Linux examined: OpenSUSE 11.0

This latest edition has some updates and improvements, but is not for the faint-of-heart

A few weeks ago, the OpenSUSE Project announced the release of OpenSUSE 11.0, the "community" edition of SUSE Linux, Novell's commercial Linux distribution. Like most recent distributions, OpenSUSE is made up of the usual suspects, including GNOME and KDE-based desktops, Live CD and full DVD installation options, and an online repository of software that can be installed using a GUI tool.

OpenSUSE started life as the offspring of SUSE Linux, a German company that based its distribution on Slackware, one of the oldest Linux distros. When Novell purchased SUSE in 2003, it began a two-pronged development path: a licensed SUSE Linux version, which comes with at least some degree of support, and a free OpenSUSE version. The base SUSE Linux product is identical to OpenSUSE -- the only difference is the support and printed documentation.

Novell also offers multiple licensed versions of SUSE, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. These versions add non-open-source software, developed by both Novell and third parties, to the mix.

The 11.0 release of OpenSUSE is largely made up of version refreshes. You'll get the latest editions of Compiz (the 3-D Linux screen manager), two versions of KDE (a 3.5 and 4.0 release) and GNOME 2.22. There are other under-the-cover improvements, including a new installer. In short, OpenSUSE 11.0 is a step-wise refinement of the OpenSUSE line, rather than anything revolutionary.

Installation: Not for the inexperienced

There are two schools of thought concerning Linux installs. On one hand, you have installs such as Ubuntu's, which asks almost nothing and installs a standard set of tools to begin in a standard manner. On the other hand, you have distributions such as OpenSUSE and Fedora, which offer more control over the installation and administration process. The trade-off is that you need some degree of expertise to use them effectively.

OpenSUSE, like Fedora, is a simple install if you are an experienced user, but it is probably beyond the skill set of a casual home user. For example, during the install you will be asked if you want a partition-based or LVM-based partitioning scheme. Admittedly, if you just click Next, the right thing will happen, but it's definitely a confusing question to ask a user who may not even know what LVM is.

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James Turner


1 Comment



Are you serious?

This is a horrible review!

OpenSuse and Fedora both difficult to install for the casual user? Huh? I guess the casual user has never installed Windows from a CD then...

There are 2 schools of thought when it comes to Linux installation? Really??? Well, there are LiveCD's that just install the LiveCD contents on the hard drive, and those come in 3 varieties: installer based, no user participation installs, and cheat code installs. Then there are installer based installs like OpenSuse & Mandriva PowerPack that simply install from the CD, but are not LiveCDs. Then there are minimal install CD's like Debian and PCLinuxOS MiniMe that require you to buildup your installation from a minimal setup, Debian being very minimal and CLI, where PCLinuxOS MiniMe is a minimal KDE desktop (and still a LiveCD as well). Next, there are source installation schemes like Gentoo and LFS, which can sometimes have a very primitive installer option. Then there are net-install CDs, like the Debian option, which also requires you to buildup your install. And, finally, there are hybrids of these. Just two schools of thought? Where have you been?

Just like most software installations in Windows, installer based installs of Linux can pretty much be done by continually clicking on the "Next" button, watching to make sure you setup your timezone correctly and minor stuff like that, which can also be done later. It can't possibly get any simpler than that, without making compromises in user configurability.

Red Hat does <b>NOT</b> base Fedora on OpenSuse. Fedora is based on Red Hat's own technology, code, and FOSS. Fedora is essentially an experimental training ground for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which uses much more hardened code. Red Hat Linux is older than Suse, which was based on Slackware and incorporated Red Hat's RPM packaging system.

Where did you get this crap? What Linux experience do you have? It must be very minimal...

The debate on Novell's actions with Microsoft have long been over. Yes, it left a bad taste in the mouths of many a Linux user. However, what does that have to do with a review of their product? What does that have to do with how well the distro works? Judgments of Novell's business practices have nothing to do with any of this, and besides, no matter what distro you use, you're probably using one of Novell's many innovations (Mono, XGL [Compiz]) or software that they participate heavily in the development of (kernel, KDE, Gnome...).

Novell is a first order distro developer. What that means is they develop their distro entirely from scratch, without relying on a "mother" distro. Ubuntu, Mepis, Knoppix and others rely on the work of Debian. Other distros also rely on the work of another distro, such as PCLinuxOS, who uses Mandriva to base off of. It's distros like OpenSuse, Red Hat/Fedora, Debian, and Mandriva that the entire world of Linux rely on for development. Novell is a significant contributor to the Open Source Linux community, and a valuable asset.

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