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March 19, 2007

openSUSE 10.3 Alpha2 Review + Extras

by @ 6:47 am. Filed under General SUSE, review, SUSE releases

I took a look at openSUSE 10.3 alpha2 this weekend on my laptop, specs as follows:

Intel Core Duo T2250 (1.73GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 533 MHz FSB)
17 inch UltraSharp Wide Screen UXGA Display with TrueLife
2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz
256MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS
120GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive

Installation looks the same as 10.2. I love that it sets up installation sources during the installation. I’m also pretty excited about the feedback it provides. Feedback is a principle of usability and industrial design. Basically, the questions are, “Is it clear what progress is being made? Does it help the user know when things are proceeding as expected? When things are not proceeding as expected?” openSUSE has become quite good at providing details on what is going on so you know that everything is still happening as it should.

The package management tool residing in the system tray has changed, yet again. This time, it’s nice to see that they have gotten much closer to something that is intuitive and usable. It is quite easy to figure out and use with minimal tinkering. When you first right-click on the opensuseupdater tool down in the system tray, a menu appears from which you can select “Add/Remove Update Sources…”, “Configure Applet…” or “Check now…”.

opensuseupdater Menu Screenshot

The “Add/Remove Update Sources” option takes you to the Configured Software Catalogs screen, which is basically your Installation Sources list. During installation, it added a couple of these for me.

Configure Software Catalogs Screenshot

(click image above for larger version)

From the opensuseupdater menu, if you select CONFIGURE APPLET, you can set how often and from where it should check for updates.

Configure opensuseupdater

As this is a step in the right direction, it needs many more options. For example, any time this stuff would run on 10.2, update-status and parse-metadata would bring my system to a crawl. How about allowing me to have it run in the background, renicing it, or something like that. Also, give me more control over how and when it runs. Can I schedule a time when it checks for newer packages like I can with the Online Update? Can I have it check and download all the updates but not install them (again, like the Online Update)? Lots of great direction, still a few things lacking in that part of the package manager, but it is very usable.

Being a KDE user, I am glad to see that it comes with 3.5.6. Other package versions included are OpenOffice 2.1.7, Firefox 2.0.0.2, gcc 4.1.3-37, gimp 2.2.13, gaim 1.5.0-104, and it comes with kernel version 2.6.20.2-2. From what I understand, the final release will be shooting for Gnome 2.18/2.20, and may just very well have an early version of KDE 4 in it. Apparently, the KDE 3.5.x packages will still be available as the stable option.

One thing many users like is the suspend functionality. I tried unsuccessfully to wake the machine up when I tried SUSPEND TO RAM. However, when I did the SUSPEND TO DISK, everything worked perfectly. If you are interested in this method of putting the computer to sleep, you are in business. Likely by the time we have the goldenmaster available of 10.3, we will probably have the SUSPEND TO RAM stabilized a bit more.

Overall, though, The installation has shown me very few hiccups. Apparently, Your Mileage May Vary. My laptop sure runs it well.

A changelog for openSUSE 10.3 Alpha2 can be found here.

The package list is here.

For people who are deeply interested in the direction of openSUSE, I would recommend that you take a look at the FOSDEM 2007 page on opensuse.org. There are PDFs, notes, and even videos of the event available.

It appears that a 21-page PDF is also available that was written on February 28 by Andreas Jaeger for his FOSDEM 2007 presentation. It outlines a strategy and some goals that the openSUSE team is considering and working towards for the final 10.3 release. For more information about this PDF, download it here.

If you are considering using Linux, but aren’t sure how to get started, I have a free course available from my blog site for anyone and everyone who wants to take a look at Linux. It’s a basic Intro to Linux course completely free of charge. Have a look, see what you think.

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