Open Source

Will new openSUSE with KDE 4.6 bring distro back from obscurity?

The openSUSE distribution nearly faded away into obscurity. But 11.4 brings this distribution back to serious relevancy. See what Jack Wallen thinks about the latest from the openSUSE developers.

Remember when SuSE Linux was a real powerhouse? YaST was one of the finest administration tools available and SuSE was one of the few distributions featuring the KDE desktop as the default. But then Novell purchased SuSE and things changed. Ubuntu came to be and new users flocked to a distribution that promised Nirvana for Linux users. And with all of the changes happening on the Linux landscape, openSUSE continued moving ever forward, not swaying from its path, not causing rifts in the Linux community, and eating their own dog food.

The only problem? openSUSE seemed to be slowly disappearing. With Ubuntu taking up the majority of the media's attention and end users looking for something more compatible and easier to use, only the faithful few remained with openSUSE.

But now a new release for the distribution, the project that is controlled by the community, is poised to bring it back out of obscurity...and with good reason. Actually, I will give you two good reasons: KDE 4.6 and Tumbleweed/Factory.

KDE 4.6

Being one of the first distributions to ship with the latest version of KDE has its advantages. When KDE 4.x was released, there was a general concern that the other major desktop had seen it's last days. That all changed when KDE 4.5 was release and a record number of bugs were fixed. Now 4.6 is out and has managed to improve on an already fantastic, stable, reliable desktop. KDE 4.6 is as slick as any desktop has ever hoped to be. Not only does it now enjoy a very polished and professional look, it functions flawlessly and enjoys a speed all desktops would enjoy having.

The openSUSE take on KDE 4.6 also migrates away from KOffice and, in a very smart move, ships with LibreOffice as the default office suite. With this inclusion, openSUSE feels like one of the more complete out of the box operating systems at a time when most other OSs are having to strip out any extras in order to fit the release on a single disk.

Tumbleweed and Factory

Yet another reason to give openSUSE a second look: The openSUSE developers have adopted a rolling update version of the distribution which is dubbed the Tumbleweed Project. The rolling release differs from the standard release by not relying on a rigid, periodic release cycle. This allows users to always have the latest, stable release on their machine.

In contrast to Tumbleweed, openSUSE also offers the Factory project which allows the users to have the latest, bleeding edge software. Factory is unstable and is the current development release for the next upcoming stable release. Users can choose which they want to try, but Factory is geared more for developers and testers.

Real world

I installed openSUSE 11.4 on a test machine and although the visual effects didn't much care for the on-board NVIDIA GPU, the release has really impressed. Not only is it as stable as any distribution I have used, it's ready to get to work, right out of the box, and serve as your go-to distribution. I would, with good conscience, be able to hand an openSUSE desktop or laptop over to just about any user and feel confident the distribution would serve them well.

A couple of issues

To the developers of openSUSE I would offer up a couple of bits of advice. First, install Samba by default so that users can, out of the box, share out their folders. KDE 4.6 includes the ability to easily share folders from within the file manager, but when users want to configure that they have to turn around and install Samba to make it work.

Finally, I would highly recommend coming up with a more user-friendly Add/Remove Software tool. Although the GUI tool is nice, it's not nearly Synaptic or The Ubuntu Software Center. This piece alone makes openSUSE a challenge for new users.

Final thoughts

If you have been on the fence about your distribution, I highly recommend you give openSUSE another chance. The 11.4 release should stop you in your tracks, making you rethink your opinion of a distribution that could have easily faded into obscurity. That won't happen now as openSUSE has come back with a serious contender for my vote as best Linux distribution.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

12 comments
aikiwolfie
aikiwolfie

openSUSE has an image problem. It's still too closely linked to Novell. Aside from the fact there are many Linux and FOSS advocates who will steer clear of anything tainted by Microsoft, Novell's future is uncertain. That makes openSUSE's future uncertain. Many people don't want to move to a distro that's not going to be around for the long haul. Which is a shame. openSUSE was a promising distro back in the 9.x days. Well a head of the pack with things like Compiz, ease of installation, easy configuration, parental controls, etc. openSUSE really needs to distance it's self from Novell and dump Mono/.NET support.

clockmendergb
clockmendergb

As a Linux novice I have continued to experiment with various distros over the years I really likes Suse Linux before they stripped it of everything useful for a beginner. I was able to get films to play and such with a couple of additions but did find it harder once it became open Suse. I will be glad to try it one more time but I must admit I do like to be able to use proprietor y content as well. I wish Linux was a little bit easier to get things sorted out as I am sure it is the one thing stopping its general acceptance amongst people like myself. yes I hear the cries that Linux is not Windows but if it could be as easy to use then maybe Microsoft would not be holding the world to ransom. A great opportunity was lost when vista came out as even windows users had to learn from new Since then it seems Microsoft has copied all the great open source ideas and got away with it Win Internet explorer 9 is the latest example of their copying others good work as it looks a lot like chrome. Just the article is enough to get me to try it one more time. I would really like it to keep me in the fold.

nwallette
nwallette

But I've always hated it. We use it at work (I suspect primarily to not use Red Hat.) It's enormously frustrating to have a server, VM, or desktop that I'm forced to rebuild because I need to install some one package and can't find the original media. The online repositories are long gone by the time this happens, of course. Maybe this is common amongst release-based distros, but I know I can usually fix similar Windows issues on 2-year-old installs. On Gentoo, I may spend half the day compiling dependencies because every single package has been updated and is no longer supporting such an old platform, but eventually I will get there. (And if I'm extra careful, it's still somewhat usable along the way. I think that's easier than a reinstall? heh) As I said. It may just be that I don't "get" the Suse "way".

mckinnej
mckinnej

I've been somewhat forced to use OpenSUSE for a few years. For reasons that remain a mystery, I cannot get any other distro to properly function with multiple NICs. I have scoured the forums, uploaded config files, and generally stumped all the experts. It should work, but it doesn't, even after a complete hardware change. That said, OpenSUSE has proven to be reliable and solid even though it wasn't my first choice. The support community is very helpful and friendly. I started off in the 10.x releases and while there were some rough periods with the early versions of KDE 4, it has definitely improved with each release. My Ubuntu friends seem to be experiencing the opposite trend. One has even moved to pure Debian to get away from the problems. So, even though OpenSUSE has been forced on me in a way, it's not a bad place to be.

john.muskopf
john.muskopf

10.3 was the last Suse I used a lot. ever since 11 series came out things are going down hill. when working i like to have internet radio playing in the background. Amarok is still DOA out of the box, Banshee and Rhytmbox sort of work but no Shoutcast without going through hoops. When Linux becomes a grownup operating system I will use it, until then I am back to win 7 because it all works just fine. no hours wasted trying to get simple programs to do what I want.

peispud
peispud

!!.4 only has two faults on my machine. YaST should be used to handle software updates instead of KPackagekit. I've had no software related problems, but having two software tools is counter intuitive. Full screen games crash on my Nvidia setup every time. I'm hoping an Nvidia upgrade will fix the later.

vernonwalker
vernonwalker

Loaded it up on a virtual machine using the latest release of Oracle's Virtual Box and had a ton of issues with the software update feature;; basically it did not work. Other distro's I tried (Fedora 14 Alpha, Mint, Ubuntu worked flawlessly). But I will try again using VM Ware Fusion since it could have been my Virtual Box installation - on an iMac with 4GB of RAM.

Jaqui
Jaqui

that since it was Novell's collab tools that hosted mono/samba etc that those won't be dropped. and Novell's "deal" with MS over ip makes their products anathema for most free software supporters.

yakupm
yakupm

try ubuntu server. I have just over 30 servers running ubuntu. Most are on 8.04 LTS and some of the newer roll outs are 10.04 LTS. Generally very happy with both. Yak

peispud
peispud

video drivers fixed as expected, perfect

Jaqui
Jaqui

a distro forked from an UNSTABLE one is never a good choice for a production environment. and only an idiot would ever install one on production machines. lose Ubuntu in it's entirety, until they restart it off of debian STABLE, using it just puts your data at significant risk of being permanently lost without exepnsive data recovery.

nwallette
nwallette

We use OpenSuse on servers we don't deem "worthy" of licensing. SLES on most of the production stuff. The Powers That Be deemed Suse the Enterprise standard. I'm allowed to run whatever I want on my desktop and laptop, but by policy, servers will conform to the standard. I understand, but I still hate Suse. ;-) At this point, I'm just happy to have any production service that hasn't been replaced with a volume-licensed Microsoft product. *sigh* Why someone would want to take a perfectly good application that works and has worked for some time, and replace it with something that requires an OS license, DB license, product license, end-user licenses, and a support contract is beyond me. I guess anything free isn't worth having.