Gutsy and openSUSE 10.3 Beta1

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 πŸ™‚ 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.

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24 thoughts on “Gutsy and openSUSE 10.3 Beta1

  1. ah yes. i tried beta 1 in vmware the other day. but i liked the blue from 10.2 better. and gnome 2.20 is going to be awesome.

    after that i upgraded my laptop to gutsy and ooo damn problems. hopefully i’ll get the update manager working so i can upgrade, its still early days. apparently there was a problem with the kernel.

    *sleep*

  2. My thoughts on these two distributions are pretty much on par with the author of this article. Kubuntu and openSUSE are my two favorite distributions. I like kubuntu because of apt, it is, and always has been, the easiest package manager out there. The only thing that comes close is Smart which you can install in openSUSE.

    There are a few things in Kubuntu that just won’t work right for me, those being my bluetooth mouse and wireless. It takes a while for me to get it all working (and constant going to the command line to keep my bluetooth mouse working). This has been present in Gutsy and Feisty. There’s also that pesky ATi problem which causes me to not be able to use the desktop install cd.

    openSUSE (and prior SUSE) have always been a nice, pleasant looking distribution. The only reason why I don’t use it as my #1 distribution is mainly because of the package manager. I love YaST, but that package management part is horrible, and has been considerably slow in the last 3 or so releases. I don’t understand why SUSE doesn’t just trash its package management ( i think its called zmd) and just go with apt. Life would be much easier. openSUSE works on first bootup for me, and my bluetooth mouse needs small configuration at the begining, but that’s it, no more messing around with it. All in all, I am quite excited about the future release of 10.3 and may purchase it (as i have with 10.1).

    However, nothing beats K/Ubuntu when it comes to community support and package management.

  3. One page you want to note down for openSUSE RPMs is http://packages.opensuse-community.org which indexes most of the main repositories (including Guru and Packman, which provide those extra packages, like w32codecs, that you’d need). What packages from there do you find that are missing (out of interest)?

    madwifi isn’t included by default because that would violate the kernel developers’ wishes in violating (or at least the “spirit” of — I use this term carefully) the GPL. Ubuntu, I think, ignores this.

    APT is indeed fast, but it’s somewhat famously dumb in making package management decisions and libapt is notoriously hard to work with (this is why there was once a spec for switching to smart package management in Ubuntu). Synaptic’s GUI is also a bit of a pain, whereas YaST’s pretty nicely brings you all the configurability you’d need while still keeping the interface reasonably simple.

    Anyhow, package management _should_ be constantly improving, so stay tuned :).

  4. @apokryphos
    A lot of http://en.opensuse.org/Wishlist_Science is missing. I don’t really care about mp3s and codecs and fancy stuff. I just want my niche apps that not many people use, but I’m one of them. πŸ™‚ I’d say it’s also a bit light on educational apps.

    Regarding madwifi, I don’t think Ubuntu ignores it, they just looked at it and went as far as they were legally able to. But then again, “legal” is a bit of a fuzzy thing until it’s been tried in court. I appreciate that openSUSE at least has good documentation and a relatively simple way to install madwifi.

    Well, synaptics UI isn’t the most simple, I’ll give you that, but it *does* work. I spent at least a good 15min just trying to get Factory and non-OSS repos enabled in Yast. It takes forever to do a simple search in Yast as well. zypper is great and I’ll probably mostly use that to keep my sanity.

    Waiting breathlessly for 10.3 πŸ˜‰

  5. Gutsy… and fiesty as well, by default include the atheros driver. and they have a nice restricted-manager to manage such things.

  6. I don’t use openSUSE but I think they’re getting rid of ZMD in favour of zypper since ZMD was so slow. But I guess we’ll have to see how good zypper really is. But at least openSUSE boots up much faster now.

  7. @laserjock

    Have you ever seen Ubuntu’s restricted driver manager? In the Madwifi case no restricted driver would be installed by default. Instead, the user is notified that a restricted driver exists and given the option of installing it with one click. The user is at all times informed of the pro’s and con’s (including legal and support issues)of using restricted drivers.

    Ubuntu ignoring the legalities? Far from it.

    Allan

  8. @ allan

    I’m an Ubuntu Core Developer, yes I’m aware of Restricted Manager. πŸ™‚ Every fresh install I’ve done, granted the last one was before Feisty was released, has automatically installed madwifi. I’m not sure what the current situation is with Gutsy but I’d imagine that it’s at least a single click install if it isn’t automatic.

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  10. You can forget all about zmd it isn’t any moore. Even in open Suse they oficially recommend you to uninstall it. See: http://opensuse-community.org/Package_Sources/10.2.
    Whats good with yast2 software installer is that you can test dependensis before you try to install. You also can look what benefits and files the new actual RPM contains. I’m at the moment “responsible” for 6 open Suse computers used by non-computer freaks. It works well, not very much to do for me. πŸ™‚

  11. It’s the commercial SuSE distribution that does stuff like madwifi (that has got licensing etc problems) out of the box. It’s called focus.

    The overall artwork and look&feel of SuSE is some 5+ years ahead of Ubuntu, especially the bootup phase. It is just more polished, pleasant and consistent. Especially the grub+bootsplash+gdm+final theme. They just rock. Awesome.

    Ubuntu’s artwork still looks like if it was made by an engineer, and it changes constantly from place to an other. Also the gtk theme has got some obsession with rising/pressed buttons. Nearly everything is looks like a button from the 90s or so.

    Yeah, YAST is horrible. It is just like it was in ca. 95 when I tried it the first time. The same problems and the same strengthnesses. It has not developed at all (in any significant way) since then.

  12. Here are a few things to keep in mind wrt YAST. YAST is complete suite of modules to control almost every aspect of the system. Package management is just one of these aspects, as are apache, sysconfig, Xorg configuration and much more.

    When you say that “YAST is slow”, you are making a blanket statement which is far from true. YAST package management is slower than we would like, but that is being addressed in this release(I reserve judgment for final). The rest of the YAST modules are very polished and can’t be considered slow.

    @Laserjock, you said that YAST package management(YPM) was very slow, and mentioned the act of adding the factory repo. This is a fringe case. In the final release, people add the stable OSS repo, and it does take anywhere from 3-15minutes to add depending on the speed of your connection.(this can be done automatically during the install) This is a long time, but the factory and OSS repos contain FAR more packages than those on the media and is a 1 time action. Adding any other repo only takes a few seconds. Factory packages often change ever few days, and when using it as a source, it needs to be refreshed every time you start YPM to see the new packages, this will cause some major slow down.

    wrt apokryphos’s comments, everything he said, goes double for me. cheers.

  13. laserjock:

    Thanks for mentioning. The Education project (http://opensuse.org/Education) is trying to get more education packages built I believe, so hopefully the situation with packages there can be improved.

    erik:

    One thing to make sure that you make the distinction of is YaST and the YaST Package Manager. YaST’s “Software Management” is only one module of YaST’s, of course it has many more, for i.e. bluetooth, setting up a web server, printers and other hardware, user administration etc. That is, it’s a complete application with additional modules for all administration settings. This is a problem when people say “YaST is slow”, when YaST itself is actually very fast and it was only Package Management slowness that gives off that impression. To test this just try out the other modules, to see.

    YaST constantly gets new modules during every single release. The widget theme etc has remained the same, but all modules are constantly evolving. For example, the network card module was completely redesigned for 10.3 based on research and surveys (see http://en.opensuse.org/UX for more examples of things that have changed), and of course the YaST “Software Management” uses a completely new backend (libzypp).

    Unfortunately people get the idea that something’s not evolving and improving unless its look fundamentally different. Nevertheless, a new redesign is planned for when YaST is ported to Qt4, and specifically for the installer. If you want to see some very early mockups that have been thrown around take a look at http://en.opensuse.org/Image:Os103-installer-mockup.png It will probably be ported for 10.3+1, along with the KDE4 desktop that will probably be default.

  14. a) I did not mention speed issues at all.
    b) I was referring to what the user sees. Users is what you do that for, the distinction you are doing is plain silly and counter-productive.
    c) The usability of that module system from user perspective is a disaster.
    d) QT is one of the problems, indeed.

  15. Fair enough, except for the comments about Yast, it is only one module that has issues, some of theses issues are not related to yast itself, all the other modules are working well and reasonable fast.

    And no, neither APT nor YUM nor smart cover the requirements and are **years** far of what zypp does.

    Solving are the problems you mention is atm a work in progress, I suggest you make a review again for the final release πŸ˜‰

  16. I came to Ubuntu after opensuse 10.1 was delivered with a brand new and pretty completely broken update capability. I had a very nice useful system that I was not ever going to be able to change (trust me, I tried).

    Any company that will swap out a critical piece of technology at the last second (as in after the last public beta) and leave no backup option does not get my vote. It’s interesting to hear how they’re doing, but there’s no chance I’de ever try it again.

    One of the key reasons I ended up using Ubuntu is that the product I download and use IS the companies product. I always felt like Novell/SUSE felt like opensuse users were free beta testers for SLES and didn’t really count as customers.

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  19. (I can’t believe I forgot to comment on this post…)

    I myself did a test of openSUSE, but 10.2, a few months ago (http://jucato.org/blog/opensuse/). My experience with it has been pleasant, except for package management. I’ve been repeatedly told that the culprit is ZMD, and that this will be gone in 10.3, so I’m a bit surprised that you still have problems in this area.

    Some of the things I love about openSUSE:
    1. YaST (not the software management component) is great! It makes system administration not seem like a laborious task.
    2. Documentation: I was just thinking about this… Two distros that, IMHO, have the best documentation is Gentoo and openSUSE. Maybe it helps that a company also has a hand in making the documentation.
    3. Some of their “innovations”, like the new menus (Kickoff for KDE and Slab for GNOME), or the sysinfo:/ kioslave. Some might argue about these things, but my point is that at least they try to make things. πŸ™‚
    4. Involvement in KDE: I’m an avid (or should I say “rabid”) KDE user. So any distro that actively helps in KDE development gets my thumbs up. That’s why I’m always thrilled to see Kubuntu being a sponsor in KDE events. πŸ™‚

  20. OpenSuSE is really getting there.
    After each release I sense more profesionalism and polish.
    I have every reason to believe that SUSE will become big, the potential is there.

    I tested OpenSUSE 10.2 when it was released and most of the stuff in there worked great.
    Package management isn’t one of the “great” things, but is simply something that needs improvement and priority.

    Doesn’t seem something you guys can’t handle!
    I grabbed Beta1, gonna take a look asap.

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