openSUSE 11.2 M8: What a Fine Lookin' Lizard

Summary:Ubuntu's Karmic Koala isn't the only hot Linux beta floating around. On October 1, the openSUSE project released Milestone 8 of openSUSE 11.

Ubuntu's Karmic Koala isn't the only hot Linux beta floating around. On October 1, the openSUSE project released Milestone 8 of openSUSE 11.2, which is slated for general release in November, just in time for the holiday season. Milestone 8 will precede two release candidates to be also released in October, but contains the final aesthetic and branding bits for the final version.

Tech Broiler openSUSE 11.2 M8 Video Tour

The openSUSE 11.2 installer, which is essentially the same polished installer from the previous version and needed very little improvement, now installs the KDE 4.3 UI as the default user choice, although GNOME 2.28 can also be selected.

In my last reviews of openSUSE 11.1 and openSUSE 11, I had a number of stability issues with KDE 4.0 and 4.2 which led me to stick with the GNOME interface. However, there had been numerous reports on various mailing lists and community discussion forums that KDE 4.3 is now the fully "baked" version of 4.x, so I wanted to give KDE 4 a go again. I'm glad I did.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

As with Ubuntu's Karmic Koala, openSUSE 11.2 will use the very latest 2.6.31 kernel and use the new ext4 file system. End-users will have the option of downloading openSUSE as either a DVD which contains both the KDE and GNOME as well as XFCE UIs, or as as 2 separate flavors of Live CD, each with a KDE and GNOME version which is similar to the way Ubuntu is distributed, as Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu.

Gallery: openSUSE 11.2 Milestone 8

As with any openSUSE release 11.2 will be jam-packed with all of the latest Open Source software, including the superior Go-Oo.org build of OpenOffice.org. But clearly I think this is the first distribution that will really make the desktop Linux naysayers, especially the Mac crowd, go "Wow!"

That "Wow" factor is KDE 4.3. KDE 4.x is a radical departure from the 3.5.x series, which has always been considered more Windows XP-like in its general UI model, although it has featured a great deal of object-oriented technology that Windows didn't have and still lacks. While GNOME 2.x is stable and certainly very usable, it never had the sex appeal of something like OS X or even Windows 7, and from a raw technology standpoint does not have the object-oriented features of modern UI's such as Mac OS X or KDE.

Miguel de Icaza's Mono software development framework and C# implementation (and Bonobo prior to Mono, which had good ideas but failed to catch on due to its unwieldiness) has been moving to change that, but there has been some resistance to bringing a full-blown object-oriented development model into mainstream Linux desktops.

openSUSE's implementation of KDE 4.3 finally gives the Open Source and Linux community something to brag about from a UI technology perspective, and in many ways I feel it is superior to both Windows 7, in both the underpinning technology and from a usability standpoint. It is also at least at parity in terms of object oriented technology with Mac OS X, and Qt 4's cross-platform nature may actually give KDE an edge over Mac's Cocoa. KDE 4.3 is pretty and functional, proving that Open Source advocates that choose a Linux OS for their desktop can have their cake, eat it as well as flaunt it.

Like Windows 7 and Mac OS X, openSUSE's KDE 4.3 implementation supports floatable "widgets" that are mini-apps that float about the desktop, such as resource utilization monitors and weather forecast applets, just to name a few. The system includes an integrated web browser/file system browser, Konqueror, which incorporates the very same KHTML/Webkit page rendering engine that is used in Mac OS X's Safari browser and for the iPhone. openSUSE 11.2 also provides Firefox 3.5.3 for those die-hards that would rather use Mozilla's software and browser plugins.

KDE 4.x also has a dedicated file manager utility, Dolphin, which is similar to a Norton Commander type of utility and is roughly analogous to GNOME's Nautilus UI, whereas Konqueror is more similar in function and look and feel to Windows 7's "Explorer". Eventually I'd like to see Dolphin and Konqueror moved into one single seamless UI because I feel that regular end users might find some confusion in their overlapping functionality.

While openSUSE 11.2 is still in beta and not even release candidate stages, I will say that despite my enthusiasm for the KDE 4.3 implementation, which is indeed looking very nice, I still notice that openSUSE's default security settings are set so that SMB networking traffic is blocked. I also had to add SAMBA 3.4 manually, but this may not be reflective of the final product. These were issues I had with both openSUSE 11 and 11.1, and I really think the project should consider turning on SAMBA and letting the SMB protocol through the firewall by default, just as Ubuntu does.

I haven't used openSUSE as my main Linux desktop OS for a while -- that honor, at least for the last few years, has gone to Ubuntu. But could openSUSE 11.2 and it's sexy KDE 4.3 implementation bring me back? Perhaps, perhaps.

Have you been playing with openSUSE 11.2 M8 or KDE 4.3? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Open Source

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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