OpenSUSE 11.4: SUSE Linux Revitalized
One of my old favorite Linux distributions, openSUSE, is back and at first glance it’s looking better than ever.
It may not be as cool as Ubuntu or as cutting-edge as Fedora, but I’ve always had a soft spot for openSUSE Linux. Like MEPIS, another old favorite of mine, openSUSE just works and works well. The last couple of versions didn’t really get me excited though. They seemed more incremental than real advances. Now, though, now, I’m excited by the brand new openSUSE 11.4 release.
Why? Well, a bunch of things really. First, 11.4 uses the 2.6.37 Linux kernel. This kernel does a much better job of scaling virtual memory. That doesn’t matter much to me on my desktop, but it has mattered a lot from time to time over the years on my servers.
On top of this, openSUSE uses the KDE Plasma Desktop 4.6 desktop by default, Over the years, I’ve had my ups and down with the KDE 4.x desktop, but I’ve gotten to like KDE 4.6 If you prefer the GNOME desktop, you can also opt to use the GNOME 2.32 interface. This distro also includes the GNOME Shell, which is part of the forthcoming GNOME3 desktop, available for testing.
I have to say though that I’m not that happy about GNOME 3.0. I won’t get into that here, but for some food for thought see Aaron Seigo, a lead KDE developer, thoughts on the matter. Lest I think I’m siding with KDE over GNOME, that’s not it. Just as I used to feel that KDE was going in the wrong direction from KDE 3.x, I see trouble with where GNOME is now going with its transition from the GNOME 2.x to GNOME 3. Again, more on that latter.
OpenSUSE also boasts that they’re the first major Linux distribution to bring LibreOffice, the new open-source spin-off from OpenOffice, to the Linux desktop. You can argue about that, but there is no question that LibreOffice is the best office suite for Linux I’ve ever used.
This latest Linux from Novell and friends also brings Firefox 4 to its desktop. Here, I would have used Chrome, my favorite Web browser on any operating system, but Firefox 4 is none-too-shabby either.
I also really like openSUSE’s support for multiple virtualization stacks. OpenSUSE supports not only Xen, which Novell has done for years but it also includes a VMware Workstation/player driver, the latest VirtualBox (http://www.virtualbox.org/) and the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM).
I know virtualization doesn’t excite a lot of you, but I love being able to have multiple operating systems at my beck and call on one PC. If I need Windows for something-it happens-pop! I’ve got Windows XP up, usually in a VirtualBox VM. With generic PCs now coming with 6GBs and up of RAM and multi-core processors, I think everyone serious power user, of any operating system, not just Linux, should look into virtualization.
Last, but not least in my brief overview of openSUSE’s high-points, openSUSE now includes Tumbleweed, a rolling-release repository. This enables you to easily get latest stable versions of open-source programs. If you wan to live on the cutting edge of open-source, the popular third-party openSUSE software repository crew at Packman are also supporting for Tumbleweed. For me, Packman has always been an essential software ’store’ for SUSE Linux programs.
The bottom line is that if you want a good, stable desktop or server Linux with a well-integrated KDE interface, openSUSE demands your attention. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to tinker some more with my new openSUSE installation for a forthcoming review.
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Author: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols