openSUSE 12.2 has been released and as a new user of openSUSE (along with Kubuntu 12.10) I was looking forward to this release due to many reasons. I am not a developer or a system admin so my requirements with an OS is similar to the requirements of an average user. In this review I am looking at openSUSE from a casual PC user's point of view.
Fast & Furious
One thing that I noticed the moment I tried 12.2 was speed. openSUSE 12.2 is really fast. The speed can be noticed in every aspect of openSUSE whether it's boot time, installation of an app or starting an app. I was curious was was behind this speed, even Jos Poorltvies, openSUSE community manager, initially thought “there had been improvements on zypper but it turned out the changes to glibc and GCC together created such a speedup it's very noticeable... So those speed improvements are serious."
Poortvliet told me, "From the kernel to the desktop, openSUSE 12.2 brings you speed-ups. Linux 3.4 has a faster storage layer to prevent blocking during large transfers. glibc 2.15, the basic library, improves the performance of many functions, especially on 64 bit systems. Systemd 44 enables a faster system boot and KDE 4.8.4 builds on Qt 4.8.1 to make the desktop more fluid and responsive.”
Latest, Greatest & Stable
I am a multi-booter who switched between distros and installing openSUSE would take extra step where I had to update the grub from Ubuntu as openSUSE could not detect Grub2 of Ubuntu. So when openSUSE announced the inclusion of Grub2, after much debate, I was revealed. The GRUB2 bootloader is now the default with support for upcoming hardware (including support for the pain-in-the-neck UEFI secure boot). Now, I won't have to worry about openSUSE not seeing Ubuntu and the rest in its boot menu.
With this release openSUSE has also adopted the revised and simplified the UNIX filesystem hierarchy where binaries are now being located under /usr/bin. It is using the latest Plymouth 0.8.6.1 which makes boot and shutdown flicker-free transitions and attractive animations – you will notice animated wallpaper during boot. Very polished.
Another notable improvement is the use of mature btrfs. openSUSE brings btrfs filesystem with error handling, better openSUSE integration and recovery tools.
OpenSUSE is also taking advantage of XOrg 1.12 which brings support for multitouch input devices, and multi-seat deployments.
In my opinion and experience openSUSE offers one of the best KDE integration (their GNOME implementation is also flawless) besides KDE-centric distos like Chakra. So I was looking at the KDE edition first (my GNOME review will follow).
As you know I moved to KDE recently (switched to GNOME for a while but then returned) and have become a huge fan of this popular and the oldest Desktop Environment which has evolved into a Software Compilation which offers a lot of applications such a Calligra, Krita, digiKam, K3B and much more. So for a KDE user, openSUSE is the perfect distro.
openSUSE offers an amazing KDE integration, everything seems in the right place. The combo of Yast with KDE's System Settings (Configure Desktop) puts the control of entire PC in your hands.
Unfortunately, KDE 4.9 is missing from this release so there is not much I can talk about the default KDE. A KDE user may wonder what's the point of packaging an older version of KDE in 12.2? There is a genuine reason as discussed on this thread, Opensuse 12.2 and KDE SC 4.9 had very similar release dates, which will make integrating the latter into the former problematic.
However you can easily upgrade 12.2 to KDE 49 by adding this repo.
Once I installed KDE SC 4.9 it was no more the same system, so what I am running is openSUSE with KDE 4.9. However, the speed enhancements that I talked about were before KDE 4.9 installation and I am expecting even better experience with KDE SC 4.9.
KDE is extremely polished and mature despite the fact that it is purely community driven project when compared with Unity or Gnome 3 Shell.
Dolphin: Love Hate Relationship
Ihave love hate relationship with this extremely powerful and pleasant to use file manager. The polish, animations and configurations options makes it an enjoyable experience to work in Dolphin. I love Dolphin, however there are few things that I would like to be changed.
I also noticed the same issues with Dolphin has been my biggest complaint -- mounting my DSLR camera. I don't know why Dolphin doesn't handle such devices the way Nautilus, Thunar, Marlin or any other file manager handles. The device doesn't appear in the left panel which makes it easier for a use to use the devices with greater ease. I will request the developers to do something about it.
Third Party Apps
It's a myth that installing apps is a challenge for a GNU/Linux user. Whether you use Ubuntu, Fedora, Manjaro or openSUSE installing applications is a breeze under GNU/Linux. Once you add the needed repos (which can't be enabled by default due to stupid licensing or patent issues) installing apps extremely easy wit Yast Software Manager/Install Remove application tool. Then Zypper is only a 'terminal' away.
OpenSUSE comes with a lot of useful apps pre-installed even on the CD version. Some of the apps that I use were pre-installed such as Firefox, LibreOffice and GIMP were pre-installed. , Kmail and once I enabled all the needed repos the first thing that I did was installing Dropbox (and that's another reason I can't use Ubuntu One as it is not available on other GNU/Linux distributions. I don't know what Canonical is not offering U1 to other Linux distributions. The paid service will only get them more users.) I installed Dropbox, Thunderbird, Liferea, Darktable, Handbrake and I was all set to work.
OpenSUSE has a great online resource where you can search the needed apps and install with one click. In case you are looking for the latest packages you can easily search and install the unstable packages by addition 3rd party repos just like Ubuntu's PPA.
Hardware support is no more an issue for GNU/Linux based distributions thanks to the great work done by Greg KH. My printers, scanners, wifi card, GPU – everything was detected and worked as expected. There is an interesting experience with my iBall Tablet which stopped working under Ubuntu after Martin Owen quit maintaining the wizardpen project. OpenSUSE came to my rescue where Ubuntu failed. Once I installed wacom-kmp-desktop and kernel-desktop my tablet was brought back to life.
However, not everything is rosy about openSUSE. I was not able to get RecordMyDesktop or Istanbul to work. The recorded videos were running at faster rate that's one of the reason I could not create a video review of openSUSE 12.2. I am a heavy Arista user but, once again getting it to work can be a bit of a challenge, not that it is impossible.
Is It For You?
One question that I often come across is can I use this distro? Honestly speaking today one can use any of those top distros which are aimed at easy use. There are some distros like Arch or Gentoo which are hard to install or use but whether you talk about Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Kubuntu, Fedora or openSUSE -- all these distros can be used with greater ease.
What you can do under Ubuntu can be easily done with any of these distros. That said, there can be areas where one distro (depending on its developer base) can do one thing better than the other one. So, there is nothing such as which disto is the best distro. I am a multi-booter and use which ever distro works for me.
So, I will steer clear of any such religious debate and suggest you to try every possible distro and settle down with the one that works for you or, like me, keep 2-3 ditros and switch once in a while ;-)
On a personal note I am very much impressed with openSUSE for all the reasons mentioned above and use it most of the time. So, irrespective of which distro you use, you must give openSUSE 12.2 a try.