I spend much of my time here on Ghacks using and talking about Ubuntu. So much so one would think it's the only game in town. Well, it's not and I am going to spend a bit of time focusing on different distributions. The first distribution I am going to focus on is OpenSuSE. OpenSuSE is similar to what Fedora is to Red Hat Linux. In other words it's a sort of sand box for developers and users to make sure the enterprise level product (SuSE Linux) is right. And, like Fedora, OpenSuSE is a free edition. It costs nothing to download and use this distribution.
OpenSuSE 11.2 has a number of nice features and update, although you may find some of the included applications a bit behind. For example, the included GNOME in 11.2 is 2.28, whereas Ubuntu 10.04 released with GNOME 2.3. Of course OpenSuSE is due for an update itself. 11.2 was released in November 2009. The good news? 11.3 is due to be released in July, which is one of the reasons I wanted to focus on OpenSuSE first - to get everyone excited about this distribution in time for its newest release.
In this article I am going to highlight some of the things that make OpenSuSE unique and why you should give it a try.
One of the coolest aspects of OpenSuSE is the Build Service. With this service you can build your own, unique distribution based on OpenSuSE. I've done this and it works really well. I will warn you, it does take some time and you will find yourself obsessing over the smallest detail. Why? Because you can. You can decide what packages are included, you can even set the backgrounds for boot up, splash screen, and desktop wallpaper. This service alone is worth the price of admission.
Yet Another Setup Tool is the control center for OpenSuSE. YaST has been around for a long, long time and with good reason - it's one of the finest control centers you will find in an operating system. When you open YaST (see Figure 1) you will notice it is laid out in a two-pane layout with the left pane being categories and the right pane being category entries. You will not find a distribution with a more robust control center than YaST. I always look at YaST like the Webmin for the desktop. The 11.2 YaST even includes a system backup tool and a restoration tool. I will discuss these two tools in later articles. In some cases you will find entries in YaST that do not effect your installation. For example, the YaST I am using includes a TV card entry. I do not have a TV card. You get the idea.
A pseudo welcome screen
Take a look at Figure 1. In the only KDE plasmoid on the desktop OpenSuSE includes a link for both the OpenSuSE website as well as online help. This is as close to a "welcome screen" as you will see in a Linux distribution. I have been harping on this topic for a while now (and I will until something happens). Linux distributions need a "welcome screen" similar to what Windows offers upon first boot. This is just something that will point new users to an introduction to Linux, to their distribution, and to help. For users that don't need it, they can just uncheck a box and it won't show up again. But for new users, this is a must-have. OpenSuSE at least is smart enough to add two of these items in a KDE 4 plasmoid. Smart thinking.
Who should use OpenSuSE?
OpenSuSE is a solid Linux distribution that should be used by anyone who longs for a rock solid desktop distribution but wants to be able to tinker as much and as often as they like. Because of this, OpenSuSE opens itself up to a wide range of users - from new users to seasoned veterans. And with that build service - anyone can enjoy their very own special flavor of OpenSuSE. If you have been using Windows for a long, long time and you think it's time to migrate to Linux, download the KDE flavor of OpenSuSE. You will feel at home enough with the desktop (especially Vista/7 users) that the Land of Linux won't seem so foreign. And if you think of YaST as the Control Panel - you're good to go.
Now let's begin a little journey with OpenSuSE and discover some of it's pieces and parts.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.