OpenSUSE 11.4 is a modest new release in the line of community-oriented, Linux-based operating systems from Novell and the openSUSE community, marked by a raft of newly updated open-source applications and components.
OpenSUSE 11.4 is a modest new release in the line of community-oriented
Linux-based operating systems from Novell and the openSUSE community, marked by
a raft of newly updated open-source applications and components.
As with previous openSUSE releases, this distribution can serve in roles
ranging from desktop to server. However, where openSUSE (and its SUSE Linux
predecessor) once stood tall among its Linux rivals, I'd sooner recommend
Ubuntu or one of the Red Hat-based distributions for most client-to-server
From a desktop perspective, the top two
openSUSE 11.4 highlights-its
inclusion of the Firefox 4 Web browser and LibreOffice productivity suite-are equally accessible on any other Linux
distribution. For server roles, openSUSE's short, 18-month support period is
limiting, given the 5- to 10-year terms available from Ubuntu LTS or from
rebranded Red Hat distributions.
With that said, what openSUSE lacks within the release itself, it helps
make up for in the networked services that Novell has assembled around it, and
the openSUSE project has embarked on a pair of potentially compelling new
branches of the distribution.
On the services front, Novell's SUSE Studio makes it easy to create
openSUSE (or SUSE Linux Enterprise) based machine images through a Web-based
tool. Along similar lines, Novell's openSUSE Build Service offers individuals
and organizations a means of building and hosting software packages tailored
for openSUSE distributions.
The Build Service, which the openSUSE project taps to build the
distribution itself, has also been turned toward launching a new openSUSE
branch, codenamed Tumbleweed, which will provide rolling upgrades to openSUSE
Most popular distributions include a rolling development branch, such as
Red Hat's Rawhide, Debian's Sid, or openSUSE's own Factory. Unlike these
under-development releases, Tumbleweed will include the latest versions of
pacakges considered to be stable. I'll be interested to see how well the
project manages to juggle this rolling update scheme moving forward, but the
offer of a reasonably stable, yet always up-to-date distribution should prove
attractive to certain users.
Potentially much more compelling than Tumbleweed--and definitely much
more challenging--is Project Evergreen, an attempt to extend the supported life
of openSUSE releases beyond the standard 18 months. Evergreen bears a strong
resemblance to the ill-fated Fedora Legacy project, which attempted the same
feat for no-longer-supported Red Hat Linux and Fedora releases from around 2004
Project Evergreen faces an uphill battle, but the project has the
benefit of much better package building tools than were available to the Fedora
Legacy project, so given enough interest and participation from the openSUSE
community and, ideally, from Novell as well, Evergreen could significantly
improve the case for openSUSE.
My tests of openSUSE 11.4 got off to a rocky start when, after
downloading and verifying the integrity of both the GNOME and KDE desktop versions of openSUSE LiveCD media,
I was unable to boot the release from a USB stick I created as directed by the documentation
on the project's Website. A visit to Novell's bug tracker turned up a handful
of reports on the issue: http://goo.gl/wBWBe. In my experience, installing from
USB media is faster, and USB drives are reusable, so this is the route I
I instead burned the install image onto a
blank CD and installed the release on a dual-core Dell notebook with
3GB of RAM. I also tested a trio of 11.4 instances-one KDE, one GNOME
and one headless server-that I created in OVF format using SUSE
Studio and deployed on a VMware vSphere host in our lab.
With a test machine up and running on the
GNOME desktop, I hit a second significant usability snag-that of poor font rendering, particularly in
the Firefox Web browser. In my time covering Linux, I've clocked many hours
wrestling with font and other graphical issues, but for some time now, those
issues have been resolved in most other Linux flavors I encounter.
I found no shortage of how-tos and tips for
improving font appearance on various openSUSE versions-not surprisingly, this advice changes from
release to release, as the underlying components change. However, I don't see
the point in fiddling with fonts on a particular distribution when this issue
has been resolved in others.
I upgraded one of my machines to the
project's new Tumbleweed branch, which, as promised, contained newer versions
of a handful of packages-for
instance, version 2.6.38 of the Linux kernel, compared to the 11.4 default
2.6.37, and LibreOffice 3.3.2, compared to 3.3.1. I expect to see more packages
appear in Tumbleweed as we move farther from the release date of 11.4. A
significant test for Tumbleweed will come when the major version 3 update to
the GNOME desktop environment goes stable, most likely several months before
the next full openSUSE release.
Elsewhere on the versioning and upgrades front, SUSE Studio now includes
an option for upgrading instances built on an older version of openSUSE to the
current release. With a click, I upgraded one of my 11.1-based appliances to
11.4, for instance.
OpenSUSE 11.4 is available in versions for x86 and AMD64 systems and can be freely downloaded from
http://software.opensuse.org/114/en. The download images available from this
site include a 4.7GB DVD
image that contains the entire distribution, separate Live CD images that
include the GNOME and KDE
desktop environments, and slim network-based installer images. OpenSUSE 11.4 is
also available in a boxed, physical media version that comes with printed
documentation and 90 days of phone-based installation support for $71.50.
As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. Jason's coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at email@example.com.