openSUSE 11: Ubuntu Killer?

Posted by jun auza On 6/03/2008
I have been an avid openSUSE user in the past as it worked perfectly on my main workstation. However, I switched to Xubuntu as I'm more obsessed with speed and simplicity nowadays more than anything else. Since the latest version of openSUSE is about to be released and it promises some major enhancements over its predecessor, I decided to take a look at my former favorite distro to see what's been going on.

openSUSE 11 (Release Candidate) is out already, so it's the one that I grabbed. At first, I was still contemplating on which flavor to get since openSUSE is available in both Gnome and KDE Live CD versions. I usually go for GNOME, but this time I got the KDE 32-bit edition. My main reason for this is that I wanted to finally try out the much talked about KDE 4.

So, what's up with openSUSE 11? Is it good enough to finally beat Ubuntu on the desktop? Read on to find out...

Test Machine Specs:
Board: Intel Corporation D102GGC2
Processor: 3.40 GHz Intel Pentium D
Hard Drive: Samsung 80GB ATA with 8GB allocated to VM disk
Memory: 2GB DDR2 RAM with 512 MB allocated to VM memory

This is the part where I'm really impressed. The installation was very straightforward that I think even my grandma can figure it out. The process is very simple and it only requires a few steps to get the system fully installed.

Here's my openSUSE 11 installation walkthrough -- The Live CD set-up kicks off after clicking the "install" icon, of course. The "Yast Installer" welcome screen will then open where you can set the "Language" and the "Keyboard layout". You will also have to agree to the "License Term" to go on. Then, you will have set the "Clock and Time Zone", followed by the easy "Partitioning". I said easy because there's already a suggested partition and you can just use it if it suits you. The last step is creating a new user, and then you will be given an option to double-check before the "Live" image can be copied to the hard drive. After the installation, you will have to reboot to use your newly installed system. -- Simple as that.

Look and Feel:
This is the interesting part. Almost all those who have used the most previous versions of openSUSE can definitely notice its trademark elegant and professional-looking themes and artworks. openSUSE 11 is no different and can surely satisfy those who loves a beautiful looking desktop. Everything looks polished -- the grub menu screen, the boot image, the login menu screen, and the default wallpaper.

Now let's talk about KDE 4. I'm not really a big fan of the K Desktop Environment as I've always said before. However, after having used KDE 4 in openSuSE 11, I must say that I'm loving it, although not totally. KDE 4 looked stunning indeed, and the good thing is that it didn't sacrifice "speed". It is very responsive even when running in VM (Virtual Machine) environment. If you have a not-so-old machine and want to experience desktop bling, then KDE 4 might satisfy your desire. It's true that KDE 4 is still quite buggy as I've encountered some of its minor glitches, but I think it's pretty much usable and stable enough for daily and productive use.

Software/Package Management:
openSUSE 11 is packed with plenty of important free and open source software. To name some, there's Firefox 3 (Beta 5) web browser, Kopete IM, office suite, Amarok audio player, Gwenview image viewer, and plenty more. I'm a little bit disappointed that GIMP was not included out-of-the-box, so I downloaded and installed it with the help of Yast graphical installer. I also installed the non-oss "flash player" for watching flash-based videos on the web.

Installing, removing, and updating software packages through Yast is hassle-free. To get additional packages, you have to enable the software repositories first, and then just search for the applications that you want. You can also easily browse for installed or available packages as they are well categorized. I must say that the Yast software installer has really improved through the years and has become much faster than before. In my own opinion, it's now almost as good as Synaptic Package Manager.

Stability/Hardware Detection:
openSUSE 11 worked perfectly well with the VM hardware as USB, CD-ROM, audio, and Ethernet were properly configured and were functioning immediately after the installation. SaX2 (YaST module used for configuring the X11 graphics system) worked flawlessly after I've tweak my screen resolution and other graphics options to my preferred settings. I also want to point out the faster boot/start-up speed of this new version. However, as noted on the release announcement, OpenSUSE RC1 is not yet fully cooked and has still some issues that need to be fixed.

Based on my brief but thorough experience using openSUSE 11 (RC1), I'm expecting a very solid release for this Novell-sponsored Linux distribution. If those minor bugs that I've encountered will be ironed out before the release day comes, then this is going to be the best openSUSE version ever. Does it have what it takes to beat Ubuntu on the desktop? -- openSUSE has always been a distro of choice for mainstream and new-to-Linux users for so many years now, hence overtaking Ubuntu is not far from reality.

If openSUSE 11 can deliver the goods at the right time, who knows, I might give it another chance.

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