Novell's OpenSUSE 11.1 hit the Web late last year packed with desktop-friendly features, an impressive strategy for tapping community involvement, and more than a few rough spots. Novell is hoping those new features will help OpenSUSE against the likes of Red Hat Fedora and Ubuntu from Canonical.
The world of Linux and open-source operating systems is populated with what
seems like an absurd number of competing options, with new ones popping up all
the time. And yet, owing to the depth of their corporate and community support,
a few particular Linux distributions command the bulk of our attention.
One such distribution, Novell's OpenSUSE, reached its 11.1 release late last
year, packed with the (at times, overreaching) desktop feature ambition on
which the SUSE name was built, but also enhanced with the sort of
community-embracing capabilities that the distribution will require to hang on
to its prominence.
In particular, OpenSUSE 11.1 is the first release to ship since Novell's
OpenSUSE Build Service hit Version 1.0. The Build Service enables users to
create, compile and host software packages for OpenSUSE, as well as for several
other Linux distributions, such as SUSE
Linux Enterprise, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora, and Ubuntu.
As for the distribution itself, OpenSUSE 11.1 ships with a slate of
freshened open-source components, including Version 184.108.40.206 of the Linux
kernel, the Firefox 3 Web browser, the OpenOffice.org 3 productivity suite and
the GNOME 2.24.1 desktop environment. OpenSUSE 11.1 also ships with KDE
4.1.3 and KDE 3.5.10, but I stuck to GNOME
for my testing.
As in previous SUSE releases, OpenSUSE 11.1 seems to err on the side of
complexity (or bloat, depending on your point of view) when it comes to packing
in its desktop-focused features. For instance, my OpenSUSE installation gave me
more configuration options for setting up my display settings than I'm
accustomed to seeing from Red Hat or Ubuntu releases, but I had to use a
combination of two separate, partially overlapping display settings tools to
arrive at my desired setup.
In any case, OpenSUSE 11.1 is an excellent general-purpose Linux
distribution that's more focused on providing a friendly end-user experience
than is the more leading-edge oriented Fedora. Although I still prefer the
complete community support, software availability and system administration
package that Ubuntu Linux offers, OpenSUSE 11.1 is a very compelling desktop
option in its own right, and certainly worthy of consideration.
OpenSUSE 11.1 comes in versions for x86, AMD64
and PowerPC systems, and can be freely downloaded here. What's more, the x86 and AMD64
flavors of the distribution are also available in a $60 boxed retail version
that comes with 90-day installation support, physical media and a printed
"Getting Started" guide.
I tested the x86 version of OpenSUSE 11.1 on a Lenovo ThinkPad T60 and on a
virtual machine running under Sun Microsystems' VirtualBox 2.0 desktop
virtualization application. The distribution supported my hardware without
issue, including suspend-to-disk (hibernate) and suspend-to-RAM
power management scenarios.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.