Feature High (and Low) Lights
One of the running themes of my OpenSUSE 11.1 testing involved stumbling across thoughtful, desktop-friendly features that were a bit rough in their implementation, or didn't quite work the way I'd expected.
For instance, I noticed that OpenSUSE's version of the standard GNOME System Monitor contained two more tabs than I'm accustomed to seeing in other GNOME-based distributions: a tab labeled "Hardware" and a tab labeled "ThinkPad." The hardware tab included handy information about my system, such as my processor and graphics adapter models, alongside extraneous information, such as entries for device:BIOS, type:BIOS or device:Generic Monitor, type:Monitor.
The ThinkPad tab included additional information, such as temperature readings for my CPU, GPU and battery. The ThinkPad also reported my system's docking station status, but reported it incorrectly. Meanwhile, a dock/undock applet that sat on my system's task bar did correctly sense my ThinkPad's docking station status.
Elsewhere, I received an error when I set out to print a document using a networked printer in our office that typically works without incident. The error was the result, I believe, of a Hewlett-Packard driver package that's typically installed by default on Ubuntu or Fedora. However, the snag gave me the opportunity to try out OpenSUSE's printer diagnose tool, which did lead me to the source of my print troubles.
On the topic of typically installed packages, I was surprised to find that the "zip" package required to create *.zip archives was not installed by default on my OpenSUSE instance. However, that package was simple enough to install on my own, either from the command line or with the system's graphical package installer.
I appreciated the option of setting my OpenSUSE installation to fetch and apply updates automatically, without prompts for my credentials, as Ubuntu does. But I was occasionally met by runaway system notifications that scrolled up my display and refused to obey my "Do not show this again" button presses.
The Microsoft Angle
Novell is (in)famous for its interoperability and intellectual property agreements with Microsoft. I must say that I haven't found OpenSUSE to be significantly more compatible with Microsoft products than are rival Linux distributions.
However, one significant example of openness to Microsoft products and technologies within Novell and the OpenSUSE project is that of Mono, the open-source implementation of Microsoft's .NET Framework.
Software availability continues to be an obstacle to desktop Linux in general, and Mono holds promise for improving the state of cross-platform support for Windows and Linux applications. For instance, I was able to check out Silverlight-based content on a handful of Web pages through Moonlight, a Linux-friendly version of the Silverlight plug-in based on Mono.
eWEEK Labs Executive Editor Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.