Sunday, December 24, 2006

OpenSUSE 10.2 Overview - Part 1

The following is a summary of my experience with the latest versions of OpenSUSE, 10.2, which was released on December 7, 2006. I'm splitting my "review" into two parts - this first part focuses on the installation and initial startup and usability. Then, sometime in the future after I've actually spent some time using the new OS, I plan on writing a follow-up of my experience.


Users have two options of obtaining OpenSUSE 10.2 - via download or purchasing the boxed retail version for $59.95.

The download version comes in five CDs or one DVD. In addition to the installation discs, there are two optional discs available, one for language addons and the other for non-OSS software.

The retail version is identical to the download but with a nice user manual, 90 days of installation support, and security patches and bug fixes for up to 2 years. For less than $59.95, this is a great deal and alternative to other more expensive OSes.

For this installation and overview, Iĺl be using the download version.


The following computer was used as my test system:
  • MSI MS-6712
  • Athlon XP 2000+
  • GeForce 2 MX400
  • 512 MB PC 2100 DDR


Like previous versions of SuSE/openSUSE, installation was a breeze. It started off with the license agreement and then medium verification to ensure the ISOs you downloaded arent't corrupted. Then, YAST2 (Yet Another Setup Tool) gave the option to specify any add-on products, such as non-OSS software and additional language packs. You then move onto timezone selection and finally the desktop selection before the actual installation begins.

In the desktop selection, you have the option of selecting Gnome, KDE, or Other (text mode or minimal GUI). Although you can only select a default desktop at this screen, you are able to add other desktop environment when adding software packages. Something new in KDE is Kickoff, a new usability and productivity-centric KDE Menu designed by openSUSE.

Just before installation begins, YAST2 will present to a default selection of software to install and a proposed harddrive partition - both of which can be modified to your liking. One thing different in 10.2 is that the default partition type, which was previously resierFS, is now ext3. I'm not sure why they decided to go this route, but since it's the default, I left it as is. I made a few software package additions and went on with the installation.

After about 45 minutes of installing the packages, YAST2 went on to the basic configuration of the system - root password, hostname and network setup, etc. - nothing really special here. One thing I did like, though, was the ability to disable IPv6 right there in the network configuration - now you no longer have to dig deep into configuration files to disable it. After adding users, you're given the option to configure your hardware - again, nothing really special here.

After all the configuration, the system will load into the login screen.


I logged in using KDE, which was at version 3.5.5 "release 45". The newest feature I noticed was SuSE's Kickoff menu in place of the default KDE "start/application" menu.

The Kickoff menu is pretty intuitive and setup in a nice logical way. The menu is basically divided into five tabs, each with applications or sub categories that best fits the main tab category. The way the sub-menus work is Mac OS-like, meaning clicking on a sub-category will move the menu to the right to another menu, or back. Although it's an obvious rip from Mac OS X, I like it.

Something I noticed right away with OpenSUSE, as with pretty much all other Linux distros, is the ugly default fonts especially when browsing the Internet. Even with anti-aliasing enabled, fonts looked rough and jagged. The reason is because of the lack of good font support for Linux.

To solve this problem, I had to install the Microsoft True Type core font via YAST2 and its Online Update feature. In order to do that, though, I had to configure the installation source and online update to point to a mirror since, by default, no mirror is selected, which I thought was weird. After agreeing to the license and installing the MS fonts, I had to log out of KDE and log back in to notice the changes - the new fonts looked MUCH better.

The other changes to KDE are not really SuSE-specific, ergo, I won´t go over the new features since there are many reviews already on the Internet.

Something I won´t be able to test is Compiz because of my crappy video card. If I upgrade to a compatible video card, I´ll be sure to get back with my impressions of Compiz.


The download and installation of the OS was a breeze, I didn´t have any problems whatsoever. My initial login and use of KDE was nice, I really like the KickOff menu, and overall speed seemed pretty good.

That concludes my initial installation and overview of OpenSUSE 10.2. In the next parts of my review, Iĺl briefly go over the new Gnome features in OpenSUSE, YAST2, and other new features I encounter in the next few weeks. So be sure to check back soon!

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