Novell's OpenSUSE 11.2, which is packed with the latest and greatest of what the open-source software world has to offer, sets itself apart from Linux rivals with its focus on power users. This philosophy makes OpenSUSE more discoverable--but also more confusing--than its peers.
Novell's OpenSUSE 11.2, the latest release in a long and popular line of
Linux-based operating systems, hit Internet mirrors everywhere this week,
packed with the latest and greatest of what the open-source software world has
The distribution, which is targeted primarily at desktop users, ships with
the latest versions of the Firefox Web browser and the OpenOffice.org
productivity suite, as well as up-to-date versions of the GNOME and KDE
desktop environments. On these counts, OpenSUSE bears a strong resemblance to
the latest versions of Fedora
However, there's plenty that sets OpenSUSE apart from its chief Linux
rivals, most of which has to do with the longtime SUSE focus on catering to
power users (in the Windows sense of the word). Where Fedora and Ubuntu focus
on delivering friendly interfaces for mainstream user functions and shunting
everything else to the command line (the home of the Unix power user), OpenSUSE
enables users to click their way through a great many administrative tasks-control
panel complexity be damned.
On the plus side, this philosophy makes OpenSUSE somewhat more discoverable
than its peers. I find it easier to explore the capabilities of an application
through menus and tool tips than by squinting at config files. In fact, it was
with SUSE-circa Version 7.3-that I got started with Linux (around 2001). On the
other hand, the more-is-more approach does lead to confusion in some corners,
such as where parallel, installed-by-default software upgrade and installation
tools vie for your attention in right-click menus and system control panels.
A great example of the positives and pitfalls inherent in OpenSUSE's
power-user orientation lies in the way that OpenSUSE 11.2 exposes and
integrates community-packaged software into the distribution. The tools that
ship with Version 11.2 do a great job of tapping the ready-to-install applications
that individuals and open-source projects can create using Novell's OpenSUSE
Build Service. As a result, it's easier than ever for users to locate and
install the particular software they want, but it's easy as well to turn
reasonably supportable distributions into Frankenstein-like mashups of
potentially conflicting packages.
With that said, I think the moves that Novell and the OpenSUSE team have
made around embracing community packaging efforts are worthwhile, and serve to
maintain OpenSUSE in its place as one of the best desktop Linux distributions
As a server operating system, OpenSUSE offers the software and the
configuration tools to handle most Linux workloads, particularly those that
require up-to-date open-source components such as databases and programming
frameworks. However, OpenSUSE 11.2 sports a shrunken window for bug and
security fix support of 18 months, down from 24 months for previous versions.
OpenSUSE 11.2 comes in versions for x86 and AMD64 systems, and can be freely downloaded from
http://software.OpenSUSE.org/112/en. The download images available from this
site include a 4.7GB DVD image that contains
the entire distribution, as well as separate Live CD images that include the
GNOME and KDE desktop environments. New in
11.2 is the option to write one of these Live CD images to a USB
stick, a welcome improvement that can speed installation times.
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.