Linux Distribution Review: OpenSuse 12.2 KDE

You know how it gets with Linux: you wake up and decide it’s time to use a more cutting edge distro,  or you decide it’s time to try out a more conservative offering,  or you want to jump ship to KDE. Maybe you have gone nuts over the new Gnome shell or want to try out that distro right near the bottom of the Distrowatch league table-that about 3 people use!

For me, it was time for a reliable, stable kde distribution that does all the donkey work. After some serious googling I plumped for Opensuse 12.2.

It was a toss up between Kubuntu 12.10 and Opensuse. The latest Kubuntu (the first release by Blue Systems) has really good reviews- I mean really good reviews. But everywhere I looked pointed in the direction of Opensuse -they have a reputation for producing very good kde distros, apparently.

The Install

I went for the basic CD install, this installed without a hitch, although the ‘partitioning’ part of the install could make things a lot clearer. Guys, this is partitioning-it will wipe my hard-disc-I have to absolutely know what my choices will do-make it really clear, ok? Installation took about 30 minutes and the CD was ejected at the end-which is a good sign in my opinion. I installed to a Dell Precision 380 workstation with 2Gb of ram.

Post install there were a mass of updates -just like Fedora, what is it with rpm systems? Any how,  as the smart hard-disk health monitor (smartmontools) kept trying to access the legacy floppy drive on the poor old Dell, an update came in handy. The updates took about another 40 minutes.

However, I have too say, after some basic changes to system settings (including smartd) the kde desktop looked slick and felt light and responsive. At this point the system looked and responded a lot better than my previous Mint 13 kde setup.

Post Install

What I started to feel more and more about Opensuse 12.2 was that someone had gone to a lot of trouble. It felt engineered, professional, solid. It was that feeling that made me stick with it as I struggled with the inevitable glitches.

In Use

When the kde desktop appeared for the first time, I had no internet connection! After the updates I had no internet connection! It was the Suse firewall keeping me safe with some conservative default settings. However, if I had been a noob I would have been stumped-surely the Suse developers can come up with a more user friendly firewall setup-what about a simple wizard?

I had my printer up and running in about 5 minutes though. Suse is rpm based and Canon provide rpms for the printer driver. Ubuntu have a repo just for Canon printer drivers but hey, the canon rpms installed and worked.

Next up was trying to fathom what all these Suse repos are about. Add in ‘zypper’ which is the Opensuse version of ‘yum’ and there is a little bit of learning to do-like there is no “bash_logout” for instance and I can’t find a cups-pdf package? But I will prevail with a little help from the net.

The final conflict was updating from kde 4.8 to kde 4.9.3. I said ‘no’ at the prompt three times (after adding the 4.9 repos) until I finally decided to go ahead with the update but lose gnucash & kb3 codecs! As it went I was able to re-install both gnucash & kb3 codecs after the update.

Conclusions

Opensuse 12.2 (after the myriad updates) worked out of the box- sound, graphics, keyboard and mouse all worked with no problems at all. I was able to install all the packages I normally use and get my printer working without a struggle. The open-source  video driver that comes with Opensuse is noticeably glossier and sharper than Mint 13. All the desktop effects that I have set work well.

One of my concerns before the install was package availability. Ubuntu has everything, to my surprise Opensuse has a pretty comprehensive choice but with a few strange omissions.

Gripes would be the learning curve of Opensuse package management and their repository setup-I have found it confusing. My biggest gripe has been not being able to connect to any Opensuse forums or help sites-I don’t know if they are having server problems but most of my attempts have timed out.

My overall impression (and I have been impressed) is of a solid, well engineered system.  A lot of thought has gone in to this distro, there is nothing new but what there is works extremely well; it is noticeably smoother and quicker than Linux Mint 13 kde and Fedora 17 kde spin.

It looks like the Opensuse team know what they are doing and which packages will work as part of the ensemble that is a Linux distribution. I had my fingers on the Kubuntu install dvd a few times, but the solidity and professional look and feel of this kde distro kept me from installing-I am even thinking of giving their ‘tumbleweed’ rolling distro repositories a whirl-if I can connect to a forum and get some advice!

Update: 20th November

Still unable to connect to http://forums.opensuse.org, which is a real let down. I have a number of minor issues I would like to clear up but who do you ask? Very unusual for a distro in the top 10 to have a forum problem. Anyone know why? Leave a comment.

Update: 26th November

Still cannot connect to http://forums.opensuse.org using firefox or chromium. I have no idea what is up with the opensuse forum but someone should fix it-it’s a shambles and they should either forget it or get the site running properly.

I am still happy with Opensuse 12.2 (I am using it as my desktop) but why are unetbootin and cups-pdf only installable as unstable packages? Why are some standard packages just not available in stable versions?

Update: 30th November

I have given up with the opensuse forum it’s obviously fu**ed and the people that run it should stop making excuses about how fu**ked their site is.

Apart from that, I am very happy with 12.2, it is solid and after a few recent updates, works even better.

Update: 9th December 2012

Hurrah, I have been able to connect to the opensuse forum-almost immediately-they must have been listening to me. Can’t understand why Opensuse does not have the ladspa-tap plugins for Ardour? There have been two updates for Ardour over the last few weeks-the tap plugins are sort of standard-where are they?

Update: 11th December 2012

Yet again, the opensuse developers were one step ahead of me-all the standard ladspa plugins are included as part of the Ardour install-which shows a lot of common sense, well done Opensuse. Also, I posted a query on the Opensuse forum and got a reply-it works!

Update: 14th December 2012

Tried to use the Opensuse forum for a few simple, totally innocuous problems. Unfortunately, although it now actually connects (instead of timing out) you will get more replies from the control-freak, up-their-own-arse moderators than you will advice from users. My advice, use sparingly- only if you have to.

12 thoughts on “Linux Distribution Review: OpenSuse 12.2 KDE

  1. Good review! I agree, even in my comparison to Kubuntu 12.04.1 and PCLinuxOS 12.08, I found OpenSUSE to be the most updated, fast, stable and consumes lesser resources. I recall, I installed OpenSUSE 12.2 on the same day of the distro release and I was asked to install 1 GB of updates! And internet went off after the updates :) !

  2. No forums access issues here
    Is your ip address banned by any chance? or on blacklist?
    Here is the link for Tumbleweed forums:-http://forums.opensuse.org/english/get-technical-help-here/tumbleweed/

  3. It’s somewhat misinforming to label RPM as responsible for the glut of updates. Many deb-based systems pull down just as much post-install, it depends on various factors. With the 12.2 version of openSUSE in particular, the 2-month release delay due to bug-fixing meant a lot of the packages, including the whole KDE suite, were a couple of months behind the times compared to normal and so there were more updates than usual.

    The forums did have some down time earlier in the year but they’ve been working for me over the last week or two so I don’t think it’s a widespread problem.

  4. Hi Guys,

    I know deb based systems can also download a lot of updates after install-it’s just that rpm systems seem to take so much longer to get the job done, even though the system is using delta rpms to update?

    As for forum access, I’m not banned from anywhere on the net as far as I know and I have a good broadband connection. Yet I cannot access the opensuse forum-it just won’t load, I have no idea why? Does anyone know why I cannot access the forum from central London? Please leave a comment!

    In case I am giving the wrong impression, I am impressed with OpenSuse 12.2, it’s a good system.

    • In my experience zypper is faster than apt. As mentioned above the whole KDE suite will be updated after install. Once downloaded the package installation is very quick. Delta saves some download resources but the building of new RPMs takes little more time than installing pure RPMs.

  5. If you are struggeling with package management in zypper or apper please got to system-yast.
    The best configuration tool of all unixes.
    Everything on one place.
    zypper and apper are using packagekit, that is new to suse.
    yust use yast, and you will learn soon, it works as a breeze.

    regards Hendrik Koeman

    • No, zypper and yast are not using packagekit. Only apper does. They all use libzypp and only one application can use it at once. It is likely as with apt.

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for the comments. I can’t connect to the Suse forums in any web browser, but I can connect to Suse software search page etc without a problem.

    I mus admit I prefer the command line for installing software but I will give Apper and Yast a go.

  7. Impressed with a did like the response to the writers questions,think i will try open suse again, when I try to dual boot I ran into problems and gave up, but i
    will try again now that I know that I can get help!

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