I installed the latest version of the openSUSE distro 11.3 on Saturday, September 18, 2010. This had a couple of pleasant surprises. For example, they got rid of the idiocy of requiring a full lamp stack just because you want to install an application to edit web site scripts. They also fixed the glitch that stopped the installer from reversing the mouse buttons.
Unfortunately, there were two critical failures, one that makes openSUSE a "do not even think about using for business" distribution.Failure 1: Why, for a consumer-targeted distribution, does it not include full wireless support? Rarely are people buying systems and physically plugging in network cables very often any more. The required wireless networking needs to be included by default on the install media. Failure 2: Why on earth was a primary partition on a second physical hard drive on the system included into a Logical Volume Manager (LVM) by default when LVM was not requested? Furthermore, it was done in such a way as to destroy the 500 GB of data on that hard drive.
openSUSE, by its decision to put the primary partition of my backup hard drive into an LVM, destroyed seven years of data. Way to go Novell, screwing with legally required record keeping. The only way I even found out it had messed with an LVM was because of the failure of the distro to include wireless networking support. When I looked at Fedora 12, it showed me the LVM.
The less-critical failure that makes openSUSE -- and naturally, by extension, SuSe Linux Enterprise (SLED) -- a "no go" is the horrid configuration of KDE4. The "plasmoid" on the desktop that looks like a file manager window is required for the KDE4 config. Sorry, but I'm not interested in having a file manager window open to be able to use a desktop. Never mind the ugliness of the entire KDE4 UI – there's an absolute lack of usability and lack of configure ability in KDE4 (hmm… reminds me of both Windows and Mac OS, which both have useless unchangeable user interfaces).
Okay, openSUSE isn't SLED, but it has the same relationship to it as Fedora Core has to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). It's Debian unstable (with no Debian testing stage between unstable and stable), and Novell should have warned users that it does things like including primary partitions into a LVM group when LVM was never asked for. The relationship makes Novell's commercial product suspect now. How well can it be trusted when its development branch destroys data from idiotic configuration defaults?
[Update 9/20/10: Due to the overwhelming response about backing up data in the discussion thread, this comment from Jaqui that accompanied his email submission is pertinent: "I barely got my system running and updated since the incident and wrote this for TR immediately. Now to see if my habit of burning to CD/DVD will allow me to reconstruct the data that's gone."]
Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the several blogs.