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.
What’s New in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Linux Software Included in openSUSE 13.1 KDE
Here’s a sample of the linux software included in openSUSE 13.1.
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.
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.