OpenSUSE 11.2 Review

Written on December 22, 2009

The latest stable openSUSE distribution was released on November 12 - about one month ago. I'm running this 11.2 version from the day it was released. And in my opinion it's a significant improvement over the previous version. This article will describe how I installed and configured openSUSE 11.2 and how I'm experiencing it. I'll also cover the most important changes with regard to previous versions.

Installation

First I'd like to note that I did a clean install, so no upgrade. It is the better, safer course of action. I don't like upgrades going wrong, and doing twice the same.

Making a bootable USB drive

In one of my previous blog entries, I've described how I've doubled the battery power of my ThinkPad X300. This was possible by swapping out my optical drive for an optional bay battery. So now my ThinkPad X300 has no DVD drive anymore. (Actually I'm too lazy to reinstall this optical drive, and I also like a challenge.) My Kingston 2GB DataTraveler is going to solve this problem. Previous versions of openSUSE were not so easy to install from USB, mainly due to boot issues. Another blog entry deals with this problem. However this issue is fixed in the 11.2 version, which makes it possible to boot the ISO images directly from USB. You just have to run the following command:

sudo dd if=<ISO FILENAME> of=<USB DEVICENAME> bs=4M

Here's some explanation. The dd command is an advanced way to copy a file. You specify the downloaded ISO image as input file. A USB stick serves as output file. The last option denotes a block size of 4MB. In my case the command was translated into the following:

sudo dd if=openSUSE-11.2-GNOME-LiveCD-x86_64.iso of=/dev/sda bs=4M

After this command is finished, you should have a bootable USB stick. It's not also convenient to install from USB, but it's also damn fast. In fact, I highly recommend it. Chinese pirates are even selling Windows 7 on USB thumb drives.

GNOME 2.28

That's right! I'm using GNOME instead of the newest KDE 4.3. I've had too many issues regarding KDE and I also like stability and simplicity, the ones which KDE cannot provide me with. KDE 4.3 may look cool and fancy, but the GNOME desktop environment also got a fresh new look in openSUSE 11.2. This newest theme is called Sonar. I will discuss this later on.

Setup

The openSUSE 11.2 installation setup has also been improved. YaST is getting better and better with each new release, not only under the hood but also graphically. The various steps in the installation have remained relatively the same.
The most important change can be found in the partitioner, where the default file system is switched to the new ext4 file format. It's said to be much faster, however since my ThinkPad X300 is equipped with a SSD I've not experienced that much performance gain.
If all information is collected, you have to confirm the installation.

openSUSE 11.2 setup
openSUSE 11.2 setup

After this installation is completed, a reboot of your system is required. Afterwards, an entire new world will open for you!

First startup

User Interface

And this new world starts here!

openSUSE 11.2 startup
openSUSE 11.2 startup

First of all, you should notice a new color combination: dark gray and... green indeed. As previously noted, a new theme Sonar was added. You should of course get used to it, but it much cooler than Clearlooks or Mist, the ones I used in previous versions. Window titles got a new stylish font: FifthLeg. Icons and notifications did also undergo a significant update. But the most important change is of course the introduction of Yastie as YaST mascot.

New YaST mascot: the aardvark Yastie
New YaST mascot: the aardvark Yastie

We can conclude that openSUSE 11.2 looks much more pleasant for the eyes. And it still guarantees a stable system. Take that, KDE!

Performance

OpenSUSE 11.2 is much faster than its ancestors, due to the ext4 file format. Copying files, switching between windows, opening applications; it all goes much faster now. The package manager Zypper is also significantly improved regarding performance.

Configuration

General

Because I'm running openSUSE on my laptop, I always enable sub-pixel smoothing. This setting can be found in Control Center > Appearance > Fonts. Next I want some fancy colors in my terminal, so I edit my .bashrc file. My PS1 line is the following:

PS1="${debian_chroot:+($debian_chroot)}\[\033[01;32m\]\u@\h\[\033[00m\]:\[\033[01;34m\]\w\[\033[00m\]\$ "

The result looks like this:

My fancy-colored terminal
My fancy-colored terminal

I'm also a die hard vim user, thus I create a .vimrc file. In this file I define that syntax highlighting and line numbers must always be enabled. Also some indentation and tabbing rules are present. My final .vimrc file contains the following lines:

syntax on
set nu
set cindent
set smartindent
set autoindent
set expandtab
set tabstop=2
set shiftwidth=2

The result looks like this:

Editor vim in action
Editor vim in action

Dropbox

Most of my documents are synced with Dropbox, a tool that synchronizes your files online and across your computers. In openSUSE 11.1 is was quite difficult to install it, because Nautilus was not cooperating well. But I was surprised how quick Dropbox was installed in this new 11.2 version. I still had to use a small hack in order to run Dropbox on startup. First I created a small script .dropbox-start that deals with root privileges.

#!/bin/bash
set +v off
xhost local:root
/home/sholva/.dropbox-dist/dropboxd &

Then I went to Control Center > Startup Applications > Startup Programs. In there, I just had to add a new command .dropbox-start. Once that's done, Dropbox should start automatically at startup.

Eclipse

As an application developer - mainly in JAVA - I also needed an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) to increase productivity. Because of too many bad experiences with NetBeans and none at all with Eclipse, my decision was quickly made at that point. The latest Eclipse in openSUSE 11.2 repositories was Ganymede, the 2008 version. A little outdated in software universe, so I had to download Eclipse Galileo from its website. Installation was straightforward.

VLC

VideoLAN has a better solution for their VLC media player. You can install VLC via a 1-click-installation or you can also add their repository. More information can be found here.

Issues

I was quite happy with openSUSE 11.1. Actually the 11.x series was a great improvement over the 10.x series. That is perfectly understandable because SUSE Linux 10.0 was the initial release from the openSUSE Project. And early versions of a product are in most cases quite buggy. But openSUSE 11.1 could satisfy my needs.
However, some problems remained unresolved. And I'm quite certain most of these problems were hardware-related. OpenSUSE 11.2 on the other hand solved almost all problems, introducing only two new issues which are far less annoying as the previous ones. In what follows I'll give a brief description of each one of these issues.

Issues in openSUSE 11.1 that were solved in openSUSE 11.2

Issues still present in openSUSE 11.2

Conclusion

The Aardvark concept together with some other major changes has made openSUSE 11.2 even better than its previous versions. In my case, all problems were solved with respect to some GUI inconsistencies that occur on rare occasions. I'm also hoping that the information about installing and configuring the above programs was useful in some way. You may also contact me if you have any questions or comments. And hopefully I've convinced some of you to switch to openSUSE, regardless of what you're using at this moment. You should definitely try this Linux distribution out!

openSUSE 11.2 logo
openSUSE 11.2 logo