Not a single post I make about Ubuntu goes by without at least one of you making some comment about my distro of choice and suggesting that I try some other distro. Well, never let it be said that I don't listen to you - so this week I decided to take openSUSE 11.0 for a spin.
I first downloaded the 64-bit LiveCD KDE4 version of openSUSE and took this one for a spin. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the LiveCD to load either on a physical PC or a virtual PC - each time KWin crashed at startup, threw up an error message and the system locked up. Rather than getting caught up trying to figure out what was wrong I abandoned 64-bit KDE4 and instead sent for the 32-bit GNOME openSUSE LiveCD instead.
Check out the openSUSE 11.0 gallery
After a less than promising start, I was expecting more problems with openSUSE, but the 32-bit GNOME version seemed to play well on both physical and virtual systems, so I stuck with this.
After running Ubuntu for a few months it's hard not to compare openSUSE to it, and the first thing that struck me was how sluggish running the LiveCD of openSUSE felt compared to all Ubuntu LiveCDs I've tried. I even went back to an Ubuntu LiveCD to check out if it was just my memory or whether openSUSE did indeed feel sluggish, and it did. No idea why. However, that said, a LiveCD is a temporary thing so I didn't dwell on the performance issues of the LiveCD too much and just hoped that an actual installation of openSUSE wouldn't feel as kludgy.
On to the installation.
Installing openSUSE is a snap and I didn't have any problems. Comparing it to installing Vista or Ubuntu, I'd say that the process is no more complicated, although what I would go as far as to say is that the setup process isn't as friendly as Ubuntu's, and it consists of more steps that Vista's setup process. Given this I'd say that Ubuntu is more friendly to the newbie, but getting openSUSE onto a system shouldn't be a problem for anyone who has previously installed an OS or a major suite of applications.
Once installed I was pleased to find that openSUSE had picked up the pace quite considerably and the sluggish kludgyness I'd experience with the LiveCD was gone. openSUSE 1.0 was both snappy and responsive, apart from the first time I ran OpenOffice, which caused things to enter that "swimming through molasses" phase and made me wonder more than once whether I'd locked up the system. I hadn't, and the feeling passed after a few minutes.
So, what do I think of openSUSE?
Overall, I like openSUSE 11.0. After deciding to ignore my troubles with the 64-bit LiveCD KDE4 version of openSUSE and the slowness of the LiveCD, openSUSE certainly seems like a nice, well-rounded OS. Also, while overall I feel that Ubuntu is more newbie friendly, openSUSE starts off by being more pleasing on the eye - the green look (to me at any rate) seems more elegant and less scary.
Then there are the GNOME menus. I have to say that after months of using Ubuntu, I prefer the GNOME menu as seen on openSUSE. Maybe as I use the two distros side by side this feeling will wear off, but right now I prefer openSUSE. Come to that, I think I prefer the entire default openSUSE theme over the Ubuntu one.
I'm told that because of Novell/Microsoft ties, OpenOffice as shipped with openSUSE has more features than the stock OO.o shipped with Ubuntu. I need to investigate this further to have an opinion on the matter (although I can say right away that I don't have an issue with the politics of this deal ...).
I still have a lot of investigating to do, however, in the interim I think that if I had to choose between Ubuntu and openSUSE, Ubuntu would be the winner - familiarity is a key factor.
Things I've learned ...
A few things I've learned, in no particular order ...
- There are other worthwhile distros apart from Ubuntu.
- The more OSes you add to the mix, the harder it becomes to be OS agnostic.
- The perfect OS is probably mythical ...