installed it in 1-Click. The default installation of Compiz means that a lot of people don't have to bang their heads with the download and installation. I'm not a fan of 3D effects on desktop, since I don't see much productivity gains. But for those who love it, just a single command (gnome-xgl-switch --enable-xgl) activates Compiz, and a restart later, we are ready to play with the 3D Cube etc...

The Cube also does bounce and do a lot other stuff. Check here. But I found Compiz-Fusion to be a little slower. May be the System RAM was low, but then I didn't expect it throw segmentation faults on KDE.

KDE 4 Preview

openSUSE 10.3 DVD includes a preview of KDE4 which is still under heavy development. Its unstable and hence is an optional install. By default, openSuSE 10.3 comes with games from KDE4. The games have interesting look and feel and has great graphics for arcade and board games. Check the screenshot below.

The KDE4 I downloaded off the SVN was unstable and after 2 downloads, I wasnt able to see the desktop manager correctly (check the screenshot above). It didnt show the icons correctly, not was I able to load Oxygen. Some problem with Oxygen's installation I guess...

Conclusion:

After watching openSUSE 10.3 from its early days in development, I think the developers at openSUSE have done a great job.

After the review finished I was sure that for a newcomer to the Linux world openSUSE 10.3 is the best place to be. With Autoupdater, 1-Click Install, Easy Repository Management, Easy Software & System Administration, you can not go wrong with openSUSE 10.3. So does it mean it's perfect? No, still a lot has to be done in terms of Compiz-Fusion performance and stability. Sometimes my system slowed down with Compiz-Fusion running. Other times KDE threw a Sig Fault when Compiz-Fusion started. KDE4 needs to be fixed. It has promised quite a lot of features and hopefully it doesn't become a burden on stability.

All in all, openSUSE 10.3 is highly recommended and is among the best distros released this year!

More Stories By Saptarshi Purkayastha

Saptarshi Purkayastha is currently working as a Software Architect for Moksh Solutions Pvt. Ltd. ans is also a visiting faculty at Patkar College - Mumbai University, for teaching electronics and microprocessor to Electronics & Computer Science students.

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Most Recent Comments
Cary 11/16/07 10:51:35 PM EST

The One-Click install service that Linspire pioneered is also free. Check out www.cnr.com for the details.

Derek Cordeiro 11/16/07 04:14:56 PM EST

While there are many who deny or ignore the effect of 'politics' on Free Software, there has arguably been a lot of negative effect on openSUSE after the Microsoft-Novell deal