OpenSuSE 12.3: In-depth and hands-on

OpenSuSE 12.3: In-depth and hands-on

Summary: A look at the latest release of openSuSE, which is so good I have installed it as the default boot on all of my computers.

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The leading edge of the deluge of new Linux releases has reached us, in the form of openSuSE 12.3. 

The news is good - in fact, it's very good. 

I said when openSuSE 12.2 was released that I really liked it, and I feel even more strongly so now with 12.3. So strongly, in fact, that I already have 12.3 installed as the default boot on all of my computers. 

That covers a very wide range of hardware, with CPUs from Intel (Core2Duo, various Atom versions and Core i3/i5) and AMD (C50/C60/C70 and E350/E450); with memory from as little as 1GB to as much as 6GB, graphic controllers from Intel (965) and AMD (various Radeon models); Wi-Fi adapters from Broadcom, Atheros, Intel and Ralink; wired network adapters from Marvell, Broadcom, Realtek and Intel; Bluetooth adapters; audio controllers; and whatever else this variety of notebooks and netbooks have in them. 

I haven't had a single device that didn't work, and I didn't have to do any special adjustment, configuration, driver download, compiling or anything else.

A release recap

The release announcement gives a quick look at the highlights, and is well worth the couple of minutes it takes to read it.  The release notes give much more in-depth information about this release, including known bugs, quirks, limitations and workarounds for a few things.

Even if you're familiar with installing Linux in general or openSuSE in particular, it's worthwhile at least scanning through these notes. On the downloads page you can get either KDE or Gnome 3 Live ISO images, and a complete DVD Installer image.  Oh, and the Rescue image on that page is actually an Xfce Live image as well. 

If you prefer the cinnamon or MATE desktops, those can be added to the Gnome 3 version after installation, via the GUI add/remove software utility or directly from the CLI using zypper. 

The Live images are smaller and thus faster to download than the DVD image (Duh), and faster and easier to copy to a USB stick or burn to a disk, so if you don't specifically need something from the DVD I recommend using the live media. 

If you already have a running Linux system, you can dd the ISO image to a USB stick and be ready to install in just a couple of minutes.

Also, the DVD ISO is not a live image, it is only an installer, so you can't boot it to try out the operating system, and you can't jump out of the installation procedure and run some other program during installation.

The DVD image can also be used to upgrade and existing openSuSE installation, which the Live images can not do.

Installation is exceptionally easy - those who are unhappy with Fedora's latest anaconda installer might be happy with the openSuSE installer, as it is clear and easy to use, and doesn't try to do any of the fancy footwork that anaconda does (personally I like the new anaconda, but that's not important right now).

I was very surprised, pleased and impressed to find that the openSuSE installer handles UEFI, including Secure Boot, with no trouble at all, including detecting and mounting the EFI boot partition.

EFI Boot Partition
Installer shows the EFI boot partition

 There is one catch, though, which is mentioned in the release notes — even when it detects UEFI boot and gets the disk configuration right, when you get to the final summary screen it will have the wrong bootloader selected - it tries to install normal (non-EFI) Grub2.

Wrong
The wrong bootloader

You have to select the boot configuration item from the summary list and change that selection to grub2-efi.  This is also where you can specify that you want Secure Boot support.

Bootloader
Select the grub2-efi bootloader

Of course, if you are not installing on a UEFI BIOS system, you don't need to worry about any of this, the installation will be the same as it always has been. 

In either case, installation on all of my systems has taken less than 15 minutes. The first boot after the installation has completed will perform an 'automatic configuration', for which the Network Manager is disabled. If you're installing on a system with a wired network connection, you might not even notice the difference — but if you have wireless connection, you are likely to see that the Network Manager icon is missing from the panel, and even if you manage to find and click it there will be no wireless networks listed and it will inform you that Network Manager is not running.

No worries, don't panic, just reboot one more time and all will be well.

So, once you have it installed, what makes it so great that I was raving about it at the beginning of this post? 

What makes 12.3 a winner?

First, it works without any extra effort or special installation on all of the systems I have tried so far - every network adapter, every graphic controller, and every other device I've tried. 

This is in large part because it is running Linux kernel 3.7, and there has been a lot of activity over the past couple of kernel releases in keeping up with new device drivers. 

It also has the latest release of KDE (4.10); LibreOffice 3.6 including Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation and Database; Mozilla Firefox 19.0.2 and Konqueror 4.10 for web browsing; Amarok 2.7, GIMP 2.8.2  and digiKam 3.0. 

I'm particularly pleased with that last one, because I really like digiKam and I use it a lot, so I like to keep up with the latest versions. 

All of the kipi utilities are included for photo processing - one of my favorites in this group is hugin for stitching multiple images into a panorama.  Of course, there is a lot more included, even in the Live versions, but if one of your favorites isn't there, you can always add it after installation. 

I did this with kMyMoney, which I use quite a lot, and although the FOSS Radeon graphic display drivers work very well for ordinary use, I decided to try out the proprietary AMD Catalyst drivers as well. 

The openSuSE Wiki has a page about the AMD Catalyst package, with an overview of supported hardware, links and instructions for 1-click install, GUI/Yast install and command line/zypper install. I used 1-click install, and it worked perfectly and couldn't have been easier.

Another positive aspect of this release is that the laptop Fn-keys work on every system I have tried so far, too, at least for volume up/down/mute, brightness up/down and touchpad off/on. Wi-Fi off/on and Suspend/Sleep work on some systems but not on others, but that is typical of those keys anyway.  Multiple monitor support works well, just use the KDE Display control to set up the screens the way you want.

One last note, again about EFI Boot systems. The openSuSE 12.3 grub is capable of booting other operating systems, including Windows as well as other Linux distributions, either by directly loading their kernel or by chainloading their EFI boot image. 

This means that if you want a boot selection process that is more user-friendly than sitting pressing F-whatever over and over again, and better looking than a plain text list, you can substitute openSuSE for Windows in the initial boot sequence. Of course, I would still choose to install the wonderful rEFInd boot manager, but that's another issue.

Topics: Open Source, Linux, Operating Systems

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • OpenSuSE 12.3: In-depth and hands-on

    "I haven't had a single device that didn't work, and I didn't have to do any special adjustment, configuration, driver download, compiling or anything else."

    Bull crap. I've never seen a linux distro that didn't need some type of extra compiling or configuration. Don't get too excited about it detecting your hardware. The drivers are usually half baked and will only give you the bare minimum of functionality which would explain the sound skipping issue. Since you just installed it you haven't tested it thoroughly but its only a matter of time before you need to compile your kernel because something wasn't included that you need.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • A bit sour?

      Loverock-Davidson

      You can keep your bull crap. I have used linux (and Windows) for years. Over the last 3-4 years drivers have ceased to be a problem. Everything works on desktops and laptops. While I am sure some people run into issues, your FUD is not necessary.
      BoloMKXXVIII
    • I know it's just typical Loverock anti-Linux blathering, but...

      re: "its only a matter of time before you need to compile your kernel because something wasn't included"... you mean, like MS Patch Tuesdays?
      dh1760
      • NICE!

        ROFL, good come-back to the ole' loverock... :D
        Technical John
    • You're just plain lying again, Lovey

      I've been using linux OS with various desktops for six years. I haven't compiled a kernel or anything else, I don't know that I'd know how I have had no trouble with drivers for all kinds of gizmos, printers, scanners, cameras, speakers, tv sets, etc. Everything works as well running in linux as it does in windows (dual boot). I use some hardware that might be a bit long in the tooth where windows has slipped into the dementia that requires a wipe and reinstall. Why do that when I can load Mint instead and get better performance than when the device was running a brand new windows install?

      I guess MS doesn't care what you say in these posts, you still get your check, correct?
      WhatsamattaU
    • Almost as good as Owlll1net

      You guys are both priceless. Go on like this and you could actually outdo him.
      Herby Stoukette
      • I'd rather have Loverock

        Owl is frequently abusive; hence the occasional slight moniker changes.

        Loverock is ridiculously partisan, but he's not mean.
        John L. Ries
    • I've never seen a linux distro...

      Let's see....I'm "relatively" new to Linux (under 2 years continued use), but have been trying distros since Corel Linux back in the early 90s. You have a point, most distros will have at least one thing that needs tweaking, but here is my personal experience:

      Linux Mint 14 on a 6 year old mainstreap HP desktop. 100% hardware found and working with NO extra tweaking or downloading (although I did install the proprietary nVidia drivers for gaming).

      Ubuntu 12.04 on a 3 year old mainstream x64-based desktop. Originally installed 10.04 which did need additional tweaking, but subsequent upgrades to 11.04 and 12.04 have proved flawless.

      PCLOS on eeePC netbook. I couldn't get WIndows 7 to work on this one. Nor XP. But PCLOS found absolutely everything, Fn keys, wireless. THe only thing not found are the functions of the ASUS "special" keys, which are just ASUS' way of trying to separate users from more cash.

      I've been a Windows user--hell, a Microsoft user--since 1987. Still am, somewhat. But more and more, Linux is taking over. Once Steam is fully realized for Linux, I will no onger want Windows, since they abandoned the desktop UI in favor of Playskool. Linux does everything I need. Maybe not as intuitively, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

      Oh, and it is a good thing I don't need to compile my kernel, because, for starters, it would be "recompile", and secondly, I have not the slightest clue how I would go about that.

      LD, you just go ahead and smooch on MS's behind while the big kids move on.
      Iman Oldgeek
    • Really?

      Try Ubuntu. It has worked for me for everyone of my computers. Some old and cheap logitech web cams did not work but they were clearly listed as not working on the suport site. My new ones don't have an issue. Also had problems with the propriatary drivers for Nvidia and AMD based vid cards but the stock Linux drivers worked fine.

      So to my mind, and I have done maybe 100 Linux installs on various machines using various distros it is entirely possible that SuSE has make the push and got it right.

      Disclaimer: I have not used SuSE, but have used Fedora, CentOS, Ubuntu, Mint, Debian and Scientific Linux
      maszsam@...
      • Really really?

        I can back this up, and I have and do use openSUSE. A lot. And I do have an idea about how to recompile the kernel but I've never had need to as you tend to find that the kernel in all the major distros tend to be pretty much all there out of the box.

        One thing that I have become used to over the years is the amount of FUD that some MS fanbois and the less knowledgeable like to spread about Linux in general. That may have been true years ago (I can recall installing RedHat 5.1 clutching a load of configs printed from that machine's installation of Windows 3.1 and hoping all would be well, but that was in the early 1990s!) but the out-of-the-box experience with most distros these days is a world away from all that.

        The installation for openSUSE, for example, which hasn't really changed that much since openSUSE 11.1, which has only just dropped out of "Evergreen" support, and is quite capable of holding your hand through the procedure if you don't want to get it dirty or can allow you to customise as much as you want. The installer varies from distro to distro but it's not the nightmare that it once was and is certainly not the crapshoot that some might have you believe.

        Another bit of FUD is that Linux is a poor system for desktops. FAH! OK, there's a pile of different UIs that you can try, but that's one of the beauties of Linux in that you are not pinned to the whim of one company. Want something like Metro? Go grab Ubuntu and give Unity a go. Prefer a decent desktop experience? You could go for MATE or Cinnamon. As an openSUSE regular, I'm usually to be found with KDE on the go, and that suits me. That's the big point - Linux has a wide range of different experiences waiting for you to make your choice, and it's free too!

        The big irony is that I'm currently typing this on a Windows 7 PC! :)
        mistie710
    • SUSE installations always work out of the box

      I've used various versions of SUSE for over 15 years now, and they always recognize all my hardware (with the exception of the old winmodem) right out of the box. It's the reason I run SUSE distros rather than the various other distros. The driver package on the install disk is extremely complete. I would venture to say that your comment on "half baked drivers" is utter bull crap to use your own phrase!!
      **owly**
    • I installed OpenSuse 9 for a try

      ...a few years back and had no issues with the install at all. It went great. I was quite impressed with the overall package and stuck with it for awhile.

      It wasnt hard to see why people who can get by with Linux really do appreciate it. Its a very good OS and the install download I used at the time came packed with endless programs.

      But alas; in the long run Linux just isnt for me. It does have its headaches from time to time and I have my own likes and dislikes, but I don’t see why LRD thinks that a Suse installation has to go awry because mine didn’t and that was quite some time ago now.
      Cayble
    • As an OpenSuSE user for many years....

      All versions since 12.1 have been stable and the installers go quite well. I have ran into one glitch with 12.1 and certain atheros chips... but that has since been solved. Looking forward to trying out 12.3... avoided 12.2 since there was nothing interesting, at least for me. And I have personally installed OpenSuSE 12.1 on around dozen different machines/configurations, from netbooks to laptops to desktops...and it just works. Best part is... I can then configure my desktop completely and I mean COMPLETELY for my own personal tastes. And the amount of productivity and other software installed with the OS is just phenomenal.
      I.R. Fleeceum
    • Not worth the comment

      I've dealt with a LOT of windows issues over the years, many that never made it to the popular realm of common knowledge. As far as I'm concerned, if the operator doesn't want to learn how and why the system operates, he/she really should not have the system in front of them. I've let you slide over the years, my first and last comment to you or about you, and I had never seen such an obvious miscarriage of justice as you have just applied to OpenSuse in particular and Linux in general. While I am not a great fan of Ubuntu, I've generally good luck with OpenSuse and I expect more luck in the future. I shouldn't say luck, I suppose, because it without knowledge I would not have this windows running so well either. Loverock, if you so good on Windows, load up and run 17 clients of Foldit ( protein folding simulation ) like I can. Actually i can do more but for you, 17 is enough.
      Tho I can do that on Windows 7 SP-1 x64, it doesn't mean I will not like OpenSuse, and I already know that I will not be able to run so many Foldit clients. Keep sticking your head in the sand and enjoy the irritation of the grains in your eyes, nose, and ears.
      hantoyo1@...
    • Loverock-Davidson....Take your Play Boy and go find something to Compile

      because that's about all you have LEFT to do in life as your pathetic posts on Linux have absoutely no value.......End Of Story
      Over and Out
  • AMD Catalyst package warning

    If you use HD4XXX or less FGLRX legacy 13.1 doesn't work with x-server 1.13 due to AMDs poor life-cycle support. Go buy Nvidia next time as they support stuff for far longer.
    Alan Smithie
    • what about free radeon drivers?

      My experience with AMD vs. nVidia is quite the opposite. First of all HD4* cards are supported by the free radeon driver according to https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RadeonDriver .
      Nvidia proprietary support is pretty capricious. Firs, it's no KMS. If you want to build your own kernel (winking to Loverock), it's a problem. One chip might work Okay, another might not or just unstable, like Xorg memory leak, unreliable suspend/resume, disappearing hardware mouse etc You just have to hope they will fix it ... soon.

      With AMD chips and radeon driver if a kernel version x has issues, he chances are very high it will improved or fixed in the kernel version y, where y>x. Unfortunately, thanks to nVidia's attitude, nouveau hasa lot of issues.
      eulampius
      • Power managment issue in the OS Radeon Driver

        I tried out 12.3 on an old Sony I have (HD4570) and couldn't get the fans to slow down properly, still messing with settings but their are plenty of bug reports on this one. I believe it is being worked on upstream though so I'll keep 12.2 on it until 12.4 comes out for that laptop.

        Just for reference:

        http://www.x.org/wiki/RadeonFeature
        Alan Smithie
        • Version 12.4? Um...

          According to the openSUSE wiki, the next version is due in 8 months and will be version 13.1. Yes, I know that sounds weird!
          mistie710
          • OOps, my bad

            thanks for the versioning correction
            Alan Smithie