Saturday, March 23, 2013

Opensuse 12.3 Review

Opensuse has recently released its newest version in its line of Linux operating systems. I have had a few run-ins with Suse in the past at much earlier release dates. 12.3 has gotten a lot of publicity for how well put together it is, which is one reason I was left so gravely disappointed after using it. In this review I am going to try to look at the good of Opensuse, since some of the problems I experienced only apply to those with certain hardware conditions, but there is also some bad to sift through.

The Desktop
One nice thing about OpenSuse is the KDE setup it comes with by default. They've put a lot of effort into making both the animations that are enabled and the themes that are applied visually pleasing (if you happen to like green). Although it is good looking, it is not as functional as you may want it to be. It ships with KDE 4.9, but that can be updated immediately by switching to Tumbleweed (the rolling release system for Opensuse). Similar effort is applied to the Gnome Opensuse flavor, but not to the XFCE, which was disappointing. Their XFCE .iso comes with some bland defaults with light branding. It's really nothing to right home about.

The Applications
The default applications are more-or-less standard. Libreoffice, your DE tools, Firefox, Vim (I was happy to see that) etc. Gimp is not included. One application that always gets coverage in Opensuse reviews is YaST (Yet Another System Tool). It truly is an amazing utility, with which you can graphically perform tasks that on any other distribution you would be doing by hand. Graphically changing hostnames, installing packages, changing kernel parameters, changing GRUB around, setting up a LDAP / Mail server, etc. It can all be done through YaST.

The Not-so-good
So far it is sounding like a very good distro, no? Well, there is one minor issue that you will run into. To enable networking, you have to select a check mark in the NetworkManager applet for whatever DE you're using. After it's selected you must reboot to start using networking. It's a minor annoyance for some, but it grows into bigger problems for others.

I have a hardware condition that disallows proper shutdown. Thanks to this networking problem I have absolutely no internet access whatsoever. This is an incredibly rare case, but it's bound to effect others out there. And even if it never effects your computer to this extent, it WILL happen to you.

On first run, packagekit will persistently run, causing you to either have to kill it or reboot. This has something to do with it checking for updates and crashing.

Would I use this distribution?
I really wanted to. I downloaded the .iso to move from Sabayon 11 to something a bit more Enterprise, but ran into some bugs that stopped me in my tracks. It is destined to become Ubuntu fodder.

Who would use this distribution?
Don't get this review wrong. Opensuse is one of the best Operating Systems for enterprise workstations and home desktops. It is an Operating System crafted specifically for desktop and laptop use, none of this touch-friendly nonsense that some companies have started introducing. If you are fine with some rough corners, use it. It is the best default KDE experience I have ever seen, even if it is an earlier version. I just think that they should have polished the distribution a tad bit more before releasing it.