OpenSUSE 13.1: Major community Linux has a new version

The latest edition of SUSE's community Linux distribution is ready to use.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Red Hat has Fedora and SUSE has openSUSE. Both are community-based Linux distributions that point the way to their business distributions: Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for Red Hat and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for SUSE. Today, it's SUSE's turn to look into the future of enterprise Linux with the release of openSUSE 13.1.

OpenSUSE 13.1 KDE desktop
Here's the openSUSE KDE desktop at work.

Perhaps the first thing serious Linux users will notice about this release is that it arrived on schedule. OpenSUSE's chief rival, Fedora, has fallen behind in its forthcoming release. OpenSUSE hit its deadline in no small part because of its use of openQA, its automated testing service. OpenQA has proven its worth. I expect other Linux distributions to start using it.

Jos Poortvliet, openSUSE Community manager, explained: "This release is more than the sum of its parts. We made big changes to our testing." 

Agustin Benito Bethencourt, openSUSE Team Lead, added, "We have significantly increased the overall QA/testing effort, reinforcing the stability of openSUSE 13.1, that has been declared by our community a long maintenance term version. Both elements together makes openSUSE a solid choice for those who use Linux-based distributions to work every day."

I'd agreed with them. This is a rock-solid Linux distribution. OpenSUSE's parent company, SUSE, agrees. The company has made openSUSE 13.1 an "Evergreen" or long-term support release. That means it will be supported for at least three years.

This version of openSUSE also comes with native support for the ARM 7 architecture. There are also openSUSE ports for ARMv6 and ARMv8 (AArch64), but these are experimental and openSUSE offers no guarantees for how well they'll work... or not.

As for the release itself, openSUSE 13.1 features the KDE 4.11 Plasma Desktop as its default desktop. If you like, openSUSE also natively supports GNOME 3.10. It also comes with xfce, LXDE and Enlightenment as desktop choices. Personally, I prefer the elegant dark green look of openSUSE KDE.

OpenSUSE comes with the usual best of breed open-source desktop programs. These include Firefox 25 and Chromium 31 for Web browsing; Thunderbird 24 for e-mail; and LibreOffice 4.1 for its office suite.

For developers, openSUSE includes GCC 4.8, the Mono 3.2.3 .NET runtime, and the Qt 5.1.toolkit. The operating system also comes with the the latest Rails 4 and Ruby 2.0 releases as well as PHP 5.4.20, which includes a build in testing server.

Under the interface and applications, you'll find the Linux 3.11.6 kernel. In addition, openSUSE's development team has been working on improving Linux's memory use. These changes include improvements to page reclaim and Zswap. The net result is that openSUSE 13.1 will work better on systems with low memory.

The openSUSE crew have also been working hard on improving the Btrfs (aka Butter FS) file system. Btrfs still isn't the default file system — that's still Ext4 — but openSUSE believes that Btrfs is stable enough for everyday use. That said, openSUSE recommends XFS for large file data storage.

Me? I'd run Btrfs on a desktop, but I'd stick with Ext4 and XFS for servers. 

Thinking of servers, openSUSE now supports Samba 4.1 as a file server for Windows PCs and Linux desktops and other systems on an Active Directory-based networks. For a database manager, openSUSE now defaults to MariaDB instead of MySQL, but MySQL is still included in the package. If you want to use openSUSE as a Web server, Apache 2.4.6 is what you're given. You can, of course, always use say Nginx if you'd prefer a faster Web server.

OpenSUSE also comes with OpenStack Havana, but it doesn't limit itself to OpenStack for its cloud usage. This Linux also includes s3fs, a file-system in userspace (FUSE). This enables you you to mount an Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) bucket as a local file system. 

Put all this together and you get a Linux that's good for desktop users, system administrators, and cloud managers. I've only started to work with openSUSE 13.1 but I really like what I've seen so far.

Interested in checking it out for yourself to see what the SLES of tomorrow will look like? You can download openSUSE  and install it from a USB stick, DVD, or CD. Current openSUSE 12.3 users can upgrade their systems with Zypper. As always, reviewing the operating system's release notes before installation is a good idea.

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