OpenSUSE 10.3 Test Drive

OpenSUSE 10.3 Test Drive

The way the Linux world has been heating up this year, it was hard not to feel a pang of excitement over the release of the latest openSUSE. After all, this is one of the biggest distributions in the world, with a legacy of avid development and a major following both in Europe and the U.S. So, even after trying several of the pre-release builds, I was eager to get openSUSE 10.3 installed on my PC. Well, it’s been a couple of weeks now, and I’ve given it the old college try, but I just can’t maintain any enthusiasm for this lackluster distro update.

Just a year or so ago, I’d have probably been over the moon about openSUSE 10.3’s improved hardware support and (slightly) simplified installation. But in the wake of Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, Fedora 7, and, now, Gutsy Gibbon, the bar has been raised and, in my experience, openSUSE simply doesn’t measure up to the competition.

OpenSUSE 10.3 does most of the basics well. And if you’re a KDE user, you might even be hard pressed to find much difference between 10.2 and 10.3. If you’re a GNOME user, it’s a world of difference. But not in a good way. The menus are about as kludgy and un-navigable as any I’ve ever muddled through, making it difficult to accomplish just about anything with fewer than three clicks of the mouse. On the upside, the Favorite Applications menu (one click off the Computer menu in the bottom-left corner) is handy. And if you take a few minutes to customize your favorite apps, it will make life easier going forward. Also nice is the Recent Applications list, which is located in the same spot. But apart from that, openSUSE’s insistence on retaining the Windows 95-esque lower-left start button layout pretty much destroys the interface. Fortunately, this being Linux and all, you can customize the menus any way you like them. But you shouldn’t have to, and the openSUSE team probably should have left well enough alone rather than force GNOME to act like KDE.

Of course, these problems are merely cosmetic, and are mostly found in GNOME. But no matter which interface you select, the YaST-based installation routine is almost Neanderthal compared to the sleek, simple installs for Ubuntu Gutsy and Fedora 7. While the IT types who generally use openSUSE won’t mind this at all, it will undoubtedly serve as a barrier to entry for consumers on the desktop, and that’s an increasingly meaningful consideration at a time when Linux is garnering more attention from consumers than ever before. If openSUSE prefers to remain a geeky IT distro, that’s fine. But it can’t expect to gain any points for usability at the same time.

The biggest problem with the new openSUSE has less to do with the distribution itself than with the raising of expectations for Linux. Ubuntu’s substantive look and feel, idiot-simple usability, and streamlined installation have done the Linux world a great service by making the OS as easy to get started in as any other major operating system. That’s a great thing for Linux in general, but it makes it tougher for other distros to compete. After all the development community for Ubuntu is simply massive, and it’s growing all the time. OpenSUSE and other distros, meanwhile, are either losing users and developers or staying about the same. So when we don’t see significant improvements and enhancements from one release to the next, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed.

In spite of 10.3’s unimpressive showing, I’m still eagerly looking forward to the next openSUSE release, because this remains one of the strongest overall Linux distributions and its developers are clearly taking a cue from the user-centric Ubuntu camp. The only question is when, not if, openSUSE will live up to the demand for a better desktop Linux.

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EarthBoundMisfit

Registered Linux User #404122
Microsoft has encountered a critical system error and must now shut down. Better get Bill Gate$ on the phone for this one.......
[img]http//i35.photobucket.com/albums/d183/NunofyaBidness/404122.png[/img]

I'd like to add my voice to express disappointmentover the new openSuse release.
I've tried a LOT of linux distros thru the years...I started with Xandros...would see a nice looking distro release...and install it over my Xandros partition.
Later I'd figure it out on my own that it was crap...and have to reinstall Xandros.
OpenSuse is a good distro...it just doesn't have that OOMPH or WOW factor that Ubuntu or Debian seem to have captured in the last few months/years.
I really don't like the look of its Gnome desktop...it was kind of difficult to install (and I consider myself something of a expert when it comes to installing a distro...I have used linux for several years now)
Upon installation..I discovered that my NTLDR file on my windows drive had been wiped out.
Geez..thanks Suse! Back to the ole drawing board Novell!

Glenn Condrey

avatar

Dwood15

For a person just starting on Opensuse I found the Install a lot easier than for ubuntu, and that it is a little Overwhelming.
i have no clue what you are talking about, but it is windowz-esque in the menu bar, but hey, constant improvement.

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DeckerEgo

I would definitely agree that 10.3 is rather underwhelming, but that's mainly because the more exciting features are tucked under the covers. Compiz Fusion now has native support in KDE, and actually works without crashing (amazing, I know). Especially since the addition of Compiz Fusion 0.6.0 last week, the desktop UI has made leaps and bounds.

Not to mention openSUSE has SaX2, which I still think doesn't get the press it deserves. SaX is absolutely fantastic with display configuration and takes the crapwork out of messing with xorg.conf.

I'd definitely recommend trying out the Compiz Fusion addition and taking it out for a test drive again. It definitely redefines expectations.

avatar

pcfxer

http://www.processor.com/editorial/article.asp?article=articles/P2935/21p35/21p35.asp&guid=

Server OS, running a Desktop front end, think about the stability. NASA, Google, Yahoo! and many more use FreeBSD, *BSD is the least known, best-kept internet secret.

Actually, OS X is BSD and a mach kernel-ref: Darwin.

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