By Rick Thompson

Users familiar with SuSE’s massive software catalog and advanced features will find it no surprise that version 7.2 of SuSE Linux Professional offers yet another significant upgrade to an already comprehensive product. And users new to SuSE should appreciate the ease and convenience that SuSE brings to Linux. Incorporating the latest Linux technologies—including the 2.4.4 kernel and Samba 2.2—along with improvements to installation, security, and multimedia, SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional is a high-performance distribution suited for almost any enterprise environment.

Enhanced installation
The installation procedure for SuSE 7.2 is similar to that of version 7.1, with excellent hardware detection and ease of use, but SuSE has refined the process in several ways. SuSE’s YaST2 installation (see Figure A) and administration tool probes your system prior to installation to verify that you have adequate RAM and disk space for a minimum installation.

Figure A
SuSE 7.2 features the excellent YaST2 graphical installation utility.

YaST2 lets you perform a fresh installation or update an existing SuSE system. You can select one of five preset installation profiles: minimal, graphical, full install, and so on. Or you can select packages yourself, either individually or in logical groupings such as development tools, server packages, multimedia applications, and so on.

New and improved
By default, SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional installs the 2.4.4 kernel, which supports USB, Pentium 4 processors, the increasingly popular Reiser File System (RFS), RAID devices, and up to 64 GB of RAM. It also installs the latest version of Samba (2.2), which supports Microsoft’s Distributed File System (DFS), Windows 2000 workstations living in Samba domains, and NT server manager administration.

Furthermore, SuSE is the first company to have its Linux operating system validated against Oracle’s 9i Database. These features, along with SuSE’s excellent Automatic Linux Installation and Configuration Environment (ALICE) tool, make SuSE Linux remarkably easy to implement within heterogeneous networks.

Version 7.2 also adds support for loopback-mounted crypto file systems. This option lets you store data in an encrypted format that requires authentication when mounting the file system. Another handy addition to security is SuSE’s A Mail Virus Scanner (AMaViS), which works with almost any common mail server to filter out nasty viruses such as Kournikova. And SuSE’s YaST Online Update (YOU) keeps system security current by grabbing security updates automatically from the SuSE server.

Marvelous multimedia
SuSE 7.2 features Xfree86 4.0.3, which offers a modular architecture, speedier performance, and support for antialiased TrueType fonts. SuSE’s SaX2 tool provides a graphical interface for configuring XFree86. In addition, SuSE 7.2 includes KDE 2.1.2 (see Figure B) and the updated version of its Konqueror Web browser. Konqueror is now more versatile thanks to reactivate technology, which enables it to embed ActiveX controls such as Macromedia Shockwave and Flash, in addition to common Web formats such as CSS-2, Java, and SSL.

Figure B
SuSE 7.2 ships with KDE 2.1.2 and a number of graphical configuration tools.

SuSE 7.2 Pro features a large number of multimedia packages. Video and voice over IP (VoIP) are supported via applications such as ohphone. Tools such as Broadcast2000, x2divx, and xawtx let you create, edit, and play video in various formats. Sound support is also especially strong in SuSE 7.2 Pro. SuSE is one of the only distributions that supports Yamaha sound cards, and version 7.2 exhibits a new focus on audio with an impressive selection of tools, including MP3 players, streaming MP3 servers (such as Icecast), audio sequencers, real-time sound synthesizers, and audio production tools. The broad selection of tools found in SuSE 7.2 Pro makes it possible to create and interact with professional multimedia presentations on the Linux platform.

Documentation and support
Tech support for SuSE remains largely unchanged. Registration brings 90 days of installation support via phone, fax, or e-mail. The boxed edition of SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional comes with five excellent manuals, including networking and reference manuals not included with SuSE Linux 7.2 Personal. For new users, these manuals alone are worth the price of the boxed product, since they provide well-organized, easy-to-understand information on many relevant topics. However, the printed manuals generally stick to the basics; advanced users may want to consult the expansive SuSE Linux Knowledge Portal.

Bottom line
SuSE Linux has established itself as a leader in advanced open source solutions with support for the newest standards and a collection of more than 2,000 applications. SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional’s refinements to convenience and ease of use make this distribution highly accessible to new users, and its extensive multimedia features should attract a variety of creative professionals.

Users who need a fast, direct approach to implementing single-function servers may find SuSE Linux’s plethora of bundled apps too cumbersome and may be better served by a more narrowly focused product. However, with its huge number of included packages, SuSE 7.2 Pro can be tuned for nearly any task from networking to development and provides an excellent all-around solution for enterprise environments. SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional lists for $69.95 but is widely available for less.

What has your past experience with SuSE been?

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