The DistRogue

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Review: openSUSE 10.3

After some assorted mishaps with some preview releases of openSUSE 10.3, it's finally stable enough for production use. And while I'm pleased with the result, I can't get rid of the feeling that the openSUSE team can do better.

OpenSUSE 10.3 brings some welcome changes. There's now a one-CD installation option, which is the biggest plus. I noted that a while back, and had trouble with configuring my wireless card because the drivers were on the non-OSS CD, while the rest of the system was on the main disk. 0.o That flaw has been fixed with the inclusion of the completely free/OSS iwlwifi drivers, making it the first distribution to use them correctly. (Fedora 7 shipped with an earlier, unstable, and terminally broken version of them.) The iwlwifi drivers go with a general theme of better hardware detection.
The install went quickly. For a change, I copied the ISO image onto my hard disk and booted into that, rather than burning a CD, and that sped up the installation a bit. The instructions are here. I still had problems with the display configuration (namely my mice), a bug that still needs to be fixed, but a little hacking in xorg.conf fixed it.
Wireless still has some problems. I entered my WEP key and watched as the network manager applet (note to openSUSE devs: nice job with that, YaST2 is a PITA for wireless configuration) tried over and over to connect to my network, failing every time. I rebooted, and that seemed to solve the problem.

YaST2 is still a top-tier package manager, even if it sucks for everything else. The search options are second to none, and the installs go rather quickly.

Performance is a perennial issue with openSUSE. It runs an unnecessarily large number of services, and that slows it down. The problem is that a lot of them are either vital, useful (SUSE firewall), or badly labeled (in which case it would be a good idea to leave them alone). GLXGears ran at about 1060FPS in KDE, and switching to FVWM didn't have much effect on that. Hmm. And i586-optimized distros are supposed to be fast...
openSUSE gave me my first look at KDE 4. for the most part, it was just a boring black background with a panel, a non-functional menu, and some desktop widgets. But it's a start. You can zoom into and out of the desktop, and the widgets show promise. Besides, this is only the second beta. It's an empty shell of a desktop right now, but it's a start.

I probably won't be using openSUSE as my main desktop. It's a good all-around distro, but it's designed to be a general-purpose distro. There's no one thing it's really good for, and the problems with performance and bugs are really putting me off.
-Much better hardware detection
-i586-optimized, so it *should* be fast
-Friendly as ever
-YaST2 means an annoyingly rigid system
-No real positives for some people
Friendliness: 4.5/5-
Still some bugs that need to be worked out, but it's still good.
Performance: 3/5- SLOW. This was a huge letdown for me.
Features: 4.5/5- KDE 4, Kickoff, network manager, YaST2...
Packaging: 5/5- As a package manager, YaST2 is still at the top of its class because of its search options.
Artwork: 2/2.5- I personally prefer the blue theme from 10.2, but the new green theme is still pretty good.
Community: 2.5/2.5- An IRC channel, a wiki, forums... Good enough for ya?
Overall: 4.3/5- A vast improvement over the last release, but there has to be something better.
I'm still looking for that "something better". I'll start with Debian.

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