This blogger has long been a fan of Linux in general, and opensuse in particular, using it regularly since Novell sent me a ‘developer’ version of Suse 9.1 back in the year dot. I use Gentoo on a daily basis at work, and have numerous friends who use and recommend Ubuntu. Why have I stuck with opensuse over the years? Well, it is a KDE centric distro and I prefer a lot of KDE apps, YAST has always been an excellent way for non-technical me to do basic system administration, and it was commercially backed distro so it has traditionally had that extra ‘polish’ that makes it stand out from the many other worthy community distributions.
Why do I go into this extended brief on my history with, and affection for, opensuse?
Because it hopefully informs what I am about to say next.
If there is to be such as thing as the year of linux, in 2011 or otherwise, then opensuse 11.4 is not it.
The installation was fine, the package selection was fine, the desktop was nicely presented.
However, in order of appearance:
Poor dialogue response on automatic updates – did they work or not, i have no idea?
> Three packages may or may not have been updated, hard to tell from disjointed dialogue.
Skype installed properly via YAST, but would not start.
> Installing libpng solved skype problem, but why did this happen?
Could not install blender because yast could recognise the repository (packman).
> I’m sure there is a way to fix, but i don’t want to know, this is a brand new default set-up.
Broadcom BCM 431 wireless driver is installed, but won’t function without firmware.
> No dialogue explaining why this doesn’t work, really? Ubuntu users seem to have no problems.
Amarok would not start properly, process running but nothing happening.
> Similar to Skype, but without the (poor) excuse of being an external package.
Wired network appeared to stop working, at least for web-browsers and YAST.
> Which was odd because Skype appeared to be able to function just fine………
A lot of this is I am sure easily fixable by online updates, but that is kind of beside the point for this user.
The machine in question is an utterly gutless Intel Atom netbook, which from a gamers point of view is somewhat akin to a chocolate fireguard, but this actually represents a real opportunity for linux to shine. The one thing Windows does well is PC Gaming, if the hardware in question cannot achieve this then the field is open for an alternative, provided it brings with it a superior computing experience.
What is a ‘superior’ computing experience? Not having to worry about security vulnerabilities, better stability, better software suite, better user interface. All areas where Linux should be able to win hands-down, at least in theory. Windows 7 is actually genuinely good, so the barrier for entry that Linux must exceed is a great deal higher than it was in the bad old days of Windows Vista.
Put it this way, my experience with 11.4 was disappointing enough to experiment with putting windows XP back on the netbook, not because I thought any of the above would be any better with Windows, but because it ‘should’ be no worse and would in addition allow me to experiment with running some old Good Old Games on the machine. As it happens, Windows was worse, as the lan driver failed to install properly and the USB stopped working which prevented me attempting to fix the problem. After the fun and games of a 45 minute install and ten different drivers (which opensuse did for me automatically), to still be left with the uncertainty over whether my OEM version of XP would authenticate the install was too much, so opensuse is going back on again as we speak.
This blogger has been building his own PC’s for ten years, so maybe it is just that general grumpiness is increasing with age, or maybe it is dissatisfaction with what is wholly inadequate hardware, but it remains disappointing that I even considered putting XP back on the netbook. If I, as a gamer, can’t even justify the use of Linux on an Atom netbook then things look pretty bleak!
None of this is to say that Linux is crap, or has no future, this would be patently untrue as it is an enormous enabler in my professional life, and I love my n900 smartphone. Equally, none of this is to write-off my long-standing affection for opensuse, for perfection is an impossible benchmark for any software to exceed and all distro’s suffer these teething problems to one extent or another.
But to return to the original question:
Opensuse And 2011 As The Year Of Linux – Does 11.4 make the grade?
No, it does not, but not for the reasons mentioned above. Desktop linux, to achieve widespread public acceptance, needs to provide an user experience similar to that of Apple; a tightly integrated experience where discovery, installation, management and use of applications for productivity computing is as seamless as possible.
So what now? Well I shall persevere with opensuse 11.4, and no doubt most of the niggles will eventually be ironed out, and I am looking forward to testing the Plasma netbook interface as the netbooks 1024×576 resolution often struggled with full-size interface elements, so all is good in the world.
Finally, my thanks to the dev’s who I know work enormously hard in bending their considerable talents towards making opensuse/linux awesome, and apologies if this comes across as a rant, but I don’t believe I’d being doing the distro I love any favours by omitting to mention its flaws.
Update – 18th March – Mac App Store revenue almost half of iPad’s
This is the kind of growth potential Bretzn could bring to the linux world.