Chris J Powell

OS Sunday – Trying out openSUSE

It has been a long time since I took a trip down the SUSE memory lane.  It goes all the way back to the 2006 deal that Novell struck with Microsoft that would protect the SUSE family and Novell in general from any Patent Litigation from Microsoft.  It is a very similar feeling that has lead me down the path of outright boycott of the Canadian staple Tim Horton’s.  I hold a grudge for a very, very long time.  But with a highly anticipated release coming out in March I figured it was time to take a peak at the 12.2 version and see if the bandwidth investment may be worth it.

Because of the generous donation of a Laptop from Vince Londini I figured I would give it a try on the venerable hardware and see if its 2Ghz Intel Celeron Processor and 1GB of upgraded RAM could take on a modern heavyweight.

I have not had to burn a DVD or CD for installation for quite some time when booting to a Laptop but this Toshiba Satellite Pro A10 does not have USB boot options in the Bios so I was stuck with the wildly slow and often frustrating DVD Boot.

I like how Novell has put together the installation process though.  It was both easy to follow and provided me with options.  It even gave me the option to install one of 6 Desktop Environments (Gnome, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, Minimal X Window and Server), I tried once with Gnome and to my very great disappointment…the Video Card could not handle the rendering at all and crashed every time it would start up, so I went back to the drawing board and reinstalled using LXDE.  After another 45 minutes of chugging away…I was finally ready to give it a solid test.

Booting up this 6lbs Beast was not as quick as a Virtual Machine or even the diminutive Asus Netbook that has been my secondary compute device for a while but it did come up to a full 1024×768 screen that did everything that I could want from a laptop in under 60 seconds. I had been fighting with this Laptop for a while trying to get the wireless to function on my network (I choose to use WPA Encryption and the laptop and the integrated wireless does not much like real security)…so I went out yesterday and picked up a $14 Nano Wireless Adapter…but despite trying it out on several Distros…I could not get it to connect to the network.

Other than Network Connectivity (that I will continue to try to resolve) the Distro itself was surprisingly easy to navigate and use.  Connecting to the Wired Network in my office was no problem and I was able to make use of the extensive Software Repositories through the YaST system (that in the past was in my opinion the biggest weakness of openSUSE).

The Default install though provides most of what anyone would typically need…but with the Download being so large (the ISO was 4.3 GB) I would have liked to either seen more options during the installation, or a better connect so that I would not need to download more applications to round out the productivity suites and needed Applications.

  • Graphics – The Gimp, Cheese and mtPaint
  • Internet – Claws Mail, Firefox and Empathy
  • Office – Full LibreOffice Suite plus AbiWord, Gnumeric and PDFViewer
  • Sound and Video – LXMusic and Totem Movie Player

Some of this may have come from my choice to install LXDE but the choices are fairly typical and good respectable choices for an initial install.

The leveraging YaST though was a greatly improved experience from my previous experience with openSUSE and using it was far easier than I remember but it still in my opinion falls far short of the User Interface found in Ubuntu.  I decided to install the core sessions for Gnome, KDE and XFCE to see if there was any real difference once I had built a stable system with LXDE…but the reality is, KDE and Gnome did not much like the older hardware of the Laptop.

The newest Beta of openSUSE 12.3 is out and with the strength of 12.2 behind me now…I was actually tempted to give it a try…but I just could not bring myself to give up that much monthly bandwidth on a whim.

Overall, I like the Distro…but will it stay on the A10?  I don’t think so.  I need to get the wireless to work and that will likely mean reverting to something that I am far more used to to dive into the configurations and resolve the challenge.  On holder hardware…it is a contender (far faster than the WindowsXP that came installed on the machine).

Cheers and have a Happy Sunday everyone!

Chris J Powell

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