So, I’ve been kinda thinking lately that I could really be good for me to broaden my Linux horizons. I’ve been so focused on Ubuntu for a couple years now I haven’t had a chance to see much of what’s going on elsewhere in the Linux Universe.
Anyway, last night I installed openSUSE 10.3 Beta1 on a spare 10GB partition I had on my laptop. I’m not going to do any indepth review or anything, but I’d like to share just a few thoughts from my, maybe more developer biased, perspective:
- The installer is quite nice graphically. It does make me appreciate the simplicity of Ubiquity though. It requires quite a bit more supervision. A big plus for openSUSE was how well it handled Grub. I was expecting to have to mess around with a clobbered grub config to get everything (openSUSE, Ubuntu, and Windows XP) to boot properly. I was pleasantly surprised on first reboot with a very nice looking openSUSE-themed grub that had my Ubuntu and Windows entries already there. I didn’t have to touch a thing or do anything during the install. Beautiful.
- openSUSE has split 10.3Beta1 into a Gnome CD, KDE CD, and non-OSS CD. I like this approach. As we’ve been talking lately about the naming scheme for *buntu, I was impressed with how consistent openSUSE made it all. I did one install with the Gnome CD and one with the KDE CD. Aside from the panel, they pretty much feel the same. Similar color scheme, same wallpaper, etc. Very nice.
- The artwork and overall look-n-feel in 10.3 Beta1 is very nice. Bootup is smooth. The only thing I have to criticize here is that I can’t figure out if openSUSE is supposed to be green or blue 🙂 And I really do like the brown/orange in Ubuntu. Gutsy doesn’t feel as revolutionary in artwork as Fedora 7 or openSUSE 10.3 .
- There are a lot of system administration tools. It’s a bit overwhelming and if I was a new user switching from another OS I’d be a bit confused, but for power users there are a lot of cool tools.
- My laptop has an Atheros wifi card and ATI graphics so I find it a pretty decent test of how distros handle the “binary blob” problem. Ubuntu simply rocks in this regard (I didn’t even know until Restricted Manager came along that my wifi card needed madwifi). openSUSE doesn’t handle madwifi automatically but has a reasonably easy way to get it going, involving a good wiki page and 2 rpms to download and install. Fedora 7 failed abysmally when it came to madwifi.
- Package management in Yast totally sucks. This is something that I think the openSUSE devs are working on, but adding a repo or even installing packages is very very painful in Yast. The plus side is that the zypper package manager is tons better. This is a least on the same order as apt in terms of speed and being able to do packaging basics (install, search, remove, upgrade).
- The openSUSE Build Service seems to allow for cool grouping of packages. I’m interested in Education and Science so I looked around the Build Service and found repos for both topics.
- Even with Build Service, there are a whole lot of packages I’m used to seeing in the Debian/Ubuntu repos that just don’t exist in the openSUSE repo. I’m not sure if this is a product of Novell’s focus on the desktop or what, but it’s both discouraging and a challenge to people wanting to contribute to openSUSE.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the progress openSUSE has made. I found the amount of “breakage” in the development version (Beta1) to be roughly similar to Gutsy. I think I’ll try to track openSUSE until 10.3 is released (early in October I think) and see how it all shapes up. I find openSUSE development to be a bit hazy still. I haven’t figured out how often Factory (the development repo) gets updated.
To summarize, for me openSUSE wins on artwork/consistency and configuration tools and Ubuntu wins on hardware setup and package management. Overall Linux is progressing awesomely and I’m proud of how Linux is innovating on the desktop. \o/
Probably stuff you already know, but maybe not.