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:
SpiderOak Personal Cloud
Zypper Package Management Enhancements
Improved Package Dependency Handling
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hardware Requirements & Installation
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.