Posted by: vwbusguy | January 7, 2009

Review: OpenSuSE 11.1

After having run into several somewhat small but bothersome problems with both my machines running Fedora 10 (various sound problems with the new pulse, a new slew of compiz problems, and bad Xorg memory leaks), I decided that since OpenSuSE offers many things I was looking for right now: RPM 4.6, 3, a decent pulseaudio that hasn’t implemented timer based scheduling, etc, that I would give it a try.

I am a fan of the gnome desktop.  I respect KDE, but don’t use it, and to be fair didn’t try the KDE version of OpenSuSE.  Since OpenSuSE ships gnome 2.24, I had assumed my UI experience would be somewhat similar.

To this, I was very wrong.  One panel isn’t a problem for me, but the Vista-esque start menu is.  The first problem is, although it’s a nice shiny GUI, I simply can’t find anything without a fight.  If it’s not on the pane that pops up for the menu you go to an Application launcher that took a little while to load and then it’s like a thumbnail interface like CCSM.  I know menus are archaic and ugly, but at least I can find what I need.

The other desktop problem is that the online help and an extraneous welcome to OpenSuSE icon are locked to your desktop.  The user cannot remove them.  The links are stored away in /usr/lib.  Not really a big deal, but not very conventional either.

The installation itself went very smoothly.  The user is given a very welcoming, visually appealing installer.  The steps are fairly smooth and straightforward.  My only complaint is that, compared to anaconda, it just seems that there is too much going on.  But outside of the busy UI, it was pretty straightforward, and anyone who has done a linux install before should be able to easily glide through it.

My biggest issue with the distribution is YaST.  If you want to update your software or add new software, you use YaST.  It is a big clunky tool, that isn’t very straightforward on the UI.  It’s performance has improved from previous versions, but it’s no where near as user friendly as PackageKit.  By the time I was able to find the basic software I wanted for my system I had about 6 repos installed – none of which allowed me to install yum.  There are ways to install yum or smart and use them, and I would encourage one to use one of those methods.

On the positive notes, SaX2 did an excellent job of setting up my display.  the artwork was very well done.  Much of the things under the hood were very similar to Fedora.  My experience reached an epic fail when I attempted to use my /home left over from my Fedora 10 install, which at that point I could no longer log into gnome.

Alas, openSuSE, you are not for me, but I still respect you and your community.  There is a good chance that if I had tried the KDE version, my UI experiences may have been very different.  But I’ll leave that to the KDE-fans.



  1. FYI, PA’s timer-based scheduling can be disabled:

    As for the weird fancy menu, KDE upstream liked the KDE equivalent (Kickoff, also developed by Novell/SUSE) so much they made it the default menu for everyone. (It is not exactly the same though. I haven’t tried their GNOME one, only Kickoff (which I hated), some people say Kickoff is better.) But at least they (KDE upstream) made it easy to disable it (right-click, “Switch to Classic menu style”), if there’s no easy way to get rid of the fancy menu in openSUSE’s GNOME, that sucks indeed.

  2. You could have used zypper, the CLI for package management. As for the menus, perhaps you are just too used to the traditional GNOME menus. Yast is a beast, but there are many things I can do via the cmd line nowadays that I don’t need to access Yast that often.
    OpenSUSE != Fedora and hence there will be differences. I use Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSUSE and generally have no issues with them.

    • I guess re-reading my review there are a few things I regretfully didn’t do proportionally. I still respect and like a lot of things going on with SuSE 11.1. Unfortunately it eventually broke down to a rant about the gnome UI. I will have to play around with zypper more. I was using smart. I used smart in Fedora up until Fedora 9 when yum saw major improvements.

      SuSE would be a very solid distribution to those who have never used Linux before, but only Windows, but is still a good distro for an experienced linux user as well.

  3. In what way is openSUSE’s package manager a ‘big clunky tool’? Actually it looks quite similar to synaptic or smart.

  4. I find almost all these blog mini-‘reviews’ generally boil down to the same thing: whingeing about de interface details and update/package management, which the erstwhile ‘reviewer’ is unfamiliar with.

    They aren’t worth the time to read, let alone write.

    One thing that is worth trying is the KDE4.2 beta2 live cd version of suse 11.1. This puts a very different spin indeed on the usability of this all-new de.

    • If all the blog/mini reviews seem to point at your package manager, maybe I’m not the only one who feels the UI is not very straightforward?

  5. The real weak point of opensuse (has been for at least two years), and it’s nearly a show-stopper, is the Installer partitioner and bootloader installer. Talk about confusing, and very risky.

    In all other respects it is at least equal, and in many cases superior to other current distros (including OSX and XP. Vista? Don’t go there…)

  6. […] new disappointment: Alas, openSuSE, you are not for me, but I still respect you and your […]

  7. to David Smith:
    I agree with you: the partitioner is messy!
    I wanted to install suse so that to use ntldr to boot the pc, as I have usually done with other distros, and I found it confusing at the point that (my fault, obviously) I erroneusly installed GRUB in the MBR. Trying to fix it up, I made some mess and, since no os could boot again, I decided to reinstall suse after having fixed the mbr through windows. This time a googled to be sure what to do, and even if I installed grub in the root partition the pc could not boot!!
    I fixed the MBR again, and after giving instructions to the ntldr to boot suse from its root partition everything worked. This confirms that grub was installed correctly where I wanted: so, why thrashing the MBR?!?

    Not so straightforward I dare say…..


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