openSuSE 11.0 - A Closer Look

Since posting the First impressions blog about the new openSuSE 11.0 release, I have spent quite a bit more time exploring it - in the process of which I have installed it three more times.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor on

Since posting the First impressions blog about the new openSuSE 11.0 release, I have spent quite a bit more time exploring it - in the process of which I have installed it three more times. Here are some more observations made along the way.

My intention here is to present general observations and comparisons with Ubuntu Linux. When I have run into problems, I have not yet made much of an attempt to solve them, because I want to look at this from the perspective of a typical/ordinary PC user. I know that for many, probably most, of them I could dig a little deeper and sort it out, but that is not (yet) my intention.

During installation it asks you what desktop you would like - Gnome, KDE 3.5 or KDE 4.0. I have now installed openSuSE at least once with each of these, and I prefer KDE 4.0. This is, of course, purely a matter of personal preference; all three seemed to work just fine.

Online Update seemed to work just fine on both KDE installations. I suspect that its failure to work in the first installation I did, with Gnome, was some sort of external problem - either I made a mistake, or there was a network problem somewhere.

When I ran Online Update, it updated Firefox to 3.0, which resolves a problem I mentioned in the First Impressions. But it does not update OpenOffice to 2.4.1, which I find a bit curious, since the OpenOffice web page says it is an important security update.

openSuSE seems to have recognized most of the hardware in the S2110, including the ATI display adapter, and configured drivers for it. I had the laptop connected to a Logitech Alto Cordless stand when I did the installation, and openSuSE recognized the USB hub and the cordless keyboard in the Alto, a Logitech VX Nano mouse, the Logitech V20 USB speakers and a Canon BJC-55 printer that I had connected to the Alto.

The Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks Deluxe was a bit of an odd case. When I plugged it in, it seemed to be recognized, sort of, but it only showed up in the hardware list under USB as "Logitech Unclassified Device", and Skype said that there was no camera. But the next time I was going to install an RPM package, the package manager told me that in addition to my choices, there was one more package waiting to be installed - something to do with cameras! Once I let that install, and rebooted, the camera was recognized and available in Skype. It would have been nice if openSuSE had told me after I plugged in the camera that I needed to install some software - or perhaps I just don't know where to look for such messages.

There were, however, several things that it apparently did not recognize, or didn't know to to configure drivers for. I have not yet been able to find how to disable tapping on the laptop touchpad. i found the mouse properties, but couldn't find a tapping option. The BJC-55, although recognized and configured, didn't produce any output with the default driver. When I found the printer options and changed to another driver, it seemed to be ok.

Most software seemed to install correctly. One exception was that I couldn't get the Citrix ICA Client to install, it kept complaining about libXm (Motif), which was not installed by default, but even after I installed that package from the openSuSE DVD, it still complained and would not install, apparently because the Motif library was the wrong version. I suspect that i could have fixed this with a bit more time and effort. Both Java (jre) and Flash were installed by default, which is nice, and was not the case with Ubuntu.

Gizmo5 was a bit of a funny case - when I tried to install it, I was told that it was already installed. I was certain that I hadn't seen it in my exploration of the user menus, but i went back and looked again. I found it lurking under the name "Soft Phone" on the Applications/Internet menu, when you put the cursor on it you see in very small, light print below that name "Telephone (Gizmo Project)".

So, to summarize at this point, I am considerably happier with openSuSE 11.0 than i was after first installing it. However, I still think that it is much more complex, and requires a lot more fiddling and tuning from the user, than Ubuntu 8.04. If I were setting up a system for someone else, I would certainly install Ubuntu. But if I were setting up a system for myself, I would seriously consider openSuSE, and I will have to do some more investigation before making a final decision.

Oh, one last small note. In my enthusiasm at the beginning, I decided to "go for the jugular" and install the 64-bit version of openSuSE 11.0. After all, my target systems were an AMD Turion 64 and an Intel Core 2 Duo, so why not. Sigh. Apparently you have to be just as careful about this as you do with Windows 64-bit. While openSuSE itself installed and seemed to run ok, I kept running into problems with libraries, devices and such which seemed to lead back to 64-bit libraries being installed and not 32-bit. Once I gave up and reinstalled with the 32-bit version, those problems went away.

jw 24/6/2008

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