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A few weeks ago I wrote a post asking the question was OpenSUSE a worthy replacement to Ubuntu. This post has received many hits and a great deal of feedback with more people than I would have thought having moved from Ubuntu to OpenSUSE.
So many people I actually thought to myself “is it time to bite the bullet” and head over to to the Chameleon and see what it had to offer, what exactly was all the fuss about?
I’m not an Anti Ubuntu user as many of the blogs I’ve written show they are about Ubuntu and its pro’s as a distribution Ubuntu has a lot of plus points which it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s pushed Desktop Linux forward in huge leaps or bounds and should always have credit for that. However its heading I personally believe down a path which for the distro is HUGE, GREAT and where it needs to be. Much in the same way companies such as Apple need to be more consumer driven at the expense of the diehard userbase for commercial reasons this doesn’t always do the best that can be done for the more hardened Linux users. That being said i’ve got Ubuntu on my Wifes PC, the Nettop connected to the TV and they work perfectly.
Any transition is going to have headaches and while moving from one Linux Distro to another isn’t ever going to be as hard as moving from Windows to Linux it will come with its headaches. For a start I’m also moving from Unity to KDE and that is a huge change of desktop. So while I may mention things here, which if read by a longterm OpenSuse linux user might irk them, take time to have a think, your distro of choice has an opportunity here. In the Ubuntu world they run regular papercut sessions which take those little glitches, issues, bugs, problems which on their own don’t make a huge difference but as a whole should really be fixed. Maybe OpenSUSE could take new users feedback and make it a better distro.
So the first part, the introduction if you like to any new OS is the installer, the point where you get the OS off the removable media and onto the device.
OpenSuse provides a clean installer which is well suited for the Next, Next, Next done crowed and also has enough advanced settings to get even the most logically thinking Sysadmin in to trouble (in a good way) what I mean by this is while you can just go through the installer choosing the defaults and get a perfectly adequate working install, very much like the Ubuntu 7 step installer on each step there is also the advanced option which gives you scope for change. As an example the Acer Aspire S3 has a 20Gb SSD and a 500GB HDD installed on it, using the SUSE installer i was able to fine hone my install to get the OS on the SSD and the home folder on the HDD. I could have done this on Ubuntu as well however the fact its a clear option is good. As is the ability to install the software and hardware you do and don’t want during the installer.
A similar setup on Ubuntu 13.04 with the OS on the SSD had a power on to login boot time of 5-6 seconds and a login to desktop of about the same. OpenSUSE has a power to login of 3 seconds and login to desktop of 4 seconds. While I’m really not going to split hairs over seconds when a Windows PC can take about a Minute to do the same thing. It is however very impressive for any modern OS to be able to boot that fast and perfect justification for hybrid drives.
An out of the box modern distro bar a few rarely has codecs for media installed, closed sourced drivers or a huge number of apps Ubuntu deals with this by the use of meta packages such as ubuntu-restricted-extras and ubuntu-restricted-addons for the codecs and Additional drivers (previously jockey) Its a huge strength of the system that its able to pick up hardware and let you know what options you have. OpenSUSE has a similar metapackage for getting the codecs installed however it seems getting those propritory drivers installed in requires by all accounts a bit more knowledge. I got lucky as my Acer has an Intel graphics chip, and yes there are repositories for Nvidia,AMD etc however its an area a newer user might have issues.
Software installed out of the box is pretty similar across both distros with LibreOffice, Browser, email and the usual suspects. the OpenSUSE DVD however does have a LOT more software installed by default.
KDE is a bit of enigma in so much as it has a whole software applications sub structure of K apps available, which are all interlinked, this does if you decied to use them make for a well crafted desktop experience.
YAST, the OpenSuse catch all system configuration utility is much more than just a package manager, however it is part of the YAST system. Ubuntu in the flip side has Software Centre to get the software installed from a GUI point of view. Software centre is more polished and Yast feels much more like the software centre predecessor Synaptic.
While Yast may not look quite as pretty as Ubuntu Software centre its worth noting its way more powerful for seaching and getting what you want from it. Try searching for a dependency requirement in Ubuntu Software Centre..
Both systems also employ a point and click installer from webpages which is a nice feature and means that you can just put links down
Under the hood we have Zypper and Apt-Get both systems use different package management systems OpenSUSE uses RPM files and Ubuntu uses DEB files. Personal experience over the years has taught me that using RPM files can cause users to run into issues and I’ve round the DEB system to be far more reliable and less prone to breaking.
Interestingly i found with zypper rather than bork your install with RPM files which cause issues with repositories provides you with choices of how to fix the issue in much the same way as aptitude used to on older Ubuntu installs.
Unity was a huge risk for Ubuntu and each version has got snappier and quicker however its still a little slow, KDE4 has had its issues as well its been prone to crashing and locking up. KDE4.10 seems to be solid however and I’ve had no major issues with KDE4 on OpenSUSE so far.
Unity and KDE4 are both very different beasts when it comes to usability while Unity provides the user with a very simple interface with a minimalistic approach to getting the job done it can in some areas be a bit over simplified examples like GUI Display setup sprint to mind in a big way here. KDE however is a different beast altogether, it’s always been designed as the counter Gnome if you like, and provides both a good base system in much the same way the OpenSUSE installer does, however gives the user much more in the way of options for getting under the hood. As a longtime Ubuntu Desktop user i didn’t realise just how much I missed this..
It’s however not all milk and honey in the land of the Green Chameleon, one area i’ve alsready stated Ubuntu excels in is package management and very much so its meta packages. while running tasksel and selecting LAMP will get you a LAMP stack up and running in a few minutes OpenSUSE doesn’t have these so much so it takes a little longer to get things like LAMP setup out of the box. Other areas like Hardware driver support are there, but not as easy in most cases to setup apparently as Ubuntu. I’m still not overly convinced RPM is a great package manager only time will tell on that one.
Interestingly for all my love of KDE’s interface and its options, the simplicity of Ubuntu in small areas does shine through sometimes.
As a final interesting point, i’d just like to cover support, both distros have heaps of pages covering new installs for the latest versions, from official and unofficial sources. Both have forums, however, and I have said this before and I will say it again, Ubuntuforums is a fantastic place for newbies. Too many times on the OpenSUSE forums I’ve found pasts with the “read the man page” answers. A community needs to stop the accounts of people who post this type of support immediately, no if’s buts, why’s or wherever.. Ban, stopped. Just because its obvious to you, doesn’t mean its is to all. OpenSUSE needs support with less assumption, things like held back packages, font changing, tweaking the system all need idiot guides. (and yes i’m happy to, and have written some) Your distro can be as well put together as you want, run like butter, but eventually you’re going to need support.
IF you are a long time Ubuntu user and you’re looking to maybe spread your wings, maybe you’re looking for just a little more, maybe just a change i’d suggest having a think first. What is it you want out of your desktop, if its simplicity, quick easy of use, simple setup then you might be better off sticking with Ubuntu, there is no reason changing for changes sake. If however you’re looking for a mature distro, one with heritage, support, backing and a name, if you are maybe looking to learn a few more things, spend a little time getting through the pain barrier the worst that can happen is you will have knowledge of to great Linux Distros the best thing that might happen is you have knowledge full stop.. and knowledge provides a base for opinion, opinion borne out of usage, and trial and error. You won’t be one of those Trolls who tells you “distro x is crap because 10 years ago it didn’t support my cheap chinese modem”