Distro Review: OpenSUSE 11.2

opensuse logo_smThere’ve been a lot of big releases in the Linux distro world lately, and none bigger than OpenSUSE 11.2, the latest offering from Novell. Novell can be a controversial company in some parts of the FOSS community, but whatever your personal view you can’t deny they’re also contributing to progress in many ways. They employ a lot of important Linux kernel developers for one example. The last time I did a really in-depth review of OpenSUSE was 2 years ago with 10.2, though I did do a quick review of version 11 last year for Linux Planet. I decided it was high time to take a took at look at how things are developing in the SUSE world. So here’s how I got on.

I also talked about OpenSUSE 11.2 on episode 123 of the Linux Outlaws podcast.

Vital Stats:
Distro base – None (Slackware if you got back to 1994. See the discussion on this in the comments)
Packaging – .rpm (Managed by Zypper)
Linux Kernel – 2.6.31.5-0.1-desktop
Default Desktop – Gnome 2.28 or KDE 4.3

Installation:

LiveCD Boot Menu

LiveCD Boot Menu

I began by downloading the OpenSUSE 11.2 install DVD, which contains both the latest Gnome and KDE desktops, along with a raft of other packages. Most of the major distributions focus on live CDs rather than DVDs still and I’m not really sure why. I realise some parts of the world aren’t blessed with the download bandwidth and cheap DVD writers we have here in the UK, but I like the SUSE approach of offering you everything on one disc and then supplementing it with live CDs. The likes of Ubuntu seem to be struggling to fit everything into a CD image these days anyway, and I wonder how long it will be before they’re forced to follow suit. The DVD image downloading in lightening quick time from Mirrorservice.org and I got to work. This DVD doesn’t offer the option of a live session which I find puzzling. I realise they have the live CDs for this, but it would seem sensible to offer a live session on the DVD as well to me. A choice of Gnome or KDE desktop is one of the first things you see on the installer. I chose Gnome initially but would have liked to install both, there wasn’t an obvious option for that. I figured I’d move to KDE later and try that out too. I found the disc partitioning tool worked well but didn’t have the most intuitive UI I’ve ever used. It took a bit of trial and error to get things how I wanted them. You have to right-click on a partition to edit its properties, but this isn’t immediately obvious. The ability to import an existing partitioning scheme from the drive is a really handy feature though. I keep a separate /home partition and it detected the appropriate mount points automatically, even which partitions to reformat. I was highly impressed by that.

openSUSE112_11

Desktop Decision

After entering some of the usual user details and other basic settings the install was on it’s way. You’re presented with a bit of a slide show while the install progresses and I liked the useful information at the bottom of the screen, it lists how many packages are left to install, their size and how long it should all take. Usually they seem to calculate these numbers purely by chance but this was surprisingly accurate. I did hit one slight snag when it tried to connect to the server to download more packages. I was greeted with an error message about connection problems. Since the Ethernet cable wasn’t connected and I wasn’t asked to configure wireless at any point it didn’t really surprise me that it couldn’t find the server. A prompt to configure wireless networking at this point if you’re on a laptop would be a nice addition to the installer I think. I can’t remember the last time I plugged my machine into a router, these days I live on wireless like the rest of the world. I pressed cancel on the connection dialogue and the install continued, completing in under 20 minutes. Overall the install was very quick and easy enough. A big improvement on what I remember of previous OpenSUSE installs and I’m pleased to see the installer has come on.

VIEW FULL INSTALLATION SLIDE SHOW

First Impressions:

Gnome Desktop

Gnome Desktop

When I booted the fresh install for the first time I was surprised to see it log me in automatically, not great for security. This must have been an option in the installer I didn’t notice. Still, I think requiring a login by default would be better. An-opt out rather than opt-in policy if you like. One of my first tasks was to configure wireless networking. The setup was nice and simple with Network Manager and I was quickly onto software installation. Clicking the “Install Software” link on the main SLAB menu launches YaST, causing immediate pangs of trepidation in me. YaST is the all-in-one admin tool on SUSE systems and for most people it’s a bit like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. In the past I’ve found myself firmly in the “hate it” camp, mainly because managing software with it was such a hassle. I tried to keep an open mind this time though and in fact, I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s really improved since last I looked. The software management interface is faster and much nicer to use. I like the way it gives you all the information you could need in one window: a list of impending changes in the right panel, categories and search results to the left. Searching for packages was easy, but I couldn’t find anything close to an Nvidia driver in the default repositories. Much like Fedora and some other distributions, OpenSUSE doesn’t contain any non-free software by default. The binary Nvidia drivers being about as far away from free as a trip to the shops with Paris Hilton. I went to the OpenSUSE wiki to search for some answers and was pleased to find a page dedicated to installing Nvidia drivers, there’s even a 1-click link. That seemed to install just fine but there was no prompt to restart the X server or log out to make the changes take effect, that could be helpful for people who don’t know. Restarting the X server and logging in again I saw a reassuring Nvidia splash screen, and a quick spin of the Compiz cube confirmed it was all working. So far things were going well.

Spinning The Cube

Spinning The Cube

I clicked on an mp3 file to see what would happen about codecs. Banshee launched by default which doesn’t surprise me, it’s a Novell product after all. It didn’t know what to do with the mp3 though and I was directed back to the wiki again, I was beginning to feel the wiki and I would become firm friends before the week was over. It lists where a choice of buying Fluendo codecs or looking for community support, which is something I’ve seen on a lot of distros. Some are more pushy with the Fluendo products than others though it has to be said. I found this prompt pretty balanced and fair. Fluendo do sell high quality codecs and I have no issue at all with people buying them, it even helps to fun more Free Software development. However, I do find some of the marketing a bit misleading to people living outside the USA. In the US it’s illegal to have the DVD decrypting libraries and some other things on you computer without a license. This means that most distributions won’t included them for fear of legal action, even if 90% of their target audience live outside the US. I’ve long thought a easy solution could be found in the installer. When selecting your time zone and location, a little bit of logic could easily say “this is a US resident so I won’t install illegal codecs”, and vice versa. I’m big on ideas and slow on action though, so I don’t know how hard that would actually be for the developers to implement. It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to me. Nevertheless I followed the community link into a maze of wiki pages about different formats. Thankfully, I eventually found a community page offering a 1-click install for all the major codecs and went for that. The “.ymp” file downloaded and launched the YaST installer without any problems. I like that it offers you an option to stay subscribed to the repository after the install or not, that’s useful. YaST then began to ask me a lot of questions about package conflicts and other problems. It offered 3 possible solutions and I picked one in each case. The install seemed ok after that but it’s a bit off-putting when a box with “ERROR!!!” (uppercase and exclamation marks added by me) emblazoned on it pops up every 2 mins. It didn’t like the version of Gstreamer that ships with 11.2, despite the link saying this install was for specifically for 11.2. I should point out this is all community maintained software and nothing to do with Novell. I’m sure there were many chuckles going in the Fluendo office as I grappled on. Afterwards I was able to play most formats with Totem and Banshee, so the install must have worked. I also installed VLC for good measure, because VLC just plays anything you throw at it. I found later in the week that playing stuff with Totem and any other player outside of Banshee caused mysterious crashes. I also had trouble running OpenOffice.org with a crash report every time I tried to launch it. I’m not sure what happened, but that looked bad from a stability point of view.

Package Management:

Adding Repos To YaST

Adding Repos To YaST

The software repositories seemed to be reasonably deep, especially after I saw this post from OpenSUSE Community Manager Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier. It gives instructions on adding more repositories to YaST and Zypper (the terminal utility). The list of suggested repos in YaST is actually really useful. I added the Official Google repo for Chrome and the popular Packman repo, which contains much of the software Novell are wary of distributing themselves. It’s quite similar to RPM Fusion or Livna repositories for Fedora, if you know of those. The Google Chrome repo is actually a YUM repository, but Zypper can just convert and use YUM repositories for you automatically, an impressive feature. I installed Gpodder from Packman repository and was greeted with more warnings about possible conflicts, it couldn’t find a Gnome BitTorrent package dependency. I chose to break the dependency and just continue, finding much to my relief the program worked fine once installed. I’ve seen this sort of behaviour a few times now with other packages and I’ve come to the conclusion that YaST and Zypper just like to warn you about every possible problem. Usually the installations work absolutely fine despite the warnings. Perhaps it’s a more cautious approach than other distros, who would just attempt the install everything without telling you. Dealing with problems further down the line if they arose. I’m all for full disclosure but it’s a bit annoying being nagged by the package manager at times. It could be pretty scary to anyone not prepared for it.

Trying KDE 4.3:

KDE4 Desktop

KDE4 Desktop

I had wanted to install KDE alongside Gnome originally, but couldn’t see an obvious option for this on the DVD. So I searched instead for a way to add all the KDE packages to my up and running install. I didn’t fancy doing this manually there’s hundreds of them, but I knew there must be an easier way. After some consultation with the good people who follow me on Identi.ca, I was directed to this wiki entry. It worked without any problems, I used Zypper from the command line to install all the KDE4 packages in one go. That’s a lot of data to download and install, but it only seemed to take about 10 or 15 minutes and I was impressed by that. I was now able to log out and choose a KDE4 session instead of Gnome. I’d read that OpenSUSE 11.2 shipped with a new and highly polished KDE4 release, I’d also heralded the KDE4 implementation in OpenSUSE 11 as the best I’d seen to date last year. I had high expectations but sadly these weren’t completely met here. It feels very much like the bog standard KDE4 implementation to me without a great deal of customisation beyond the green theme. That may sound harsh and perhaps it is, but coming from what I considered a brilliant KDE4 experience on Mandriva 2010 this didn’t compare well. I know a lot of KDE4 fans won’t like me saying this, I have something of a reputation as a Gnome fan-boy which is fully justified and I own up that completely. Before I’m deluged with hate mail though I should point out that I’m not criticising KDE4 here, it’s just I wasn’t a fan of this implementation. I’ve seen much better on other distros and perhaps my expectations we too high after last year, that may be partly to blame but I felt something was amiss. I actually prefer some of the KDE programs over their Gnome equivalents, Choqok being a prime example. It’s more stable, quick and feature full than Gwibber in my opinion, there’s not much of a contest. I also like the Dolphin file manager a lot, as I’ve said in other reviews, and Amarok still holds a place in my heart since I first saw it many years ago. Back in 2005 it was one of my key selling points in trying to convince people about Linux, it worked well at that time. I think if I were looking for a good KDE4 desktop at home I’d choose Mandriva before this. While I appreciate that KDE4 has a lot to offer and I’ve used it for extended periods quite happily, I just don’t feel OpenSUSE has quite done it justice here. That’s a real shame.

Quirks And False Boots:

Errors Launching Media Files

Errors Launching Media Files

I ran across a few quirks in my week with OpenSUSE that left me scratching my head. For example, occasionally when powering up my computer I found it didn’t boot all the way into the desktop session and froze. This happened with both KDE4 and Gnome, so it’s not a desktop specific thing in any way. It would get past GRUB and all the usual stages of booting, showing splash screens and other encouraging signs, but then disaster would strike. I was left looking at a blank green desktop background with no toolbars or icons, and no way to do anything with it. Pressing the power button on the laptop case did usually shut the machine down again. It was most odd. The first time it happened I put it down as a one off, but the problem repeated several times over the next few days. The 2nd attempt would usually boot perfectly, but it didn’t look good when trying to explain to someone “oh yeah it doesn’t boot every time, It’ll work next time”, that’s hardly a good promo for the Linux desktop. It could be some problem with my hardware and I’m prepared to cut them a little slack, but I’ve never seen this on any other distro. I also noticed another little quirk in a clash between the key mappings for Gnome Do and the SLAB menu. Gnome Do is enabled by default, even on KDE. A fact I didn’t even realise until I had to enter the System Monitor to kill something else and I saw the process name. I’m not surprised it’s enabled by default being a Mono application, it’s a program I actually like a hell of a lot, but it might be nice to let people know it’s running in the background eating resources. There’s no splash screen or notification icon by default. When you press <SUPER> + space bar to launch Do, it also pulls up the SLAB menu obscuring most of the Gnome Do window in the process. It’s not a major problem and can be fixed easily enough but it seems a bit sloppy to me. It’s just a little bit of finesse and finish that could make a difference.

Conclusions:
Ease Of Installation & Use: 4/5
Speed: 3/5
Stability: 2/5 (due to my false booting problem)
Community Support & Documentation: 4/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

The SLAB menu

The SLAB menu

I’m conscious that lot of this article has seemed negative and I don’t want to leave you with that impression at all. I’ve actually enjoyed my time on OpenSUSE 11.2 immensely. I’ve done all my usual daily work, editing podcasts in Audacity and transferring code to various websites, so that’s all good. There are a few bugs that need to be ironed out it’s true, but I think overall they’ve made a good step forward here. On 10.2 I found it felt like a really business-focused desktop to me, without much of what home users want. That’s certainly not the case here. Package management – an old bug bare with me on OpenSUSE – is vastly improved and great credit has to be given for that. I even started to like YaST and my old preconceptions about it have definitely been changed for the better. I can see the merits of an all-in-one administration solution in some cases, and for users making the jump over form Windows it may feel more intuitive. Zypper impressed me with it’s speed and features, it could give YUM and Aptitude a good run for their money any day of the week. Many of the reasons I didn’t feel comfortable on OpenSUSE last time have been fixed and I feel I could happily stay on this as my main desktop if needed. It feels as though the distribution has become more community driven in the last couple of years, possibly because they now have a community manager leading the way. Community is a real buzzword in the Open Source world right now, and I have my issues with some of the way it’s overused, but I can’t deny it makes a hell of a difference to the user experience. The OpenSUSE community isn’t quite a big as the one surrounding Ubuntu with the abundance or tutorials online, the quality of the wiki is top notch though. Having a higher number of articles doesn’t always make them better, often it can add to the confusion and that’s worth remembering.

I think OpenSUSE is heading in a much better direction than it was a couple of years ago, it certainly feels more engaging and I’m pleased about that. There are a few things which could use some work and I hope this continues but I’d say they’re definitely on the right track. I wouldn’t recommend it for the complete novice users as there’s some rough edges to contend with at times. It’s probably best to stick to something like Linux Mint for those people, but for anyone else interested in a change of scene I’d recommend giving OpenSUSE 11.2 a spin. Even if you haven’t traditionally been a fan of the distro you may be pleasantly surprised, much like I was. The development tools are very good and innovations like the SUSE Studio and Build Service are worth looking into if you’re a developer. Not to mention the close links to the Mono Project, if that’s your kind of thing. I look forward to seeing if future releases can keep this improvement going. It could be an interesting ride. If you decide to try out OpenSUSE 11.2 for yourself let me know how you get on in the comments, I’d be interested too hear about it.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD OPENSUSE 11.2 HERE

Upcoming:
It’s been mad busy with new distro releases lately and I’m struggling to keep up. Fedora 12 was released just a few of days after OpenSUSE and that will definitely be my next stop. Linux Mint has a new release due very soon which I’ll also take a look at. After that hopefully the release schedule will calm down a bit and I can get back to some more of the more exotic distros I have on my list. Join me next time to see how Fedora 12 shapes up…

About Dan

Hi I'm Dan, I'm the nutter who creates the content here and oversees things. You can read more about me on the biog page if you like. Thanks :)
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70 Responses to Distro Review: OpenSUSE 11.2

  1. Philip says:

    Great review, Dan. I have been playing around with openSUSE 11.2 for a week or two myself and I have been looking forward to reading your review. Personally, I have really enjoyed my time with openSUSE, which has come as a bit of a surprise because I have been running with the KDE desktop, of which I have never been much of a fan; I really disliked the 3 versions and I found the early 4 versions unusable, but openSUSE’s implementation of 4.3 looks the business and is very usable. The work that has been done on integrating Firefox is topnotch. All-in-all I have been very impressed by it and I think I will keep running it for a while longer.

  2. bandgeek says:

    OpenSUSE is based on SUSE which was forked from Slackware in 1994. How do I know? http://futurist.se/gldt

  3. Andy says:

    Hi Dan

    Always enjoy your reviews as they are pretty even handed. Just wanted to comment on a couple of non-distro issues.

    I too have wondered why distros stick to the single CD format which somewhat cramps their software selection. But rather than move to DVD-only I would like to see an option of multiple CDs too, with all basic software on CD1 and extras on CD2. I think a few distros do take this approach. You’re right – not everyone has got fast internet and it takes me 2+ hours to download a single CD iso, even though I have one of the fastest internet connections in Cambodia – so having all the basic system on a single CD is good. Also, lots of old PCs are in use here and they only have CD drives.

    “these days I live on wireless like the rest of the world”

    Wireless? What’s that? I don’t see many wireless routers here in Cambodia yet, all the offices I’ve ever been to here use cables – if they even networked. It’s easy for us to assume that everyone is in the same situation as oursleves, but many parts of the world still do not enjoy the same level of technological sophistication as you do in the UK.

    Keep up the good work!
    Andy

    • Dan says:

      @andy – Thanks for the comment. The reason I mentioned that not everyone in the world has access to DVD writers and the bandwidth to download large images is precisely because I know we are lucky here in the UK. I even said that. You’re right to point out the later comment but it was meant as a sarcastic joke, not an absolute statement. That probably wasn’t clear and I accept that. It doesn’t come across that way when I read it back now. Glad you enjoyed the review mostly and I wouldn’t like to see distros go to DVD only either. I’m not advocating that. I’m saying use a DVD by default and have various other CD versions for people to have a choice. I think that’s a good idea and I agree.

  4. Michael T. says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the review. I also experienced the failure to boot up occasionally using OpenSuse 11.2. I used the Live CD to install and was only using Gnome. Also, when I used the one click install for the Nvidia drivers, it went ahead and installed about 50 other packages which I wasn’t expecting.
    OpenSuse 11.2 seemed sluggish compared to other Gnome based distros. It took too long to start up and shut down compared to Ubuntu 9.10.

    Thanks and keep the reviews coming.

    • Dan says:

      @Michael T – The speed wasn’t impressive compared to some other distros I agree, not sure about the comparison to Ubuntu, I’ll have to investigate that. I found once booted the system responded quite quickly but it would occasionally bog down and the CPU looked overworked. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s partly the way I use my machine.

  5. Rimas says:

    FYI, OpenSUSE is based on Slackware, with Red Hat package management :) But that was long long ago..

    • Dan says:

      @Rimas – Thanks, I saw that from the earlier comment. I read a few articles about the history of SUSE and most of them just said it was the first “commercial” Linux distribution. Nothing about the Slackware base, I’ll have to look harder next time :)

  6. Eric says:

    Nice review, Dan. Just wanted to say that there’s an option to do an “advanced” install, i.e. have more options. By going this route, you get the choice of KDE or Gnome, in additional to being able to disable automatic login. Package management has certainly made a remarkable improvement over the years. KDE 4.3.x FTW!

    • Dan says:

      @Eric – Thanks for the information. I didn’t see an advanced install option so I’ll have to check that out in future. I was given a choice of KDE or GNOME but not both. Do you mean you can have both if you choose advanced? Package management was really good on OpenSUSE I thought, massive improvement. I do like KDE4.3 a lot, just this implementation didn’t wow me. As I said I preferred the default setup in Mandriva 2010. That’s purely personal, I know a lot of people will prefer this. That’s cool with me.

  7. Dan says:

    @Philip – I like KDE4 a lot, I just prefer the implementation on some other distros to this. I think because I’d heard so much hype about all the work being done on KDE4 in openSUSE I was expecting more. It doesn’t seem much different to the bog standard KDE4 to me. Perhaps I missed these changes and people will point them out to me, I’m prepared to be proved wrong.

  8. Andy says:

    No offence meant by my comments Dan, I’m just jealous :) Yes, let’s hope Linux distros don’t go to DVD only like Windows!
    Andy

  9. Dan says:

    @Andy – None taken at all, you’re quite right to bring it up. I feel for people struggling to get the access to technology we enjoy in the West. It’s odd that many Linux distros used to ship on multiple CDs but now they’re limiting themselves to just one. I seem to remember Mandrake 10 coming about about 5 CDs. I think it would make sense to release a Live (and installable) DVD for the standard version, but also keep a good quality CD alternative for those who need it. Look at the problems Ubuntu are having now trying to fit everything onto one 700mb CD, it’s ridiculous. They’re ripping all kinds of stuff out to keep to that one CD installer. I think we could have a much better solution with a couple of options.

  10. wally says:

    I’d rather not see the DVD-full-of-stuff route become common. After all, you downloaded the CD in the first place… right? And as soon as you are up and running, the system is going to update a number of things immediately because the ones on the CD are now outdated. More initial stuff just means a longer first download plus a longer update download.
    Better, I think, to go the exact opposite: minimize the initial install size and then pull lots of stuff off the repository.

    • Dan says:

      @wally – That system works great in areas where people have the bandwidth and proper Internet access. It falls down in areas of the world where people can’t reply on the net to download new stuff all the time and oppressive regimes like China. A comprehensive physical medium that can be easily copied and redistributed is more use to them. The systems would be out of date yes but it may help get a fuller Linux system into the hands of people who need it most. I don’t see why we can’t have both options, that was my point. OpenSUSE has both options already with a DVD and 2 LiveCD versions. I think some other major distros should do the same that’s all. I’m not pushing a DVD only agenda here, I think options are the real key. Maybe it would cost some companies too much time and money to have alternate versions and that’s the problem, I don’t know. I’m just speculating :)

  11. klanger says:

    Great review! Thanks.

  12. eet says:

    To straighten some things out about openSUSE’s ancestry:

    SUSE was based on Slackware initially but early on started building its own Kernel and infrastructure from scratch; it is now one of the few ‘original’ distros, that is, not built upon any other distro like Debian or Red Hat.

    openSUSE has NOT been split from SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop/Server. Quite conversely the enterprise editions of SUSE are built upon openSUSE but they are kept stable/frozen for a longer cycle. SUSE Linux Enterprise developers also contribute to openSUSE; some of them full-time. BTW, originally the free version of the distribution was callled just ‘SUSE’ and only the project was named ‘openSUSE’ – but people didn’t get the distinction, so the free version was re-named ‘openSUSE’.

    • Dan says:

      @eet – Thanks for the info. As I said in another comment, I don’t really consider SUSE as based on anything these days. I guess it’s a philosophical argument for some people. It’s been it’s own distro for a very, very long time and I agree :)

  13. Fab says:

    I see somebody already mentioned the Slackware connection… :)

  14. Dan says:

    @fab – Yep, if you go back far enough I guess you could say everything is based on something. I don’t think SUSE has had much to do with Slackware in about 15 years though. It forked way back in 1994. Linux itself had hardly gotten anywhere by then. I take the point though. I meant to update that on the article before but forgot, thanks for the reminder :)

  15. MagicWand says:

    Dan: nice review. I have been facing the startup problems on 11.2 also. Never had an issue with 11.1. Guess if we give the developers some time ; it should be fixed. But boot-up issues are too basic and should be addressed first. Personally for me it’s a morale dampener :) — i am sure OpenSuse community is already aware of this and is working.

    Looking forward to your Mint review !

    • Dan says:

      @MagicWand – Sure, anyone can make a mistake. I’ve made enough of them myself, but as you say booting is a pretty key function of a computer. I hope they track that bug down and get it fixed quickly. I’m glad too hear it’s not just me who had the problem. It’s something larger than a hardware issue on my end it seems.

  16. Solv says:

    This was quite a well done review. I get the feeling you didn’t just slap it into virtualbox and check it out for 10 minutes before giving a verdict…I hate reading reviews like that, they are a waste of peoples time.

    Funnily enough I agree and disagree with you about Mandriva and OpenSUSE. I had Mandriva 2010 on this old acer laptop and it definitely is the best/2nd best (can’t decide) implementation of KDE I have seen. But I had strange issues with the wireless not reconnecting on resume, and had to reboot to get it to connect. Also the screen would sometimes just boot up black, until i switched to a different console and back again to ctrl+alt+F7.

    So anyway I though I’d try out 11.2, as I had 11.1 on a work machine, then installed Mandriva 2009.1 and noticed a significant speed improvment during general use (hence my reasoning for originally having 2010 on my laptop)…but I was keen to see how 11.2 faired on the acer laptop, to see if it was any better.

    I am happy to say 11.2 is much quicker than Mandriva on boot up and shutdown…almost as quick as ubuntu. General use is snappy, and the integration of KDE and openoffice is really handy. Wireless also works after suspend and the front killswitch lights up unlike with Mandriva 2010. The only thing I don’t like is the default fonts and small panel, but that’s a preference not a criticism.

    I wonder if your method of installing KDE meant you didn’t get the same outcome as you would have installing from DVD?
    All in all I was pleasantly surprised by the same things you have been, and slightly annoyed by the same things as well.

    Don’t get me wrong about Mandriva – I reckon it is awesome and in some ways I thing the drakconf yast equivalent is easier for the non-power user.
    I would probably recommend Mandriva first to a beginner, and OpenSUSE to someone who wanted more packages available and more flexibility.

    P.S. I don’t like gnome at all, and so don’t care for recommending ubuntu or mint…and Kubuntu is hopeless…maybe if Mint KDE starts to get some TLC it might be worth exploring as well.

    Thanks Again,
    Solv

    • Dan says:

      @slov – Thanks for the thoughts. I hadn’t considered whether my method of installing KDE afterwards had an effect, it might well have done. I’ll have to look into that. I can reassure you I’ve never reviewed a distribution by just installing it on Virtualbox, a full hardware install and some proper everyday use is the only was to test things. I do use Vbox to get the installation screenshots afterwards though, it’s great for that. I think it’s cool if you’re a KDE fan and I know many other KDE users tell me Kubuntu is poor compared to Ubuntu. I’ve not really tried it personally though. It would be nice to see Mint KDE doing well I agree. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I never had any of the troubles you describe with Mandriva 2010 but there are probably differences in our hardware setups.

  17. Maxime says:

    I tend to read as many reviews as possible though the reviews written by this author (Dan) are always very good, read helpful. Opensuse used to be my favourite however there are, it seems to be the case, always a slight problem with certain codecs (audio and video). This unlike with Ubuntu and Fedora. Fedora remains the topper! Since a short while I am using Openolaris and believe that one is a beast of an OS. Very good and extremely stable. Though not as advanced for the desktop as many Linux distros yet. If Opensolaris continues going uphill it will be a serious contender for Linux!

    • Dan says:

      @Maxime – Thanks for the kind words :) I tried the first release of OpenSolaris but found hardware support lacking on my laptop. It seemed like more of a server thing back then, but I haven’t tried it in over a year. I’ll have to give it another spin. It would be nice to see another good FOSS operating system to add to Linux and BSD. It’s also got Ian Murdock involved who I admire for creating Debian.

  18. Miko says:

    Nice review Dan. Clear & helpful ! Well done.
    Just downloaded my copy of the DVD iso and will be installing sometime over the next few days.

    BTW Found the link to this review on the Distrowatch.com main page. Nice to know that you’ve got influential connections. ;)

    • Dan says:

      @Miko – Thanks, hope you enjoy 11.2. It is a cool distro. I do seem to get my stuff on Distrowatch a lot and it really helps, but I don’t actually know anyone involved. It goes on by their good grace and I appreciate the bump in readers it gives me for sure :)

  19. PBhat says:

    I have upgraded the distribution to Opensuse 11.2 from 11.1 and it has worked well for me without any of the freezes you mentioned,on an Acer Laptop with intel video.I think your problem may have to do with the NVIDIA Driver.

    I Like to try Mandriva 2010-KDE on your commemdation.Appreciate your fairness in comments.

    • Dan says:

      @PBhat – The stability problems could have been due to the Nvidia driver that’s true, but I haven’t seen the same thing on other distros using the same drivers. Lots of people seem to be reporting the same problems here. It would be good to see what common hardware or software we all have, maybe we could isolate the problem then and get it fixed. I liked Mandriva’s implementation of KDE4 a lot, as you can tell. It’s a personal favourite of mine and may not suit everyone but I’d say give it a try. Good luck!

  20. Pingback: Distro Review: OpenSUSE 11.2 « AccessTech News

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  22. davemc says:

    Hey Dan, thanks for the review as I was just thinking about giving SUSE another go myself. In truth, I found last years release to be very bad indeed. I see not much has changed, so I guess I will give this year a pass and hope the guys at Novell wake up and smell the Ubuntu – Fedora – Mandriva releases this year and start playing some catchup. I never truly understood what those crazy Novell guys meant when they used terms like “community”, because its not the same one I participate in every day in the Linux world. Out of touch springs to mind here. Maybe less time spent holding hands with Steve Ballmer might help? I dunno. Just a thought. It just seems that its a Distro that has lost its roots and is desperate to find an identity seperate from all others come hell or high water, even if it means doing things badly/very buggy.

    Another troubling trend with SUSE is their apparent marriage with the use of Mono code. I am personally not overly concerned about its implications just yet, but Stallman sure is, and that DOES concern many. Ubuntu also does this to a lesser extent, but the community there (the true community if you judge by numbers, participation, and results) has certainly chimed in with a very heated debate far from over yet.

  23. NoCaDrummer says:

    Nice review, and no, I didn’t get the impression that it was negative overall.
    I’ve installed 11.2 on two different machines – my own 785G motherboard and an nVidia 6100 motherboard for my father’s girlfriend. The two systems had similar (although not identical) specifications otherwise. The 785 board got the DVD install, the 6100 got a CD install. In both cases, I backed up the data to a separate disk before proceeding with a clean install.
    Both installations went easily enough, with my choosing to add/delete some software items. I’ve been using SuSE since 9.1, so I’ve been observing the changes over the years.
    I was surprised that the 6100 installation had automatically pulled in the nVidia drivers, which meant the Desktop Effects worked right from the start on that machine.
    After the clean installation, I moved all the saved documents back to their proper places in each user’s directory.
    The biggest “problem” that I saw with both was that 11.2 seems to “forget” window sizes in the browser. I generally set the window to a size that allows me to have two side-by-side windows for moving files, but I’d set the size, close the window, open it again to find the old size and shape. I found that if I completely replaced the home directories, that the saved desktop sizes would be applied correctly. To me, this is a new issue, and one I find extremely annoying. They both also seem to “forget” the volume settings, usually resulting in sound being muted. The only other problem (and I saw it since 11.0) is having to give each user the right to use the CD-R (set each user in the “disk” and “CD” groups).
    I might note that the comment about passwordless logins can be fixed AT installation. Unclick the checkbox for passwordless logins, and you might as well uncheck the box for root password being the same as the user.
    After installation, I set the wireless passwords, setup NTP, installed additional software (e.g. K3B), and did some other “cleanup” to make sure that both machines would be able to view movies & play music.
    Other than the above-mentioned problems, I’m pretty happy with the installations. I was even pleasantly surprised when Firefox was automatically updated for me. Now if they can just get those other issues fixed, I’ll be very happy.

    • Dan says:

      @NoCaDrummer – I didn’t have the problems you mention but I might not have been using it quite the same way. I did notice the tickbox for automatic login while I was collecting screenshots, and I thought I’d updated the text to reflect that. What I mean by opt-in rather that opt-out would be having that box unticked by default. I think that would be more sensible as a default setting, but it’s not a major issue. Glad you’re enjoying 11.2, it’s a solid release.

  24. surfinmdq says:

    Hi Dan, I see openSUSE still smells like sh*t as ever, nothing changed.

    Auuwww f*ck!! I can smell it from here!!! Auuwww

    • Dan says:

      @surfinmdq – That’s a bit harsh, it’s actually improved massively in the last 2 releases and if they keep this pace going they could leapfrog Ubuntu with the next one. I guess we’ll find out in time

  25. Dan says:

    @davemc – Interesting points, I think OpenSUSE has become more community based in the last year or two though. I think they’re moving in the right direction. The reason they so heavily use Mono is because it’s also developed by Novell. Miguel De Icasa is Vice President of the company, so they’re bound to use it. If they didn’t use Mono who would? I don’t blame them for that and I think Mono has good things offer as well as the highly publicised concerns. I worry slightly about the patent situation but it can be blown out of proportion. If OpenSUSE becomes more based on Mono and there’s a legal problem, then we’ll still have other distros to choose from. I don’t see them all following suit. Fedora doesn’t ship with Mono for example. They even use gNote instead of Tomboy. There’s a wide choice out there.

    There’s a long way to go in the Mono story but we don’t know how it will turn out yet. I didn’t like the Microsoft/Novell deal for one reason, the part where they accepted the MS patent threat on Linux innovations and validated it. That was 100% wrong. The rest of it I don’t have a problem with. They’re in business to make money and if jumping in bed with MS does, that they’ll do it. I’m not sure they’re the demons people make them out to be. Novell are very focused on the business market and that’s where their customers are. I don’t agree with everything they do, but there are some good people working there and trying to steer them in a better direction. I hope they succeed.

  26. Pingback: Capnkirby » Blog Archive » OpenSUSE 11.2

  27. Pingback: Weekly Rewind #41 | Adventures In Open Source

  28. Michael says:

    Hey Dan,

    I was reading your review tonight after listening to podcast 123 this afternoon — I’ve also been running OpenSUSE 11.2 for a couple of weeks, and had the false boot problem, too. Glad to see it wasn’t just me, either.

    I love the show, btw. I’m a fairly recent Linux convert (both at home and on my work machine) after dabbling with different distros for years.

    Thanks,
    Michael

  29. Peter says:

    Hi,

    I have found that OpenSuse and Ubuntu (and Mint) shares the inability to set, save, and subsequently automatically display a resolution higher than 1280×1024 from my GForce 6150 GPU and AMD CPU motherboard.

    Fedora and Mandriva and the Gnome version of Sabayon don’t have this problem.

    It is entirely due to how they implement the X11 display system during the booting process – it has nothing to do with NVIDIA.

    The only distro that currently (and since a long way back) works perfectly with my ASUS M2NPV-VM m/b and Ralink2500 based W/less adapter (one that Fedora has *never* been able to work with) AND that also fully handles LVM-based hard disk ‘partitions’ (Mandriva can not even be made to do so) is Sabayon.

    • Dan says:

      @Peter – I’ve used Sabayon a few times but it’s never quite fit for me, I also suffered from a few nasty bugs. I’m glad it works well for you though and I’ve never seen the display issues you describe on any of my Nvidia machines. Perhaps I’ve been more lucky. I used to have more problems with setting the display about 3 or 4 years ago, going into the xorg.conf and so on, but that’s been a thing of the past since at least 2006 for me. I can believe that it’s a difference in the X11 configuration though, you may be right. Fedora uses the Plymouth bootloader and many other distros are now following suit. I believe Ubuntu are going to do that in the next release. Mandriva has it in 2010. I think Plymouth will be a big improvement and it reduces boot time for me while giving cool display effects at bootup on all my Nvidia cards. I think hardware support is still developing though, not all cards work with it. I’d file a bug against it for your card if you’re really worried. IOverall, if Sabayon does the best job for you then you should use it, we have all this choice for a reason. One size doesn’t fit all in my experience.

  30. oldcpu says:

    Thanks for the review.

    I’m clearly a big openSUSE fan, and 11.2 has worked incredibly well for me, with a successful install on 4 completely different hardware platforms with KDE4:
    * 64-bit Intel Core i7 920 w/6GB (Asus P6T Deluxe V2 motherboard) w/ PCI-e nVidia GeForce GTX260 graphics [age-6 months]
    * 32-bit AMD Sempon-2600 w/1GB (Epox EP-8K7A motherboard) w/AGP ATI RV280 (Radeon-9200Pro) graphics [age-4 years]
    * 32-bit AMD Athlon-2800 w/2GB (Asus A7N8X Deluxe motherboard) w/ PCI nVidia GeForce 8400GS graphics [age-5 years]
    * 32-bit AMD Athlon-1100 w/1GB (MSI KT3 Ultra motherboard) w/AGP nVidia GeForce FX5200 graphics [age 9-years]

    I also installed a second 11.2 with Gnome on the last PC. It also works well.

    Reference your comment about the autologin, yes, you did miss the setting in your rush thru the install. Its there.

    Reference installing the nVidia binary driver I installed it on 3 of the above PCs with no problems. Its very easy. It was fast. It was smooth. But one DOES have to either find a wiki or simply ask the question on openSUSE forums, on IRC chat freenode #suse, or on the mailing lists. But believe me, it IS much easier to install on openSUSE than getting a date with Paris Hilton. If you don’t believe me, just ask Paris. Or better yet, ask my wife. :)

    Reference codecs and openSUSE – this is old news. It is a pain for all new users, but I do note that users with moderate or more experience with openSUSE breeze thru this in a matter of minutes, with codecs installed and sorted. Add the Packman repository to YaST, select a global update and add a small number of extra packages, and its done in a matter of minutes (with a high speed bandwidth connection). Making this too easy could easily invite law suits, and so the ease in which this is facilitated is not an easy balance for any distribution to achieve, especially for a distribution with a big enough financial purse to make it worth the time/money of someone to sue for a LOT of money.

    Reference openSUSE’s KDE implemetation, I’m sure that latest Mandriva is a FABULOUS distribution release with many incredible things going for it, but IMHO Mandriva’s KDE is not as good as openSUSE. So I think we will have to agree to disagree here. I recommend everyone try openSUSE’s KDE themselves and form their own opinion.

    Reference your boot problems. That IS strange. Last time I saw that was on Fedora-10 when I had it installed. I was suspicous of a driver issue then, and maybe that is what you have there.

    Thanks for the enjoyable to read review.

    • Dan says:

      @oldcpu – Thanks for your comments. Many of the things you reference I have already covered thoroughly in the previous comments. I think you may have missed the whole point of the Paris Hilton joke though. It was a stab at nVidia for making completely non-free (in the FSF sense) software and a play on words, not a stab at OpenSUSE or how easy the drivers are to install here. I did remark that a prompt to restart Xorg after install would be nice, so people know that the drivers won’t work until they do. That’s a feature request. I had many issues with codecs here, they weren’t hard to install and I have never said they were, but I’ve had better experiences on other distros. Totem and other media players crashed every time I opened them by the end of the week and I have no idea why. Playback in VLC didn’t work at some points and that has all the codecs built in. I merely pointed that out. It may be a Pulse Audio problem, I don’t know for sure. I accept the point that Novell may be more worried about getting sued than others because they have more money and make a tempting target. It does make me wonder about the whole risk they are taking with Mono in light of that argument though. I suppose they have patent indemnification from MS and can afford to take risks there. That doesn’t help the rest of us much though does it?

      The booting problem has been reported by 4 or 5 other people in this thread and there’s more to it than just something on my machine. I am happy to help track down the problem with the developers and offer any information I have. I’ve already done so, but I’m not on Fedora 12 as I write this. Every product has problems at some time and we can all make mistakes. It needs more investigation and there is definitely something to it with some many people getting the same problem.

      I said that I wasn’t a fan of this KDE4 implementation but that others would probably love it. That’s my personal opinion and I’m happy to agree to disagree. I never represented it as otherwise and I always encourage people to try things for themselves 100%. That’s why I say those words at the end of every single article I write. It’s the whole point.

      Thanks for reading, you make a lot of good points which i agree with, but I think perhaps you misunderstood some of what I was saying as an attack on OpenSUSE. It was not. It was merely a reflection of my personal experience with this distro on this hardware. That’s all these articles are ever intended to be. Others will have different experiences and I encourage them to write their own articles, or come here and post a comment. That’s all part of the learning process :)

  31. oldcpu says:

    @Dan, … Hey Dan, As noted, I enjoyed your review. My post was intended to be a different perspective on some of the rough edges you ran across.

    Reference the nVidia drivers, I think some other distributions may handle this better than openSUSE. The openSUSE community tries to make this installation of proprietary drivers easier, with stickies in the forums, various wiki, bot commands in the IRC chat, plus many openSUSE community volunteer users willing to explain how to install the proprietary drivers the drop of a hat, BUT there is NO instruction in the openSUSE CD nor DVD for how to install such proprietary drivers. I think this is contrast to some other distro’s, where one does not need to read anything to install free (as in free beer) proprietary drivers. Sometimes I think there is room for openSUSE improvement here.

    As for codecs, … thats a different kettle of fish.

    From what I have seen on the forums, the biggests criticisms of openSUSE-11.2 are:
    * ATI graphic hardware is in for a rough ride due to proprietary ATI drivers not working well (yet) with 2.6.31 kernel in openSUSE-11.2 (for all ATI hardware), and
    * ATI proprietary drivers no longer supporting ATI designated legacy hardware for openSUSE’s 2.6.31 kernel, and
    * openSUSE’s opensource/openGL radeon and radeonhd drivers have some bugs, making “special desktop effects” not as functional in 11.2 as it was in 11.1. I’m hoping this will be rectified soon with various bug reports being open.

    There are also a lot of complaints in 11.2 about KDE’s networkmanager not handling wireless networking well (although that complaint was also in 11.1).

    Thanks again for taking the time to do the review.

  32. Dan says:

    @oldcpu – Hello again, I didn’t mean to sound upset before if that impression came across. I appreciate a different perspective but I’m not sure we actually have different views on nVidia drivers in OpenSUSE. I didn’t find them hard to install at all, the wiki page I referenced has a 1-click install on it. Couldn’t be easier than that. I know there is a lot of community support and people are working hard on forums, wiki’s and IRC channels to offer help. I’m with you on that. So I’m not sure where our difference of opinion is on this? Maybe I should read what I wrote again to see if it comes across differently.

    I did have a lot of trouble connecting to wireless in the KDE desktop yes, but I left out any complaints about that because I like KDE4 and I didn’t want it to be seen as another attack on it. I am a Gnome fan yes and it’s my favourite but I think KDE4 has much to offer and I’m not interested in bashing it.

    No need to thank me for taking the time, I enjoyed OpenSUSE 11.2 a lot and I will be back in future to see how it develops ;)

  33. Matthew T. says:

    I fooled with openSUSE 11.2 for a few hours, after having used 11.1 for the better part of a year. What turned me off was the fact that gecko mediaplayer caused Firefox to crash and the missing gpodder dependency. I assumed the YaST knew what it was talking about and didn’t install it.

    Great review.

    • Dan says:

      @Matthew T – Thanks! I think that Gpodder dependency only matters if you intend to download podcasts over BitTorrent. I don’t know any podcasts that release via Torrent though, so it’s a bit odd. I haven’t looked into it fully and I might be wrong. Glad you enjoyed the article anyway.

  34. What a great review! This will help a lot for me in “Decision 10″, when I flip to linux early next year!

    I especially love screenshot 8, as you show just how determined you are to listen to Bad With Names, despite codec issues :-D.

  35. Dan says:

    @Dan – Thanks, I hope it’s useful. I wondered if anyone would notice what music I had on there, I should have guessed you would :P

  36. Matthew T. says:

    @Dan – Have you heard of other users having problems with gecko-mediaplayer causing Firefox to crash in openSUSE? I have grown found of gecko-mediaplayer. It seems to handle most embedded web media with aplomb.

  37. Dan says:

    @Matthew – I’m afraid I don’t know much about gecko-mediaplayer but I’ll keep an ear out if anyone else does mention it. I tend to use mplayer-plugin in Firefox myself. I suppose it’s a personal preference but that always works best for me. Good luck getting it working!

  38. Arturi says:

    @Phil
    Yes I agree with you

    @Dan
    While you were experiecing problem with openSuSE 11.2, I was experiencing problem with Mandriva 2010.0.
    And the thing is openSuSE 11.2 with KDE4 was even faster than Ubuntu 9.10 which quite much surprised me. I’ve heard that Mandriva is even better, but then again, it failed on both my not so new computers.

    OpenSuSE scored a high mark for being a KDE4 based distro who can actually run well on my laptop that was bought in 2003 (Toshiba Satellite 2410, with 768Mb of RAM) and even better than Ubuntu 9.10 with Gnome. And I am not even biased, because I did hate KDE4 for being too sluggish, too buggy, a complete resource hog. But now I am still surprised at how the SuSE team can pull this one out.

    But it is a nice review. Keep it coming Dan!

    • Dan says:

      @Arturi – That’s cool and I’m really glad OpenSUSE with KDE4 works well on your laptop. Like I said, I expect it will be perfect for a lot of people and it’s good to have a choice of distributions with Linux. OpenSUSE is a great distribution and I was surprised by how much I liked this release, I wasn’t as keen on previous ones. It’s very good.

  39. Pingback: Novell News Summary – Part I: OpenSUSE in London, N├╝rnberg; Infrastructure Repositories Migration | Boycott Novell

  40. terjejh says:

    Hi Dan,

    Some comments on your comments and some additional:

    Autologin
    Uncheck the box on your Create User installation screen (default checked on the installation slide show). See also the official documentation http://www.novell.com/documentation/opensuse112/book_opensuse_startup/data/sec_i_yast2_user.html

    Gnome+KDE(+Xfce)
    After selecting the radio button for a standard desktop (desktop manager), add the other graphical environments by entering the Software pattern (can also be installed later with YaST package manager). http://www.novell.com/documentation/opensuse112/book_opensuse_startup/data/sec_i_yast2_proposal.html
    Makes desktops switch available on the login manager session panel and merges the program menues for each installed desktop.

    OpenOffice
    I haven’t experienced any crash issues
    Gpodder
    installed on my machine without dependice conflict (I guess some repo was missing)

    Chrome – Chromium
    By adding the Unofficial Main repo (Contrib), Chromium becomes available for installation.

    Additional tip
    The new YaST Package search (Webpin) tool is useful to find and install packages ouside the current registered repositories. Webpin is also available as command line tool, or web based http://packages.opensuse-community.org/
    or as mentioned use the OpenSUSE Build Service Package Search http://software.opensuse.org/search

    Additional comments:
    A bug in Network Manager is just fixed so that it manages OpenVPN (as 11.1 managed).
    There is still a bug in Console Kit that now and then causes unsuccessful Restart/Shutdown from Gnome. In theses cases usually the login menu is brought up. A workaround in then to enter Ctrl-Alt-F1 to continue the Restart/Shudown process. Hopefully this confusing bug is close to be resolved.

    • Dan says:

      @terjejh Thanks for the information. Some of those things I did cover in the article or comments, like the installation of KDE package patterns with Zypper and autologin. Chromium was added to the contrib repo not long after I wrote this but you’re absolutely right. It’s good that it’s available now.

  41. fromWinToLin says:

    gecko-mediaplayer plugin also crashes Firefox for me on openSUSE 11.2. I used to use it back on 11.1, since it worked so well with embedded videos (using GNOME MPlayer to play the videos.)

    I hope it’s fixed soon. I use Firefox 3.5, gecko-mediaplayer 0.9.8, and openSUSE 11.2 i586.

    • Dan says:

      @fromWinToLin – Sounds like it’s a common problem then. I would suggest everyone with this problem file a bug and tell the developers. Often the priority of bug fixes is decided by the amount of people complaining about them. Hope it’s fixed soon!

  42. fromWinToLin says:

    @Dan – For the time being, I found an unorthodox, temporary solution to using gecko-mediaplayer on openSUSE 11.2. What I did was installed the RPM for 11.1, and all seems to be working fine now. You’ll notice that the version on the 11.2 Packman repository is 0.9.8-0.pm.2.1, while the 11.1 repository (and RPM) is version 0.9.8-0.pm.2.2.

    So it seems that openSUSE 11.1 is using a newer version of gecko-mediaplayer. According to Novell’s Bugzilla, this is not a problem with Firefox or openSUSE 11.2. The is an issue with how Packman packaged gecko-mediaplayer.

    If anyone is interested, here is a link to the 11.1 RPM file. Works for me on 11.2, so maybe others will have the same luck:

    http://rpm.pbone.net/index.php3/stat/4/idpl/12910125/com/gecko-mediaplayer-0.9.8-0.pm.2.2.i586.rpm.html

    I’m not sure how to get in touch with the person who packages the RPMs on the Packman repository. All he needs to do is repackage gecko-mediaplayer with the “fix”, and then 11.2 users will be able to use the latest version straight from the YaST package manager.

  43. Dan says:

    @fromWinToLin – Thanks for the information

  44. b3893234 says:

    Hi !

    If you are willing to debug booting problem, you might want to press Ctrl+Alt+Backspace when presented with blank screen. That sequence is supposed to kill X-server, and you might be able to examine X-server log.

    DG

    • Dan says:

      Hi, I’ve long since moved on from OpenSUSE. I distro hop all the time to review new things or I would have tried this to debug the problem certainly. Thanks for the tip anyway

  45. Paul M says:

    Good review..
    I have used many distros in the past (including previous versions of Suse) and have been out of the Linux loop for several years. I decided to jump back in with Open Suse 11.2. (I personally have always been a fan of Yast.. lol) I had a huge ordeal installing the Nvidia graphics driver, but I think thats Nvidia/Xorg’s fault, not Suse’s..Quad SLI is not an easy thing to setup if you haven’t done it before in Linux and the documentation on the Nvidia driver download page is way outdated. Some good people in the Open suse forums helped me find some documentation in the Nvidia repo that I was able to use to make it work.I am VERY impressed at how well everything works, and the OS runs very smooth for me. Being a gamer, its nice to have all of the kde eye candy Suse has to offer, centralized administration and really smooth OpenGL performance in games and 3d apps. Im very happy and look foreward to 11.3

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