Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Review: openSuSE 10.3

For the last 10+ yrs, I have spent quite a lot of my PC experience on SuSE beginning with v4.2.
openSuse 10.3 was released 4th Oct, 2007. A lot has improved over the years and I've seen how SuSE has improved with every new version. My last linux installation & review was Shift Linux 0.5 RC2 some days back and I was eagerly waiting for openSuSE 10.3 to be released. I have been following the development of v10.3 and installed a few milestones builds on the way to the final release.

What's New
There are a plethora of improvements in openSuSE 10.3. I wouldn't go through all the changes, since the link explains everything. But I wouldn't mind mentioning my special favorites in this version. 1-Click Install, Official Repository List, Improvements in YAST, Compiz-Fusion, KDE4 Games... These are some of my favorite enhancements in openSuSE 10.3.

Over the years, Linux installation has simplified and become user-friendly. SuSE was probably the pioneers in simple, intuitive GUI installation through a tool called YAST. It's my favorite system administration and configuration tool among all distros. In openSuSE 10.3, YAST has some interesting improvements. Its faster and better integrated. One example of this is, when you right-click on an rpm in konquerer's file browsing, you'll see an install option. This will call yast and install the package.

I downloaded the i386 DVD version from Bittorrent. openSuSE 10.3 is also available in CD versions of KDE and GNOME. Burned the DVD and booted. And yes, I was happy to see the "Green Welcome Screen" (see below). The green of the chameleon is back and it looks great! Then, it asks me to choose if I wish to boot from HDD or Install. I selected "installation" and the linux kernel loaded and the installation started. Other than the openSuSE branding, the loading process is the same like other distros, with a loading process happening the background of a graphical screen (image 2, below) (click on the images to see a larger version)

The Green Welcome
Boot Selector
Linux Loading
Language Selection
After, the loading completes, YAST starts up the installation. YAST shows a language selection screen and contains Bengali, Gujrati, Hindi, Marathi, Sindhi, Tamil among the Indian Languages. This should be helpful for the uptake of Linux in India, since the recently passed an order in India makes it mandatory to use free-software in schools. The next few screens ask for installation type and desktop environment.

I like KDE and hence installed it as my default environment. You can check the screenshot below which shows the default packages that are installed. openSuSE 10.3 installs a few non-opensource stuff like flash player, agfa-fonts, jdk 1.5.0, jdk-plugin in the default and asks the user for agreeing to some license agreement. The default installation size is 2.2GB, not too much, not too small!! Expert Settings tab on this screen allowed me to change grub bootloader settings. People will multi-boot can change the default from openSuse to anything else.

It also shows -
Processor: 2x Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 6300 @ 2.13Ghz &
Main Memory: 512 MB

Default Packages
OS Starting
openSuSE 10.3 Desktop
openSuSE AutoUpdater Applet
The file-copying process starts and takes about 20min to complete on my system. In the meantime I read the release notes. The following are from the release notes:

==> By default, the new YaST gtk front-end runs on the GNOME desktop, and the YaST qt front-end on all the other desktops.

==> GNOME 2 is installed under the /usr file system hierarchy since openSUSE 10 3 and KDE 4 now follows KDE 3 will stay in /opt for compatibly reasons

The desktop looks neat and clean. The Beagle Search, Clipper and AutoUpdater Applet and placed in the tray icons at startup. Every piece of hardware from my system was detected including webcam, HP Printer, USB Cable Modem, Wireless Router...

The AutoUpdater Applet is an interesting addition to openSuSE 10.3 and is extremely useful for quick updating and bug fixes. It uses YAST's modules (which inturn uses zypper) in the background and works pretty good, checking from openSuSE's official update repository. It downloaded 12 updates, including security and package updates and installed it, without me having to worry about anything...

1-Click Install: 1-Click Install is an extremely useful feature included in openSuSE 10.3. Completely rocking... and is the need of the hour for success of linux on the desktop. apt-get is easy, but then this is even better. I installed the Compiz Fusion through the 1-Click Install link provided on openSuSE website. Clicking on links for 1-Click Install opens a .ymp file and the associated application is called "YAST Meta Package Handler". In reality, it required 3 clicks, but one was "Next" and other was a security warning. Both good things, right?? I think Linspire tried something similar, but openSuse's technique looks slick and is FREE!! Great work Benjamin Weber and other devs!!

1-Click Install
Compiz 3D-Cube
Compiz-Fusion Burn Animation
Compiz-Fusion Explode Animation
openSUSE 10.3 contains the latest Compiz 0.5.4 installed by default and Compiz Fusion (Compiz + Beryl) is available in the official online repository. Like I said, I installed it in 1-Click. The default installation of Compiz means that a lot of people don't have to bang their heads with the download and installation. I'm not a fan of 3D effects on desktop, since I dont see much productivity gains. But for those who love it, just a single command (gnome-xgl-switch --enable-xgl) activates Compiz, and a restart later, we are ready to play with the 3D Cube etc...!! Few other screenshots of Compiz Fusion and different animations and effects are above. The Cube also does bounce and do a lot other stuff. Check here. But I found Compiz-Fusion to be a little slower. May be the System RAM was low, but then I didn't expect it throw segmentation faults on KDE.

KDE 4 Preview
openSuSE 10.3 DVD includes a preview of KDE4 which is still under heavy development. Its unstable and hence is an optional install. By default, openSuSE 10.3 comes with games from KDE4. The games have interesting look and feel and has great graphics for arcade and board games. Check the screenshot below.

KDE4 Games
Buggy KDE4 Desktop
OpenOffice 2.3.0
Improved YAST
The KDE4 I downloaded off the SVN was unstable and after 2 downloads, I wasnt able to see the desktop manager correctly (check the screenshot above). It didnt show the icons correctly, not was I able to load Oxygen. Some problem with Oxygen's installation I guess...

After watching openSuSE 10.3 from its early days in development, I think the developers at openSuSE have done a great job. After the review finished I was sure that for a newcomer to the linux world openSuSE 10.3 is the best place to be. With Autoupdater, 1-Click Install, Easy Repository Management, Easy Software & System Administration, you can not go wrong with openSuSE 10.3. So does it mean it's perfect?? No, still a lot has to be done in terms of Compiz-Fusion performance and stability. Sometimes my system slowed down with Compiz-Fusion running. Other times KDE threw a Sig Fault when Compiz-Fusion started. KDE4 needs to be fixed. It has promised quite a lot of features and hopefully it doesn't become a burden on stability.

All In All, openSuSE 10.3 is highly recommended and is among the best distros released this year!


Anonymous said...

Very good review... I was hoping that openSuSE would be good this time... I didn't like the 10.2 release. It was unstable and felt a little bloated. This one seems a little faster, atleast YAST does!!

Mark Robinson said...

May be your experience with KDE was good but then GNOME on openSuSE 10.3 requires some work... Other reviewers have noted some interface problems with openSuSE 10.3's GNOME...

Also, why use an OS that is made by guys who wanna side with Microsoft in scaring away other Linux developers with patent FUD~!!

Saptarshi Purkayastha said...

openSuSE is a community-driven project, of which Novell is only a sponsor. So, its not a Novell distro... Yeah, Novell does contribute funds and has a lot of its developers, but that doesn't mean a good distro shouldn't be called good...

And frankly, opensource is always about free expression, right?? Let Ballmer have free speech and rant about the patent stuff... You have a FREE ear to listen to it or ignore it!!

montylee said...

Great review dude!
OpenSuse 10.2 was great and this noe would be definitely better.

Tim said...

Installed 10.3 for x86-64 myself. System works very well. My experience similar with KDE4. Downloadable NVidia drivers are now up to date. Very pleased so far.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review!

I must say that even though I am fond of the green lizard myself (running 10.2 atm and just downloaded 10.3), I still think it needs one minor improvement:

- Why have both yast and the gnome ctrl panel...

/end semi-rant

Anonymous said...

Well, the one-click install does work nicely, but is still difficult to find. Why is there no link to the feature on the desktop, and no complete listing of available software? It was 3 days after I installed 10.3 before I found out about One-click install, and then it was by pure chance.

Saptarshi Purkayastha said...

It doesn't make sense to have a complete listing of software that can be installed from 1-Click Install is because,... then they would have to call it Online Repository. The Online Repository already provides you with a list of softwares...

The point in making the 1-Click Install is to make the work of other software developers and vendors easy. They can allow their software to be installed directly by just clicking a link on their website, instead of asking the user to download a package, then configure, then make or some other complex rpm -ivh... Just click and install!!

Anonymous said...

I installed the updates and it was blindingly fast. First I thought my internet speed has increased 8 times. Then I realized they use delta updates like Fedora 8!!

delta updates will only download the changes in the binary. Could not believe it was faster than ubuntu apt

Stunning work suse

John said...

I started with 10.0 on a desktop and I have tried each version since. All of the installs have proceeded in roughly the same fashion. All rock solid and easy to follow. Each version since 10.0 seems to have made the package management worse, but I'm glad to say that this seems to have been fixed up somewhat, but it still seems to take an inordinately long time to up date the package repositories every time you so into software management, so I'm glad the one click install seems to reduce the number of times you have to do this.
Hardware support - Still very good. On my HP TC4400 Tablet 10.2 worked well, only the built in SD card reader needing work to get it going. Better than any of the Debian based systems as even their live CDs fail to detect the HDD controller in the tablet and so fail to boot.
But annoyingly under KDE and KPowerManager it has been crippling the CPU performance by limiting it to 1.3GHz whenthe CPU is actually a 1.8, So I may be upgrading just to see if this problem is fixed.
Just to note though that my "crippled" 1.3GHz dualcore under Suse feels faster than full speed Vista on the same kit)

Anonymous said...

Reason why 10.2 felt so bloated, war mono the terrible .net ximian project novell bougth.

Do not install beagle or zmd, then it is snappy as hell.

Anonymous said...

The new artwork in YaST, well.. it SUCKS!!! :( Reminds me of the boring gnome stuffs - looks like dirt, bah!

Sunil said...

It's rocking!! the suse 10.3 it really good distro to switch an enduser from windows to OPEN AREA, one has to come out of Windows,and Gates let the world be OPEN.
I think this distro can feel windows user that Linux can be used by layman now. thaks for such a good distro.

Anonymous said...

I just installed using the openSUSE 10.3 KDE CD.

Finally got the wireless to work in this new release for my RT2500-based PCI card.

I have a couple questions since I am not familiar with openSUSE that much.

Does anyone know where YaST keeps the downloaded packages? Or does it delete them after packages installation are completed?

If YaST does delete the packages, can I change the configuration somewhere to keep them?


Ali said...

last comment was not correct.

I have added a link to your blog entry:


LUIS said...

Hey John, you said that the only thing that needed to get going was the SD card reader...

I'm also having troubles with that. How did you install it?

Please let me know


Dark Star said...

Awesome review brother :) but what do you mean by 2x E6300 :?

Abhay said...

I really liked your review. Its simply well written.
I am using some parts of your review in my article at http://abhay-techzone.blogspot.com.
Please let me know if it is not OK with you.

Liteon said...

Great help - thanks

Anonymous said...

both suse 10.2 and suse 10.3 are full of bugs. bullshit. it seems the only stable linux is Ubuntu...

portable wireless router said...

Great review dude!
OpenSuse 10.2 was great and this noe would be definitely better.