openSUSE 12.3: Getting better and better [Review]

UEFI Secure boot support

Richard Stallman likes to call it restricted boot. openSUSE teams have been following the development of secure boot support in Linux closely and were also working on their own solution to this problem.

12.3 comes with support for secure boot, but if you have been monitoring the recent development, no once can be rest assured of 100% success. So, while openSUSE supports the UEFI secure boot there are some issues (must have read about the bricked Samsung laptops), and there are some reported issues with Sony laptops as well. So, if you are looking for secure boot do keep an eye on this page.

KDE 4.10 in openSUSE

openSUSE comes with KDE 4.10 which is one of the best and fastest DEs I have ever seen. It’s polished, matured and extremely powerful. OpenSUSE offers great KDE integration out of the box – so I call it one of the best KDE experiences.

One of the biggest advantages of KDE over other desktop environments is that it’s extremely simple and elegant, at the same time it’s extremely customizable. I have tried every other DE and I love KDE for the simple reason that to me a computer is still a computer and not a calculator when I can do only certain things.

Some DE’s dumb it down so much that it doesn’t remain a computer anymore and works more or less like an ATM machine. I am not talking about any particular DE but in general a PC should act like a PC.

KDE maintains an amazing balance between simplicity and customization. The first layer of KDE is extremely elegant and simple but if you want to access its powerful features they are only one click away. So, KDE avoids all the compromise and offers both simplicity yet customization in a very smart manner.

Non-free drivers and software

While it may not make Richard Stallman happy, it is very easy to install non-free drivers in openSUSE. First of all you may not even need them as open source drivers which openSUSE installs by default work just fine. I never had issues installing Nvidia drivers on my two main systems using openSUSE (it’s very well documented here and installation is only one click away).

In addition to drivers, it’s extremely easy to install 3rd party non-free applications in openSUSE (not that I am huge fan of non-free technologies and will always recommend their open source counterparts) if you want. Just go to software.opensuse.com and search for the desired application, in this case it’s dropbox (though I will recommend using open source ownCloud) . Once Dropbox shows up in the search results, click on the version of openSUSE you are running (12.3 in this case) and then hit the 1 click install button.

Stuck with old packages on new openSUSE?

While openSUSE tries to include the latest and greatest packages in the new releases, “a few high profile applications and libraries which didn’t make it into openSUSE 12.3 include Qt 5, LibreOffice and of course the new 3.8 kernel.” There are various reasons why they could not make into the distribution (one reason is that these were not stable when openSUSE 12.3 entered the feature freeze stage) but you are not stuck with them. It’s extremely easy to upgrade to, or install, the newest version of applications. Just visit the software.opensuse.org and search for the desired application.

Still LibreOffice 3.6?

12.3 comes with Libreoffice 3.6 for obvious and above mentioned reason. It may surprise many as openSUSE team is the lead contributor to the open source office suite. But you can easily upgrade it to 4.x. Check out the video below.

Why not Linux 3.8?

openSUSE 12.3 comes with Linux 3.7 which is stakeholder and well tested, but why not 3.8? The reason is when openSUSE entered the feature freeze phase, the 3.8 was still in release candidate stage and had some issues to resolve so it was not safe to ship an untested kernel. If you do want to use 3.8 you can use the following command:

zypper ar http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/Kernel:/stable/standard Kernel:stable
zypper in –from Kernel:stable kernel-desktop

Make sure to read this page before attempting this and also how to keep your old kernel installed just in case…

Dude where is Qt5?

Qt5 has been the talk of the town lately as almost _everyone_ is moving to Qt. If you are a developer and want to use Qt5 you can easily grab it from this page. Jos Poortvliet, the openSUSE community manager, has explained in detail how you can get Qt5 and other latest libraries from the Open Build Service.

Areas of improvements

No OS is perfect whether it’s $200 Windows 8 or free and open source openSUSE. Despite the great polish, theme and art-work there are some areas which demand some cosmetic enhancement. Though it seems to do more with GTK vs Qt as you can see apps like LibreOffice, Dropbox and other don’t look as impressive as they should, or as they do under Gnome.


LibreOffice doesn’t look that elegant in KDE


LibreOffice looks polished under Gnome

Considering the amazing integration openSUSE offers with KDE, I think they can look into these areas as well. [ How to make LibreOffice look good in KDE.]

Another minor annoyance is that when you install any app using Yast Software manager it quits after performing that task so if I wanted to do more I will have to re-open it. There should be an option to keep it open after the task has been performed.

Another serious issue that I faced with openSUSE is that some of the applications that I often user are broken under openSUSE, which include Arista or RecordMyDesktop. Outside these two issues I have not faced any problem with openSUSE. I may go on to say that I have not seen a single crash report while running KDE under openSUSE.

Developers, developers, developers…

openSUSE is well suited for developers as it has an amazing Open Build Service which allows you to compile your packages for other distributions as well. In fact OBS is used by many open source projects.

According to site, “The Open Build Service (OBS) is a generic system to build and distribute binary packages from sources in an automatic, consistent and reproducible way. You can release packages as well as updates, add-ons, appliances and entire distributions for a wide range of operating systems and hardware architectures.”

It makes life easier for your users as “can always download the latest version of your software as binary packages for their operating system. They use the package management tools they are familiar with and will get your software just like they get software from their OS supplier. They don’t have to know about tarballs, make install, package formats or other stuff from the 90’s. Once they are connected to your repository, you can serve them with maintenance or security updates and even add-ons for your software. The OBS makes it a breeze for you, to make it super easy for them to enjoy your software!”

And then you also have SUSE Studio which allows you to create your own SUSE distribution from the web-browser in a few clicks. It could be of great use if you want an OS which has all the packages or applications that you need for your clients or users. Just build it from SUSE Studio and download the ISO.

Conclusion

openSUSE remains a true GNU/Linux distribution which offers a base to use your favourite applications and packages from the upstream projects – when you use Gnome or KDE or Xfce in openSUSE, you are using what the developers of those projects created without anything being excessively patched or punctured by openSUSE teams. openSUSE is more or less like a bridge between you and those developers.

Yes openSUSE does have some of their own applications which enable you to manage your PC in a better fashion and Yast is one such tool. It’s more like the command module of your space ship which allows you to control almost every aspect of your PC from one place.

Given all these advantages and adherence to free software ethos, I highly recommend openSUSE. No, I don’t want you to switch from your current distribution (use what works for you that’s what it’s all about), but do give it a try and you may find something you have been missing all this time.

How would you know what you missed unless you see it for yourself?

About Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

134 thoughts on “openSUSE 12.3: Getting better and better [Review]

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