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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Lightning openSUSE review

Recently I had the opportunity to install Linux on a laptop, and I thought that I should widen my experiences, so I choose openSUSE 11.0. Unfortunately I wasn't very successful, so most probably I will end up going with an other OS (I'm still undecided between Fedora 10, or maybe I should just lick my wounds and run back to Ubuntu :-))

The good:

  • Polished interface
  • Gives the option to use encrypted partitions from the start (very useful for laptops)
  • Gives the choice between multiple desktop environments (Gnome, KDE 3, KDE 4)
  • They offer a tool from the boot CD (DVD) which does various tests on your hardware (the laptop did have some warnings :-( )
  • Flash and codecs included

The bad (in no particular order):

  • You have to download an entire DVD! This wasn't so bad because I found an empty DVD lying around and using BitTorrent the speed was quite good, however it would be nice if they would provide a CD version (it could fetch the needed packages later). Maybe the LiveCD can do that, however it isn't clear from their site.
  • The predefined packages are strange... Development didn't include "eclipse"...
  • Also, they included a beta version of FF3. Fortunately this was resolved after the first update. However they do use the 2.4 version of OpenOffice (instead of 3). From what I understand they maintain a fork of OO at which provides better compatibility with the MS "open" formats (and their splash screen does look nicer :-)), however they should IMHO contribute to the trunk OO...
  • The installer locked up the first time I tried to use it at the package enumeration stage. I've tested the media and it found no problems and worked the second time... (I also looked in the text console to see some hint for the lookup, but couldn't find any information)
  • The update tool said after the initial install that I had 1 package to update, however when I clicked it, it started to download a long list of packages with no indication of the remaining number of packages...
  • The GRUB screen always displayed the list of available kernels. This didn't bother me that much, however it isn't really suitable for a beginner user (and AFAIK no other distro does it this way, unless there are multiple OS's installed - which in this case weren't)
  • There are some funky UI choices... For example the package manager displays the selected package with bold, instead of painting the background, which made it unclear for me at the start if the package is installed or not.
  • After the update my touchpad stopped working (fortunately I found some information on their forum and was able to fix it)
  • It didn't work with the laptop wifi-toggle button. Finally I just disabled the wifi killswitch from the BIOS.
  • The modified "start menu" just didn't work out for me. IMHO the space dedicated to displaying program icons is too small and having to perform several operations (clicks) to get the full list in unacceptable. Also, the "recently used" list was very "jumpy" (changing too frequently).
  • Finally, it completely got hosed when I tried installing the VirtualBox kernel modules in a very strange way (I kept entering the wireless password, but it kept refusing it and showing what seemed to be an MD5 hash). I didn't find anything on the 'net, and the IRC channel was completely silent, although there were a fair number of users present. I assume that the community is centered around a timezone different from mine...

PS: I'm sure that the problems that I had are partially due to my lack of experience with openSUSE and are partially personal preferences. So take it with a grain of salt.

1 comment:

  1. The LiveCD can indeed do that, so if you want to try 11.1 instead (better in just about every respect) you can save yourself some time by downloading that instead. Maybe wait until the 18th when the final release will be out though...