Opensuse And 2011 As The Year Of Linux – Does 11.4 make the grade?

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.

In short, it needs Project Bretzn and that did not make this release of opensuse, so roll on version 12.0 in November this year. Maybe 2011 will be the year of linux after all…………..

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.



14 responses to “Opensuse And 2011 As The Year Of Linux – Does 11.4 make the grade?

  1. I bet many folks (including myself) have similar issues with apps not start on 11.4. Suggest OpenSUSE team to create Q&As for it ASAP.
    BTW – what Linux flavor would you recommend for person like yourself to switch to?

    • cheers eugene, i have mentioned it on the opensuse forum, but i guess i ought to submit bug reports.

      as to recommendations, i would recommend opensuse, it really is good and these problems can of course occur with any distro.

      ubuntu is of course excellent, but i am a kde person and i hesitate to spring for kubuntu because it doesn’t get quite the same developer attention as its sibling.

      but madriva, sabayaon and fedora are all big names and well worth a look.

      opensuse remains my favourite for all my griping. 🙂

  2. I regret removing XP from my Samsung NC10. I should have stayed with dual boot.

    My next PC (hopefully later this year) will only run Linux in a VM or via a USB (persistent install.) And then really only as as added protection against malware (but not all……)

    To be honest I am just tired of the tiny niggles with Linux. Either something doesn’t work and you have to fiddle. Or the distro’ as something irksome about it.

    As my next PC will be a quite an investment for me I just don’t want to mess it up with unstable software. And for Linux is just as flaky as Windows, if not more so. And I say that as somebody who used to maintain high end UNIX servers for a living.

    • if Good Old Games had had more big titles a couple of years back I would not have dual-booted in the first place, baldur’s gate would have worked fine on my netbook.

      what are you thinking of getting for the next PC?

      • As I am only temping I don’t have much budget. I am torn between a new laptop just to cut down on power usage. Don’t laugh but I do rather like the new Sony Viao C Series, the brightly coloured ones!

        Or a Sandybridge i3 overclocked with SATA3 SSD and as much memory as I can afford. May sound an odd spec’ but it suits my needs. I am not a game player.

        And, um, I am waiting to see if the Mac Mini gets a similar spec to the latest MacBook Pro’s……..

  3. nice looking laptop, at a decent price.

    if it is going to be a main PC i would recommend four upgrades:
    > 4GB mem
    > 500GB 7200rpm drive
    > AMD 6630 GPU
    > 1600×900 screen resolution

    Total Price
    £ 839.02 inc. VAT

    That GPU in particular has three times the shaders for a grand total of £40.

  4. Actually that is virtually the spec’ I settled on apart from I don’t need the bigger disc I would prefer more RAM. If you buy from Sony you can 6Gb RAM straight away. Of course give it six months I could probably get 8Gb from the likes of Crucial with a bit of saving on Sony’s price for the 2GB upgrade. If you get my drift.

    • Hadn’t noticed that. I would be happy if I could get a SSD. I am hoping that with the next gen of laptops become available they will be an option. It seems I am out of step as many want bigger and bigger drives. 2TBs isn’t what I want, I want speed!

      • SSD’s are great as a system drive, i have a 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300 in my desktop PC and its marvellous, and while they are great for laptops you do have the problem of limited capacity. Unlike my desktop with five drive bays most laptops come with just one.

        With USB3 now more common in laptops it is perhaps doable to buy a slim external drive with 500GB of spinning rust, to complement a SSD system drive, but ideally laptops will come with those mini-SSD sticks like the new macbook Airs, but with room for a 2.5″ laptop drive as well.

        Lenovo say they are going to do that in future, and I’m sure others will follow.

        I personally am waiting for a revamp of the Lenovo U260 chassis with a dual-core Llano Fusion chip in it. No idea if they actually intend to produce such a notebook, but it would rock, especially if it came with an SSD stick and 2.5″ drive bay.

  5. One thing I’ve noticed – PulseAudio in 11.4 rocks. It seems to get features of the soundcard that didn’t work before going – the sound is seriously good. Watching the French Ministry of Defence vid of the CdG putting to sea and flying-on the air group brought this home to me.

    • i haven’t had any sound problems, so hopefully all the pulseaudio gremlins are behind us.

      laptop is more or less behaving itself, upgraded to 4.6.1 and generally quite snappy given the hardware limitations.

  6. I’m still running Ubuntu 10.10 on my server, I’ve got used to it’s foibles. Might have to look at other distro’s soon though, as the performance isn’t stellar considering the hardware (Dell PowerEdge 1850, 2 x 2.8ghz Xeons, 8 gig ram, 2 x 73gig RAID SCSI disks). However, it was the hardware support out the box that got me into Ubuntu as it seems a lot easier, 99% of the time the first install is enough to have a working system. Might consider changing though as it appears Gnome is gone from 11.04!

    • gnome in suse does get a lot of love, if only because it is the favourite for the corporate owners commercial products. it might be a worthy option.

      perhaps even have a look at SLES 11……

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