Monday, December 22, 2008

Some thoughts on OpenSUSE 11.1 GNOME edition

A couple of posts back I was ranting about OpenSUSE 11.1 KDE edition. Well, I refuse to think that OpenSUSE is all that bad. I was using SUSE exclusively before it became "Open" and bought the 10.0 and SLED 10 box sets. Yeah, I was a real SUSE fanboy then.

After that I sort off drifted towards MEPIS (cool, but solely Anglo-Saxon; to enable CJK font rendering on files/dir was an exercise in futility) and then back to SUSE and then finally to Ubuntu, while flirting with Fedora all these while.

Yeah, I am what some would call a distro whore. I get a kick with installing and playing with the newest distros; to stay sane I loosely limit myself to xbuntus, OpenSUSE, Fedora and an occasion Debian-derived work.

Installation and Desktop
Well, pretty, very pretty and slick. Went on without a problem and surprise oh surprise, this GNOME edition detected my lappy's Intel 915 resolution correctly; compared to the KDE edition when I needed to reconfigure the setting AFTER the installation is over and needed to use SAX2. I smell a conspiracy here....

The cool thing I noticed in KDE edition was that, right after I logged in from KDM, I get this nice splash screen and it slowly fades into the desktop. Really cool. For the GNOME edition, it was the normal, GDM -> Splash Screen -> Blank for a couple or so seconds -> Desktop. Nothing fancy but at least I know it works.

The KDE edition was also quite finicky with most display adapters, i.e. I also tried on this workstation of mine that uses an integrated Intel Video (from lspci, Intel Corporation 82Q963/Q965 Integrated Graphics Controller) and the screen blanks out to white with fuzzy horizontal lines after the login and prior the cool fade in to the Desktop.

The conspiracist within me is really working up a frenzy now.

The GNOME edition uses the same GDM version as Fedora 10 (2.24) and thus look alike except with the SUSE greenish hues and better resolution and fit with the rest of the system. The Fedora one for some reason seems to like "larger" fonts for its GDM and I don't see any options to change it.

More green goodness on the desktop and the love it or hate it slab menu. OpenSUSE is I think the only mainstream distro that seems to make the two major desktop environments, GNOME and KDE to be as similar as possible.

The default Gilouche theme is kinda ok I guess but I would prefer something along the lines of Oxygen and it can be added easily via the Appearance applet.

However one major peeve I have with OpenSUSE's slab menu is that there is simply no way you can clear the recently accessed document list. The only sure fire way seems to add the traditional GNOME menu (with the single launcher and not with the three menus one) and clear it from there.

This issue has been around since they went slab menu and only under SLED 10 they managed to include that feature in. This poses some privacy issues and it is indeed surprising that the OpenSUSE people did not see fit to fix it.

The "tabbed" browsing feature in Nautilus is nothing to shout about, since it already made its debut in Ubuntu 8.10 and Fedora 10, but it is noteworthy that the rendering of the tab fonts seems better.

The stock GNOME software list like xchat, pidgin etc are included, sans GNUMeric and Abiword. There is a BitTorrent client named Monsson that is included but I have been using Deluge for some time now and I grabbed it from the repos easily.

Yast and Package Management
Yast under GNOME is better integrated compared to the KDE edition. Well I expected it as there is an issue with the Qt libraries. However, if like me who has not seen Yast for some time since its non-Open days, the Package Management is a little funkier than before, needs getting used to but nevertheless usable.

Zypper is truly awesome and after using for the third day now, I will say in many cases it is superior to yum, especially I find it easier to search through installed and available packages.

Again, even with a 8Mbit/sec line here in the office, updating OpenSUSE requires the patience of a saint. Note to self, disable auto-refresh.

Networking
Switching network media connection seems to work better under GNOME than KDE. I was running under Wifi, then I connected the cable and I can easily switch to it.

My Digi EDGE connection could only be done using Kinternet. Sadly, with all announcements on how good OpenSUSE will support mobile (GSM) Internet, it seems that Fedora and Ubuntu has the edge (no pun intended) here over OpenSUSE when it comes to mobile Internet.

Conclusion
OpenSUSE is nice but seems flaky at times. The slab menu file list issue is something that should have been resolved. Multimedia wise, OpenSUSE is simply top notch; I could basically play back any format I have without hiccups and the Pulse Audio system actually works for the first time for me. Even under the "mother distro" of Pulse Audio, Fedora, the controls to Pulse Audio were grayed out. Possibly explains why the audio output for both Ubuntu and Fedora is so crappy on my lappy without ear phones.

I get the feeling that the Novell folks seem to be more interested with GNOME than KDE. I cannot prove this but from purely a user's perspective, GNOME works a lot better than the KDE 4.x they bundled. KDE apologists might say that it is still considered beta or there exists issues with the Qt libs etc etc but the fact is, KDE has been relegated to the status of the proverbial "step child".

Since I am an unabashed OpenOffice.org fanboy, one of the main reasons I am willing to overlook someof the faults of the distro is that Novell does OpenOffice.org extremely well. They after all have a small army of developers behind the OpenOffice.org effort; more specifically the go-oo project.

Go OpenSUSE if you are interested in a good office suite, excellent multimedia playback and good networking stack. Overall a good distro but feels half-baked in some aspects.

1 comment:

lowks said...

I think this link will help you with the clearing of recent documents in 11.1:

http://forums.opensuse.org/applications/389146-clearing-recent-documents-opensuse-11-a.html