openSUSE 13.1 KDE

openSUSE 13.1 has been released so it’s time for a review. I’ve always liked openSUSE, I started out with SUSE Linux years ago and it’s always had a special place in my heart. I’m glad it’s still around and doing so well these days. Whenever I install it, I’m reminded of where I got my start with Linux and I’m grateful that it was available back then.

This review covers the KDE version of openSUSE 13.1. However, you can also use GNOME as the default desktop environment. Both desktops are great, and work well in openSUSE. Ultimately it gets down to your personal preference, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either option.

If you aren’t familiar with what KDE has to offer, you can read an overview of KDE in openSUSE 13.1 that covers the advantages of the Plasma Desktop. Suffice to say that the combination of KDE 4.11 and openSUSE provides a powerful desktop operating system that is also elegant and pleasing in daily use.

openSUSE 13.1 Boot Menu

openSUSE 13.1 Boot Menu

What’s New in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

KDE
KDE Plasma Desktop is the default in openSUSE, and the 4.11 version of this Free Desktop is a long term maintained release. This release brings speed improvements in Desktop Search, file and window management, improved multi-monitor handling, brand new delayed mail sending feature and scam detection for KDE PIM and much more. Also new is deeper Android integration in the desktop and in the Amarok music player. See this great introduction to Plasma Desktop on openSUSE 13.1.

Stabilized
Much effort was put in testing openSUSE 13.1, with improvements to our automated openQA testing tool, a global bug fixing hackathon and more. The btrfs file system has received a serious workout and while not default, is considered stable for everyday usage. This release has been selected for Evergreen maintenance extending its life cycle to 3 years.

Networked
This release introduces the latest OpenStack Havana with almost 400 new features. Web server admins will appreciate the latest Apache, MySQL and MariaDB updates. Web developers benefit from an updated Ruby 2.0 on Rails 4 with improvements from core classes to better caching in the Rails framework and the latest php 5.4.2 comes with a build-in testing server. End users can now mount Amazon s3 buckets as local file system and use much improved Samba 4.1 with better windows domains support.

Evolved
openSUSE moves forward with AArch64, making openSUSE ready for development on the upcoming generation of 64bit ARM devices. 32bit ARM support has been heavily improved and a special Raspberry Pi build for openSUSE is available. This release also delivers GCC 4.8 with new error reporting abilities, the latest glibc supporting AArch64, C11 and Intel TSX Lock Elision, the new SDL2 and Qt 5.1, bringing QML and C++11 features to developers..

Polished
openSUSE 13.1 comes with much improved font hinting thanks to the new font engine in Freetype 2.5. YaST has been ported to Ruby, opening contribution up to a large number of skilled developers. In this release, ActiveDoc replaces doc.opensuse.org and the majority of packaged documents in openSUSE, lowering the barrier to contribution.

Faster
New is accelerated video with VDPAU support in MESA and an optimized version of glibc for 32bit systems. Linux 3.11 includes work on ‘page reclaim’, maintaining performance during disk operations.

Feature-full
Desktop users will appreciate the Android devices integration in the KDE file manager, in the shell and in music player Amarok. Artists have to try out the new Krita improvements with textured painting, greyscale masks & selections and more. GNOME Shell introduces a redesign of the system status bar and Header Bars in many applications, making better use of screen space. Enlightenment now also has an openSUSE theme.

Innovative
This release comes with a number of experimental technologies to try out. This includes preliminary Wayland support with Weston compositor in GNOME Shell and KDE Plasma Desktop as well as improved support for Ultra high-resolution in applications and shells. New is also the LightDM KDE greeter and a plasma NetworkManagement applet for testing.

System Requirements for openSUSE 13.1 KDE
Here’s what you’ll need to run openSUSE 13.1:

  • Pentium* III 500 MHz or higher processor (Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or higher or any AMD64 or Intel64 processor recommended)
  • Main memory: 1 GB physical RAM (2 GB recommended)
  • Hard disk: 3 GB available disk space for a minimal install, 5 GB available for a graphical desktop (more recommended)
  • Sound and graphics cards: supports most modern sound and graphics cards, 800 x 600 display resolution (1024 x 768 or higher recommended)
  • Booting from CD/DVD drive or USB-Stick for installation, or support for booting over network (you need to setup PXE by yourself, look also at Network install) or an existing installation of openSUSE, more information at Installation without CD

openSUSE 13.1 KDE Download
You can download openSUSE 13.1 KDE from the openSUSE download page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 4.57 GB. I also used the 64-bit version for this review, but you can download the 32-bit version if you prefer it.

While I opted for the DVD version that requires an install, you can also download the live versions of openSUSE 13.1 instead. That will let you run openSUSE 13.1 off the disc instead of having to do an install. I recommend doing this if you’ve never used openSUSE before, it will give you a taste of what it offers without having to do an actual install.

You can choose KDE or GNOME if you go for the live versions, see the links for each desktop environment on the downloads page for openSUSE 13.1.

If you’re a distrohopper then you might want to try it in a virtual machine via VirtualBox before running it on real hardware.

openSUSE 13.1 KDE Installation
Installing openSUSE 13.1 is not difficult though the installer is not quite as slick as the one in Ubuntu. My install took longer than an Ubuntu install but there was also more software included with it.

You can watch a slideshow once the install starts. I recommend checking out the slideshow if you are totally new to openSUSE, it’s a good way to start learning how to use it.

openSUSE 13.1 Install Mode

openSUSE 13.1 Install Mode

openSUSE 13.1 Install Partitioning

openSUSE 13.1 Install Partitioning

openSUSE 13.1 Install Desktop Selection

openSUSE 13.1 Install Desktop Selection

openSUSE 13.1 Install Repositories

openSUSE 13.1 Install Repositories

openSUSE 13.1 Install Settings

openSUSE 13.1 Install Settings

openSUSE 13.1 Install Slideshow

openSUSE 13.1 Install Slideshow

The openSUSE 13.1 KDE Desktop
The openSUSE 13.1 KDE desktop is quite attractive. The first things you notice are the darker color and the openSUSE mascot in green. The desktop contains icons for Firefox, the KInfoCenter, LibreOffice, Online Help and openSUSE.

Click the chameleon button on the panel to access application categories, system tools, utilities, desktop configuration, favorites, and to shut down your system. openSUSE 13.1 defaults to the sliding menus in KDE, but I prefer the classic menus instead. To switch to the classic menus, just right click the chameleon button on the panel and choose classic style.

openSUSE 13.1 Desktop

openSUSE 13.1 Desktop

openSUSE 13.1 Applications Menu

openSUSE 13.1 Applications Menu

openSUSE 13.1 YaST Control Center

openSUSE 13.1 YaST Control Center

Linux Software Included in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
Here’s a sample of the linux software included in openSUSE 13.1.

Games
KMahjongg
KReversi
KPatience
KMines
KSudoku

Graphics
GIMP
Hugin
digiKam
DNGConverter
Expoblending
Panorama
Photo Layouts
showFoto
AcquireImages
Skanite
Gwenview

Internet
Choqok
Konversation
Kopete
KMail
Firefox
Konqueror
Akregator
KTorrent

Multimedia
Amarok
AMZ Downloader
K3b
Kaffeine
KMix
KsCD

Office
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
LibreOffice
Okular

Linux Software Management Tools in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
There are two ways to manage software in openSUSE 13.1, YaST2 and Apper. Unless you really need it, I recommend using Apper. The interface is a bit more intuitive and applications are broken down into category for easy browsing.

To install an application in Apper, just find it and click the Install button and then click Apply. To remove an application, just click the Remove button then click on Apply.

openSUSE 13.1 Apper Software Management

openSUSE 13.1 Apper Software Management

openSUSE 13.1 YaST 2 Software Management

openSUSE 13.1 YaST 2 Software Management

Problems & Headaches Found in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
openSUSE 13.1 ran extremely well for me, I saw no stability or speed problems with it. It seems that the developer claims about improving stability and speed have been borne out by its performance. However, if you’ve seen any problems then please post them in the comments below for the benefit of other readers. Thanks in advance.

In terms of criticism, I think there are two weak points in openSUSE 13.1.

The first is the installer. It’s not hard to use but it isn’t as streamlined as it could be. The installer in Ubuntu and Linux Mint seems more intuitive and simpler to me. openSUSE 13.1’s installer could use a rework that makes it more appealing and easier for folks that are new to this distro.

The second weak point is in software management. Apper is okay, but it lags behind the Ubuntu Software Center and Linux Mint’s Software Manager. Using YaST 2 for software management is fine for very experienced users, but it’s not something well suited to casual desktop users.

So I’d like to see some improvements on these two points. Some sort of app store type software management tool would be very welcome in openSUSE, along with a revamped installer that simplifies the process for folks new to Linux and openSUSE.

Neither of these things is a deal breaker by any means. openSUSE is a great desktop distribution, but there’s always room for improvement and I think addressing these two issues would make openSUSE even better than it is right now.

Where To Get Help for openSUSE 13.1 KDE
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or register for the DLR forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out the openSUSE forums or mailing list.

If you’re new to Linux, you might want to check out some of the books available about it at Amazon. You can learn quite a bit that you will probably find useful later on. You can also save lots of money with deals on laptops and tablets, desktops and monitors, components, and computer accessories.

Final Thoughts About openSUSE 13.1 KDE
openSUSE 13.1 takes an already fine desktop distribution and makes it even better. Ubuntu, Linux Mint and others have gotten more attention in recent years than openSUSE, but this release may very well change that. openSUSE 13.1 deserves to be included in any discussion of the top tier of desktop distributions.

I found myself really enjoying openSUSE 13.1, it’s well worth a download if you are in the market for a new desktop distro. If KDE and GNOME don’t appeal to you then you can build your own version of openSUSE or try one of the various derivatives of it.

If you are using Windows or OS X right now, openSUSE 13.1 is definitely a viable alternative. If you aren’t sure about using it, download one of the live versions of it and then run it off the disc first to see how you like it. My guess is that you will probably enjoy it once you get your feet wet with it.

openSUSE 13.1 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on openSUSE 13.1 KDE? Tell me in the comments below.



openSUSE 12.1 KDE

openSUSE is one of the most popular desktop distros available. This time around it’s version 12.1 that has been released. If you aren’t familiar with openSUSE then you should know that it comes in KDE, GNOME, Xfce and LXDE versions. For this review I’ve picked the KDE version of openSUSE 12.1. I may do a quick look at the GNOME version on Eye On Linux later though.

Speaking of the GNOME version of openSUSE 12.1, I took a quick peek at it to see if the openSUSE had made any significant changes to the dreadful GNOME 3 desktop. Unfortunately, they didn’t though they should have. The Linux Mint developers did a good job on altering the GNOME 3.2 desktop to make it usable; I had hoped the openSUSE developers would do the same. Alas, perhaps they will in the next release. The lack of GNOME 3 tweaks is one of the reasons why I decided to review the KDE version instead.

Okay, enough babble about GNOME. Let’s get on with this review of openSUSE 12.1 KDE.

OpenSUSE 12.1 KDE Desktop

OpenSUSE 12.1 KDE Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Linux kernel 3.1
KDE 4.7.2

Apper software manager (renamed KPackageKit)
KolorManager + Oyranos (color management tools)

Chromium added to the repositories (but not included in the default install)

Firefox 7

Support for ownCloud including the Mirall tool

Samba 3.6.1
Systemd for booting
Snapper for system snapshot functionality
Sax3 for keyboard, mouse, monitor, touchpad configuration

YaST bug fixes and tweaks
Latest desktop environments

openSUSE comes with Linux kernel 3.1 and KDE 4.7.2. You can find a summary of changes to the kernel here, and the KDE 4.7.2 announcement here. Highlights for the kernel update include better ext4 and btrfs file systems, as well as better memory management and data handling.

Systemd now handles the booting of openSUSE 12.1 and promises faster boot times. I didn’t notice a difference, frankly. But then again I’ve never really cared about boot times when using Linux. For the most part I rarely have to reboot anyway so I don’t really care if the boot time is a few seconds or whatever faster. But your mileage may vary and you may appreciate the inclusion of systemd in openSUSE 12.1.

The Apper software manager replaces KPackageKit in this release. Well actually, it is KPackageKit but it’s been renamed to Apper. I’ll have more to say about that in the software section of the review.

Apper

Apper

Chromium has been added to the repositories but, unfortunately, is not included as the default browser. For that you’ll find Firefox 7.1. While I still like Firefox, I’ve pretty much settled on Chromium/Chrome as my default browser on all operating systems.

This release also now supports ownCloud and includes the Mirall tool. I have more to say about them in the problems section of the review. Suffice to say though that I don’t think they are very relevant right now for most desktop users.

openSUSE 12.1 also supports the latest KDE, GNOME, Xfce and LXDE desktops. This review covers the KDE version, but you should check out one of the others if you prefer it to the KDE version of openSUSE 12.1.

Snapper lets you manage system snapshots if you’ve used btrfs for your root and home file system. Next, I’ll look at the hardware requirements and I’ll show what the install routine looks like in this distro.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:
Pentium* III 500 MHz or higher processor (Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or higher or any AMD64 or Intel* EM64T processor recommended)
Main memory: 512 MB physical RAM (1 GB recommended)
Hard disk: 3 GB available disk space (more recommended)

Sound and graphics cards: supports most modern sound and graphics cards, 800 x 600 display resolution (1024 x 768 or higher recommended)

Booting from CD/DVD drive or USB-Stick for installation, or support for booting over network (you need to setup PXE by yourself, look also at Network install) or an existing installation of openSUSE, more information at Installation without CD

Installation
The install is easy though not as elegant as Ubuntu’s installer. Newbies should be able to get through it without a problem though. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
When you first boot into your openSUSE 12.1 desktop, you’ll get a welcome message that contains helpful links to information about the openSUSE project, as well as community support and the openSUSE Build Service. If you are new to openSUSE, it’s certainly worth your time to check out some of those links. There’s a lot of helpful information there that will help you learn about openSUSE.

The desktop itself contains icons for Firefox, My Computer, LibreOffice, Online Help and the welcome message.

OpenSUSE 12.1 KDE Desktop

OpenSUSE 12.1 KDE Desktop

Themes & Wallpaper
The wallpaper is vintage openSUSE, with the green colors with a whitish swirl and the openSUSE mascot in the bottom right corner. You can easily change the theme and wallpaper to suit your tastes. openSUSE doesn’t come with much in the way of choice, but it’s easy to go online to get more themes and wallpaper.

Default Wallpaper

Default Wallpaper

More Wallpaper

More Wallpaper

More Themes

More Themes

Admin Tools
System Management

YaST2 is openSUSE’s system manager and it’s a very comprehensive tool. In this release YaST2 has gotten bug fixes and some small improvements. If you haven’t used YaST2 before, take a few minutes and browse around it to get used to its interface. It will be helpful to you later if you decide to change your system and need to make the adjustments in YaST2.

YaST Control Center

YaST Control Center

Bundled Software
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
KMahjongg
KReversi
KMines
KSoduko
KPatience

Graphics
GIMP
LibreOffice Draw
Gwenview Image Viewer

Internet
Firefox
Konqueror
KMail
KTorrent
Akregator
Choqok
Konversation

Multimedia
K3b
KsCD
KMix
Amarok
Kaffeine

Office
KAddressBook
KOrganizer
LibreOffice
Okular

Software Management
As I noted earlier in the review, Apper is the latest and renamed version of KPackageKit. Apper promises to be faster than KPackageKit and offer greater stability as per the blog of its developer:

First Apper is based on my rework of packagekit-qt which is called packagekit-qt2, and this rework makes Apper much faster than KPackageKit was, the inner details is that we don’t use the huge QSharedPointer for packages and don’t create a bunch of useless stuff unless the user asks, I didn’t measured the time but first time you run it you will surely notice. This also means Apper is more stable since packagekit-qt2 has a cleaner code and a nicer API. Second Apper has several user interface changes and a much nicer integration with KDE.

It’s hard for me to say whether or not there really has been a noticeable speed increase since I never used KPackageKit for very long in the past. I’d be very interested in hearing the thoughts of regular KDE users in the comments below. Let me know if Apper is indeed faster and more stable than KPackageKit was. If so then the developer certainly deserves some praise for improving it.

I do like the fact that the left frame is gone. It makes the interface look a lot better and more cohesive. On the whole, Apper seems to be a good update of KPackageKit.

However, if you are going to install or remove software in openSUSE 12.1 you should use YaST2 instead of Apper. When I tried to install applications using Apper, I got a “simulating the install” message but the application didn’t get installed. I was able to install it via YaST2 though.

It’s potentially confusing to have what seem to be two different software management tools in a desktop distro like this. Newbies might not understand why two of them are included. So if you are going to use openSUSE 12.1, you’re probably better off skipping Apper and just going ahead with YaST2 as your software manager. Just open YaST2 and then click the Software Management icon to get started.

Apper

Apper

YaST2 Chromium Install

YaST2 Chromium Install

YaST2 Chromium Install Download

YaST2 Chromium Install Download

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash isn’t installed by default so you’ll have to open YaST2 and do a quick search for it in the software management menu. Install it and then restart your browser and you should be able to run YouTube videos, flash games, etc.

YouTube

YouTube Without Flash

Flash Install

Flash Install in YaST2

YouTube with Flash Installed

YouTube With Flash Installed

Multimedia Applications
openSUSE 12.1 comes with a pretty basic number of multimedia applications. Amarok, K3B, KsCD, and a couple of others are installed by default. Don’t worry though, you can fire up YaST2 to find many more in the Multimedia section of its software management page.

Amarok MP3 Message

Amarok MP3 Message

Amarok

Amarok

Multimedia applications in YaST2

Multimedia applications in YaST2

Problems & Headaches
Software management was not a pleasant experience in openSUSE 12.1. I initially tried to install Chromium in Apper. I got some sort of message saying that the install was being simulated or something. Huh? The install never actually seemed to happen.

I gave up on Apper and tried to install it via YaST2. The install seemed to work but I didn’t notice Chromium in the Internet applications menu until after I ran software update and then restarted openSUSE 12.1. The same went for Banshee, it didn’t seem to appear in the menus until after I restarted openSUSE 12.1.

I’m not really sure what the problem was with the software installs, but it was a bit odd to see that happening. Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen anything similar or perhaps I was just cursed this time around with openSUSE 12.1.

One of the more interesting new features is openSUSE 12.1’s support for ownCloud. Part of its support includes the Mirall tool. However, this tool does not seem to be installed by default and there seems to be no easy or quick way to set up ownCloud without it. While I’m happy that openSUSE is supporting ownCloud, what good is it if there’s no easy way for desktop users to use it? You can get more information here about ownCloud and Mirall. Right now I don’t see it as being particularly useful for most desktop users since it’s not installed by default.

The burps above aside, I didn’t notice anything else in the way of problems with openSUSE 12.1. It was stable and relatively speedy for me. I didn’t see noticeable application or system crashes while I was using it.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the OpenSUSE support portal page. You’ll find documentation, a support database, mailing list archives, forums and a link to IRC channels.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
openSUSE 12.1 is a fine desktop distro. The fact that it comes in a range of different desktop environments adds to its appeal. With the exception of the Apper software oddities, it performed very well for me.

openSUSE 12.1 is certainly worth a look if you are looking for an alternative to Ubuntu or if you’re just a curious distro hopper that hasn’t yet used openSUSE.

Beginner, intermediate or advanced users can use openSUSE 12.1. Beginners should take time to familiarize themselves with the system management tools found in YaST2 after installing openSUSE 12.1.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage. Summary Table:

Product: OpenSUSE 12.1
Web Site: http://www.opensuse.org
Price: Free
Pros: Comes in KDE, GNOME, Xfce and LXDE versions. Includes updated Linux kernel, KDE 4.7.2. Mirall tool provides support for ownCloud. Includes Snapper for snapshot functionality.
Cons: Newbies could be confused as to whether they should use Apper or YaST2 for software management.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users. Support for ownCloud and the Mirall tool will be appreciated by advanced users.
Rating: 3.5/5

 

openSUSE 11.3

SUSE Linux was one of my very first distros; I used to buy it from CompUSA and other places back when I first got started with Linux. These days, of course, one can simply use openSUSE instead of buying it at a store. This week I decided to look at openSUSE 11.3, the latest and greatest version.

OpenSUSE is known for being one of the more preeminent KD-oriented distros, but it also supports GNOME (and now LXDE). Since I reviewed Linux Mint KDE last week, I figured I’d go with the GNOME version of openSUSE 11.3 so I could take a little break from KDE.

What’s New In This Release

Here’s a sample of what you’ll find in openSUSE 11.3:

Netbook Support
Smartphone Support
SpiderOak Personal Cloud
Btrfs Support
Zypper Package Management Enhancements
Improved Package Dependency Handling
LXDE Support
Linux 2.6.34
Alsa 1.0.23
X.org 7.5
Nouveau Nvidia Driver
GNOME 2.30.1 (With Support for GNOME 3.0 Preview)

I’ll cover the GNOME changes in the desktop section of the review.

The netbook support offers the KDE Plasma Netbook Workspace, and the MeeGo netbook interface. I like the KDE netbook edition, but I haven’t tried MeeGo yet. Still, it’s good to see both of them being offered for openSUSE users. It’s great for netbook users to have a choice in desktop environments.

Zypper can now list packages that can’t be updated, and it can tell you why. You can also remove dependencies of a package by using the -clean-deps option. OpenSUSE 11.3 also features better package handling in general, letting YaST also remove dependencies needed by a removed package.

The smartphone support will be very much appreciated by Android, iPhone or Blackberry users. OpenSUSE 11.3 now lets you sync music, access photos or use your phone to connect to the Internet. It’s great to see this kind of smartphone connectivity in openSUSE, the developers seem to be supporting all of the major phone platforms.

You can connect your smartphone to OpenSUSE 11.3.

The SpiderOak (what a weird name!) personal cloud is a cool idea and reminiscent of Ubuntu One. It wasn’t installed by default, so I had to go into the Software Manager and install it. After the install, I found it in the Internet applications menu. Signing up for SpiderOak was easy and quick; the SpiderOak interface is very well done and quite intuitive.

You’ll need to install SpiderOak via the software manager.

Signing up for a SpiderOak account takes just a minute or two.

It’s easy to set up a backup, see your status, sync and view your files. You get 2GB of space, if you need more you can buy it. You can opt to be billed monthly or yearly, starting with 100GB for $100 per year or $10 per month.  SpiderOak is a great addition to openSUSE, I’m very glad to see it included. I think it will prove to be a very valuable service for many openSUSE users.

The SpiderOak service in OpenSUSE 11.3.

I’m also happy to see LXDE support in openSUSE 11.3. KDE and GNOME are both great, but there are folks that really believe less is more (I go back and forth on that personally). So having LXDE as a desktop option in openSUSE opens the door to having it used by minimalists who prefer speed to gratuitous desktop features and functionality.

Although I decided to do this review using the GNOME version, I couldn’t resist the temptation to install LXDE and run it for a while instead. Whenever I run LXDE or some other minimalistic desktop environment, I always wonder if we really need all of the stuff that we get in KDE or GNOME. Sometimes less can really be more.

The minimalistic LXDE desktop in OpenSUSE 11.3.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements

Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run openSUSE 11.3:

*  Processor: Intel: Pentium 1-4, Xeon or newer; AMD: Duron, Athlon, Athlon XP, Athlon MP, Athlon 64, Sempron, Opteron or newer
* Main memory: At least 256 MB; 512 MB recommended
* Hard disk: At least 500 MB for minimal system; 2.5 GB recommended for standard system
* Sound and graphics cards: Supports most modern sound and graphics cards
* Booting from CD/DVD drive or USB-Stick for installation, or support for booting over network (you need to setup PXE by yourself, look also at Network install) or an existing installation of openSUSE, more information at Installation without CD

Installation

As I noted earlier, I downloaded the GNOME Live CD version of openSUSE 11.3. I highly recommend the Live CD version since it lets you use the distro without actually having to do an install. As always, remember that running it off the CD is usually a bit slower than running it off your hard disk after an install. The Live CD GNOME version I downloaded weighed in at a petite 716MB.

The install itself is very easy and quick. The screenshots below walk you through the entire process, from start to finish. At this point it’s fair to say that installing openSUSE is about as easy as installing Ubuntu, though some would say that Ubuntu’s installer is arguably a bit more attractive to look at while the install happens. Please note that there is now slideshow during the install process.

Booting & Login

Bootsplash

The pre-install bootsplash lets you choose to boot right into the Live CD version, or do an install. You can also check the install media, do a memory test, etc. I just booted into the Live CD version. After you install openSUSE 11.3, the bootsplash screen gives you the options of booting into openSUSE, or using the failsafe version.

Login Screen

You can change your language, desktop environment, keyboard, universal access preferences, and screen resolution. You can also opt to shut down or restart your system.

The pre-install OpenSUSE 11.3 bootsplash screen.

The OpenSUSE 11.3 login screen.

The Desktop

OpenSUSE 11.3 now ships with GNOME 2.3.1; Tracker is now the file indexer (beagle has been replaced). Nautilus now has a split view mode, making it easier to manage files on your system. You can also now access iPhone and iPod Touch files in Nautilus, and Rhythmbox can also play  music from both devices. You can also right-click a menu item to open an archive file.

Nautilus now has a split view mode.

Screensavers
There’s also a better selection of screensavers (and games) included in this release. The Cosmos one is great, but I really liked the silly Pacman screensaver. I found it amusing to have Pacman running around with the ghosts chasing him around while my screensaver was on. I haven’t kept track of the included screensavers, so I’m not sure if the Pacman one is new or not, but it’s fun to use.

There’s a cool Pac Man screensaver included in OpenSUSE 11.3.

Wallpaper
OpenSUSE 11.3 doesn’t come with much in the way of wallpaper. There’s a cool Cosmos option and a few openSUSE wallpapers, but you’ll need to click the “Get More Backgrounds Online” link if you want a good selection. I ended up going with the Cosmos one, I’ve always liked space themes for wallpaper.

The selection of wallpaper is rather sparse until you go online to get more.

When you boot into the openSUSE 11.3 desktop, you’ll find icons for the Trash and your Home folder. Other than that, the desktop is clutter-free. Click the Computer button to access applications, etc. The first thing you’ll see is a list of Favorite Applications, along with tabs for Documents and Places. To the right you’ll see helpful system links such as Control Center, YaST, Software Manager and other necessities.

To see more applications, you’ll need to click the More Applications button and a menu of applications will pop up. I’ll have more to say about this in the problems section.

The applications menu on the OpenSUSE 11.3 desktop panel.

The openSUSE 11.3 desktop.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
AisleRiot
Chess
FreeCell
gbrainy
lagno
Mahjongg
Mines
Sudoku
Swell Foop

Graphics
Cheese
Eye of Gnome
F-Spot
GIMP
OpenOffice.org
XSane

Internet
Ekiga Softphone
Empathy
Evolution
Firefox
gFTP
Liferea
Network Tools
Transmission
XChat

Multimedia
Banshee
Brasero
Totem

Office
Evolution
OpenOffice.org
Tasque

Software Management
Software management has gotten a boost in this release, with some helpful changes having been made to YaST. There’s now a simple check box to install or remove software, an improved search box, and a history of changes available via Extras on the Menubar.

There’s also a summary of changes box that lets you undo changes and that also shows you changes to packages. You also get the option to close the software manager down or return to it after installing/removing is complete.

There have been some changes to the software included with openSUSE 11.3 as well. Empathy is now the default IM client, and you can send files via drag and drop. Banshee has also gotten some upgrades including a grid view for albums, automatic play queuing, new extensions, and audio equalizer support. Transmission is included with DHT already enabled.

Software Repositories
You can add more repositories by opening the Software Manager and then clicking on Configuration then Repositories. OpenSUSE 11.3 does not lack in terms of bundled software and additional software in the existing respositories. Most users will find virtually all of their software needs already met with the existing repositories.

Adding & Removing Software
As noted above, adding or removing software is even easier in this release. Just find the software you want in Software Manager, then click the checkbox next to it, then click Apply. If it has dependencies, they will automatically be added before you click Apply.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash

In order to run YouTube videos, you’ll need to install flash. Just go into Software Manager, and do a search for flash. OpenSUSE comes with some good multimedia applications such as Banshee, Brasero, and Totem. As I note below, it would be really nice to see some web based multimedia content included in OpenSUSE 11.3 in a future release. Local applications are necessary and good, but there’s so much more out there online that could be included.

Problems & Headaches

One thing I don’t care for about OpenSUSE 11.3 is the way you launch applications besides Favorite Applications. First, click the Computer button on the panel, then note that you must click More Applications. I’d much rather have cascading menus of applications. Once you click on an application in the popup menu, the menu disappears and you have to pull it up again to click on another application. I find this somewhat irritating, and non-intuitive.

Am I just being lazy here or what? It might not be a bad idea to let the Applications Browser stay open after an application is launched.

Another thing that might bother some users is that, SpiderOak aside, openSUSE 11.3 really isn’t very cloud-oriented. Its history is in installable software, not web applications so this is understandable. However, after using Peppermint OS One and Peppermint Ice, I’ve come to appreciate the virtue of web applications being built into distros. So it would be nice to see openSUSE move in that direction and include web apps in its application menus in future releases.

One last complaint, why the hell does this distro have to be called “openSUSE” instead of “OpenSUSE?” I absolutely will not start a sentence with a word that isn’t capitalized, so you have have noticed that some instances of the distro’s name are capitalized in this review and others are not. Can the openSUSE developers please consider changing the damn name to “OpenSUSE” instead? Sometimes the names given to technology absolutely drive me mad.

:blink: :sad: :cwy:

The Banshee music player.

Flash is not installed in Firefox by default.

Where To Get Help

Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the openSUSE support portal. You’ll find documentation, mailing list archives, a link to the forums and lots more helpful information.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It

I’m extremely pleased with openSUSE 11.3, it’s a fantastic alternative to the various Ubuntu based distros. There’s an enormous amount of value bundled into openSUSE 11.3 for desktop users. It’s definitely one of the best desktop distros available right now and I highly recommend checking it out. Even if you’re already using a favorite distro, openSUSE 11.3 is worth checking out in a virtual machine as a backup distro or simply as a change of pace.

OpenSUSE is suitable for beginners, intermediate and advanced Linux users. I recommend that beginners download the Live CD version first though, to get their feet wet with openSUSE without having to install it.

I’m very happy to see an old favorite of mine progress so far in this release. Give it a download, you won’t regret it.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: openSUSE 11.3
Web Site: http://www.opensuse.org
Price: Free
Pros: SpiderOak cloud service, netbook support, smartphone support, and LXDE support. Enhanced software management.
Cons: Lacks some of the web based application integration found in distros like Peppermint OS One and Peppermint Ice.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: OpenSUSE 11.3 is finally a true contender in the desktop distro wars. It’s on par now with Ubuntu. This release adds a lot of value for desktop users.
Rating: 4/5