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, OpenOffice.org 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.