OpenSUSE 12.2

If this is your first visit to my blog, you may want to read about my distro-hopping.

I once tried installing an earlier version of OpenSUSE, but it was extremely slow. That was on my previous hardware (processor and motherboard), where quite a few distros failed to install or were just bad in one way or another. Hence I never wrote about them, to avoid being unfair, not knowing if it was just my hardware. Now, a distro should work on as much (at least PC) hardware as possible, but it is not a fail in case it has problems with the odd hardware or two. A thorough professional review should be conducted on very standard hardware, preferably on at least two machines. But my reviews (if one can call them that) are not professional reviews. Hey, there is not even adsense here. Only my own added sense. 😉

So I decided to take on OpenSUSE again, version 12.2. I went for the KDE DVD iso, the full monty. OpenSUSE is usually viewed as a KDE distribution, but it comes in other versions too. During installation, there is a choice of desktop environment. I went for KDE. The installation was very easy and clear. I think it is the best installer I ever seen.

OpenSUSE has a lot of documentation on their web site, even if it here and there it lags behind in version (not uncommon in any big body of documentation). OpenSUSE is a community distro, with support from SUSE, which is an "enterprise Linux" company, owned by the same entity as Novell. Suse has been around for a very long time, it is both one of the oldest and also most popular distros.

Adding and updating software was something new for me, as I have not used the package manager before (so far I mainly tried Debian/Ubuntu and derivatives). OpenSUSE uses YaST2, which has a GUI that is not that different from Synaptic, which I am used to. One can check for dependencies, add new repositories etc. There is also Apper, which is much simpler, with which one can look at installed software, search for software, and also run a general update. As I am a newbie on this, I have no knowledge of how to use yast in terminal. But the GUI applications were easy to use and enough for my rather short and limited experience.

The default installed applications are almost all KDE/Qt. There are a few important (but standard) exceptions, such as Firefox, LibreOffice and GIMP.

OpenSUSE installed the (non-free) driver for my ethernet card automatically. There is no free driver at the moment of writing this. The autoinstalling is convenient and for a newcomer probably essential. It is hard to try a new (or first) GNU/Linux distro with non-working network. Non-free graphics drivers are not essential as default, and they were not installed from start. A good policy. The non-free graphic drivers are in separate repos, but easily found in YaST2. One can search/add repositories with different criteria, e.g. "Community Repositories".

I had some trouble with the sound, To be honest, sound on GNU/Linux is sometimes a bit of a hassle. My problems occured when switching between applications such as Amarok, and running something under wine. Wine used ALSA and desktop apps used PulseAudio. This i did not realize at first, so having wine use Pulse might have helped. Sometimes I failed to get any sound from Amarok, even after shutting down wine. Oddly enough, I could at those occurences play the same file in Kaffeine, so I am not sure what the problem was. When I have had problems with Amarok in the past, I have sometimes switched from GStreamer to VLC as backend. I was surprised to find out that VLC is not in the regular repositories. Even if VLC is not installed by default by distros (from my experience, less than half has it), it is always found in repos. I use VLC only occasionally, so maybe my memory of this isn't wholly reliable. Later I discovered that the VideoLAN site provide VLC packaged for OpenSUSE, as well as a lot of other distros. In my opinion having packaged stuff in the repositories is the normal way, but it also has made me lazy 😉

Sometimes the setup feels a bit unpolished, some items in the application menu are duplicated, e.g. Kaffeine. Wine has its own menu entry, but also exists under "Emulators". The ordering of the programs in the menu and submenues was hard to get for me at times. Maybe that is because I am used to another arrangement. It can be a matter of personal taste. However, the application menu sorting does feel a bit rough and unfinished. I also chose the big install, so there are a lot of apps. I missed "recently used applications/documents" in the menu. That is a nice newbie-friendly feature, but in all fairness, most distros do not put that as a default menu item.

A very minor point: The GRUB (bootloader) screen is the ugliest I have ever seen. I like green, but ... oh my eyes... 😉

Apart from the sound bit (maybe more due to my use case than the distro itself), I had no problems in running OpenSUSE. It worked wonderfully.

I usually do not link others' reviews of distros, as they can easily be found, e.g. via Distrowatch, but I will do now. In the mintCast podcast episode 131, the hosts review different desktop versions of OpenSUSE from (naturally) different viewpoints and hardware. A great way to discuss a distribution.
 

3 Comments

  1. I’ve been using OpenSUSE (GNOME edition) on my netbook since 12.1 and I have to admit that I am liking it a lot more than I expected. It’s solid, it works well and it’s the only distro I could find that would support my Ralink wireless card.

    I’ve even managed to get used to all the green 😉

    The one thing that I haven’t gotten on with is YaST. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to find it rather slow and clunky and more than a little click-happy.

    On the other hand, I really like the Zypper command line package manager. I find it very intuitive and surprisingly easy to use given how powerful it is.

    • Thanks for the comment 🙂

      I never tried Zypper. But on the whole OpenSUSE was a nice experience. It is probably one of the least “fashionable” of the bigger distros out there, but it is a nice one.

      I have no laptop, so I never had problems with wireless cards, which to me seems the hardware part with most problems to make work in GNU/Linux, especially if one wants as much free software as possible. Currently I have to use proprietary drivers for my wired network card. I should have checked before buying a new motherboard…

      • I think you’re exactly right about OpenSUSE there. It doesn’t get the same attention as distros like Ubuntu of Fedora, but the developers are quietly turning out very nice, very reliable distribution.

        I’m usually quite careful about checking wireless cards (among other things) will play nicely with Linux but in the case of the netbook a combination of over-confidence on my part and a limited time offer led me to jump in without checking.

        I live and learn 😉

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