OpenSUSE 10

TuxOpenSUSE is one of the most famous GNU/Linux distributions. It got a recent additional attention when Microsoft announced that they would support specifically the execution of SUSE in the virtual environment that will come in the future Microsoft Windows Vista.

Knowing my previous failed attempt with SlackWare Linux, I decided to try again with another (hopefully better GNU/Linux distribution). Here is my experience for those who would like to know.

Installation

One difficulty I found on my test machine was that the 1280×1024 graphic mode is not supported by my LCD screen. Consequently, I had to find an option to be sure that OpenSuse would stay in 1024×768 all along. It turned out that I needed to lok at the bottom of the screen, see the F3 option menu, press F3 twice, choose a 1024×768 graphic mode and let the installation go.

After that, I was in a nice graphic installation program and I could immediately choose a French installation mode using my mouse and looking at nice drop down menus (on a quietly grey-colored background).

One of the nice things is that the setup program recognized all the existing partitions and proposed neatly to format the old Linux ones, but just to mount the Windows NTFS one (safe approach; It’s OK with me). Then, the file copying operation started.

In the process of file copying the PC surprisingly offered to reboot itself (not indicating if it was necessary to remove the CD media or not – apparently it was). This way, we could go to a second step of the installation process that included inserting more CD-ROMs. The difference with other distributions is that I had to swap no less than 5 CD-ROMs (the fifth one was requested for only 2MB of data for the default install!). A DVD would probably be a better option (but the machine I used does not have a DVD drive installed yet). Anyway, I was also surprised to see that – even taking into account the sheer volume of data to transfer – the copying of files appeared to be quite slow. Not that I had to do anything else than swaping CD medias, but I would have liked a more efficient copying process.

After file copying, we are led to a set of configuration options as could be expected:

  • Setting up a password for the root account (security!)
  • Network configuration (usually you only say that you want to use the default DHCP; The installation program even tests the Internet configuration before going further!)
  • Online update (This is a great idea not to wait and to immediately offer an upgrade to the installation: It’s providing a good sense of security)
  • Setting up users (or at least one)
  • Optionally configure some specific hardware equipment

Side note: Unfortunately, due to to problems with my Internet connection, I had to interrupt the software upgrade process. But the installation was really botched down by my lack of elegance in rebooting with the Reset button (unable to log in graphic mode, restarting the Windows manager just locked the PC down). I had to restart completely the installation process…

Afterwards, I could do an upgrade in a more traditional way (using the official upgrade tool known as YaST). Of course, this step was quite long (plenty of new things to download), but it is satisfying to know that this is available.

Good points:

  • Installation easily recognizes the presence of a swap partition, of a pre-existing NTFS partition that it offered to mount properly.
  • The installation environment is clean and very understandable avoiding altogether the cryptic Linux information (except during the file copying process when you see the ugly file names of the installed packages – But who cares then?)
  • Automatic upgrade during setup (security!)
  • When defining user names and passwords, the system gives useful advice on what not to do (security!)

Weak points:

  • Some possible weak point in the upgrade-during-the-installation process.
  • The installation correctly detects the ATI video card (but as a plain Rage 128 instead of the more modern All-in-Wonder with included TV input)

At the end of the installation not even a full reboot is needed. You go back to the installed interface.This is a nice touch!

Test drive

Plenty of things available and a nice environment to start with (including a cool desktop background showing the cameleon that became the icon/logo of Suse). The interface itself is mostly recognizable by people from the MS-Windows world. Plenty of useful and compaible tools are there: Web browsers, Office tools, Internet tools, CD/DVD writer, etc. The only thing that I did not find is a graphic tool, but it appeared that it was because instead of the most common Gimp software, they only installed a photo album software.

One of the really nice things of this software is that booting is very fast (much faster than MS-Windows). This is a nice change.

Conclusion

Apart from the little problem that occured when I was trying to upgrade the software during the installation (and I would tend to point the finger at my Internet connection more than at Suse), everything went smoothly and I now have a nicely installed OpenSuse on one of my PC computers. It is definitely usable, quite easy to understand (things are found in locations that I would expect them to be – from my Windows background). And it is fast.

Recommended.

More information on the OpenSUSE web site.