The DistRogue

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Review: SUSE Linux 10.1

Oog... I don't want to talk about how badly my experience with SUSE Linux went, but I guess I have to...
SUSE was started back in 1994, as a German fork of Slackware. They've forked so much that they're almost completely incompatible since then, and undergone several name changes. What was once S.u.S.E. ("Software- und System-Entwicklung" or "Software and System Development") became S.U.S.E, SUSE, and, after the 3rd alpha of version 10.2, openSUSE. They were bought out by Novell to make SLED, their enterprise Linux desktop, which forked into an open-source version. So, from now on, "SUSE" refers to SLED, and "openSUSE" means the open-source version. I'll just call it openSUSE to avoid twisting your brain any further.
Anyways, openSUSE uses Fedora/Red Hat's "Anaconda" installer, with a bunch of tweaks to make it more customizable. One problem: you can't choose to install- or not install- individual apps, which Fedora's had since version 1. I chose to install a GNOME system. After installing from one disk, it installed GRUB (it gives you a choice between the GRUB and LILO bootloaders), rebooted, and asked for the second disk. By the time I'd inserted the third disk, it wouldn't even recognize it. Just greaaat...
I thought YaST2, openSUSE's system-management tool, would be a major plus. I was disappointed. It refused to recognize Internet-based package sources, and it still couldn't recognize any of the install CDs. At first, I thought it was openSUSE's fault. At that point, I tried installing Compiz and an NVidia driver. Compiz was on the fifth CD, which it didn't recognize, and the NVidia driver required development tools, which wouldn't install. Go figure...
openSUSE could work as a server, maybe, if you had some imagination. It has built-in SYN flood protection (which protects against hackers), a security app called AppArmor (which also protects against hackers), and a setup tool (but good luck trying to get it to work), and as a server, the fact that graphics accelerators can't install worth crud on it doesn't matter. I wiped it eventually, after I figured out that my CD drive was not broken, and that I was just trying to install Fedora Core 6 from the fifth CD. Fedora, to be honest, isn't too bad. I'm just having some trouble with my NVidia driver. It has AIGLX built in, along with brain-dead-easy Compiz controls. openSUSE, on the other hand, needs to have some major changes happen between versions 10.1 and 10.2. They don't need to add flashy effects (Novell is one of the major contributors to the Xgl project that powers Compiz), but rather, basic hardware improvements. Ubuntu gets this- hardware compatibility is supposed to be one of the major goals for the next version, 7.04, aka "Feisty Fawn".
Friendliness: 3.5/5- GUI installer + flexibility - ease of use = points for trying.
Performance: 2?/5- I don't really know without an NVidia driver.
Features: 4/5- Cool stuff (Xen, Compiz/Xgl, AppArmor).
Packaging: 2.5/5- RPM and YaST2. O... kay...
Overall: 3/5- PITA to install, worthless without some major fixes.
Fedora Core 6 is next, followed by Ubuntu 6.10. I'm done with Xubuntu, Ubuntu is better-supported. I'm having some major screw-ups on Fedora, and I'm trying to get virtualization and AIGLX to work. If I can do that, it'll be time for some more screenshots. There's always the Xen Live Demo...


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