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.
What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:
Linux kernel 3.1
Apper software manager (renamed KPackageKit)
KolorManager + Oyranos (color management tools)
Chromium added to the repositories (but not included in the default install)
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.
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
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
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.
Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.