Life without Windows or OS X

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Monday, May 23, 2011

My overview of OpenSuSE 11.4

On my dell inspiron 1420n, I have the new openSUSE 11.04. Many of the improvements in 11.04 are said to be based on the distro's upgrade to the Linux 2.6.37 kernel released in January of this year. The new kernel is said to improve the scalability of virtual memory management and the separation of tasks executed by terminal users, leading to less interference between tasks. Provided you have a dual-core machine, the new kernel brings a significant speed boost, particularly when transferring large files. OpenSUSE features the KDE Plasma Desktop 4.6 along with GNOME 2.32, Xfce 4.8 and LXDE 0.5 as alternatives. Also included is GNOME Shell, which will be part of the up coming GNOME 3.

The installer is one of the fastest, easiest ones available for desktop Linux. I found that all I had to do to install openSUSE was to start the process, confirm my time zone, pick my user name and password, choice which desktop interface I wanted to make my default (I picked the KDE installation), and then went to feed the cat while the full DVD installation ran through the setup. By the time I was back, it was done, and ready to go. The install took about 15 minutes or so, and I had no problems with it. Windows 7 takes much longer to install. Even total newbies to Linux should not have a problem installing openSUSE 11.4. The OpenSUSE KDE interface is quite stylish and feels corporate. It keeps your desktop settings and additional options in quick to access locations. There are many misconceptions surrounding Linux with “command line”. In GNU I rarely go to the command line any more, because the gui’s are everywhere and varied enough to do just about anything one would want to do to solve just about any problem you might have.

Most proprietary codecs are still not included out-of-the-box but OpenSUSE 11.4 includes MP3 baked into Amarok, which is the default media player in openSUSE KDE. OpenSUSE will offer to add software to play those closed formats. A dialogue warnings box pops up about possible copyright violations.

YaST2, while still not as fast as Synaptic Package Manager, feels light-years ahead of what it was in openSUSE 10.2 My favorite programs Pidgin & Banshee was not part of the default installation. Not a problem With SUSE you can quickly add new software any time you want. I went to system-configuration-install/remove software. And added them with a with a single click. All available software is neatly categorized into sub-sections for you to browse, or use the search bar to quickly find the applications you want. The repositories for openSUSE 11.4 are reasonably well stocked but are not nearly as large as either the Mandriva or Ubuntu/ Linux Mint repositories. Neither Skype and Google Earth are available in the main openSUSE repositories, but they are available as an RPM files on the Skype and Google Earth websites for releases on openSUSE . I downloaded the files and opted to make them open with KPackageKit, which also happens to be included alongside YaST2. Skype and Google Earth installed with a single click.

Many people that has seen my notebook actually prefer my KDE 4 desktop to Windows 7. Its using an intuitive, point-and-click interface with features that even Windows 7 has yet to incorporate like multiple desktops, which is one of those things that some can't live without once they have gotten used to it. the KDE notification area is one of the cleanest and easiest to use. You can add widgets to your desktop. Most of these options can be found in the desktop toolbox in the top right corner of your desktop. Settings for each individual widget can be customized by hovering over a widget that is already open and clicking the wrench symbol. Or while hovering over a widget you can also click the scale icon to adjust its size. You can also choose the rotate widget icon. openSUSE 11.4 makes it easy to use the Web, send/receive emails and one-click connections to available networks, whether those networks are based on Wi-Fi, broadband, and dare I say it, dial-up.

Plasma Desktop.
KDE has seen significant work on the Activities system, making it easy to associate applications with particular activities such as work or home tasks. This will allow you to easily manage different tasks and more quickly switch between them. Activities make use of session management, starting and stopping applications based on the active activity and showing windows depending on what you are doing.

Browsing the Internet.
Firefox is your window to the world. You can preview search results from top search providers including Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, and Ask. Panorama allows you to overview all of your tabs and organize them into groups using a drag and drop interface.

Downloading Files from the Web.
If you download a file with Firefox, the Firefox download manager starts and saves this file to the folder configured in Firefox Preferences. By default, the Downloads folder in your home directory is the destination for downloaded files. Firefox shows your finished downloads in the Downloads window.

E-Mailing and Calendaring.
For reading and managing your mails and appointments, you can use Kontact as your personal information management tool. Kontact combines KDE applications like KMail, KOrganizer, and KAddressBook into a single interface. This gives you easy access to your e-mails, calendar, address book, and other PIM functionality. Kontact can also manage multiple e-mail accounts.

Office suite.
LibreOffice is the successor to Novell Edition. It can work with documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases in many other formats, including Microsoft Office.They can be seamlessly opened like other files and saved back to the original format.

Managing Your Digital Image Collection.
DigiKam is a easy way to manage your digital images. Download your images from the camera, edit and organize them in albums archive them on CD or DVD, or export them to a Web image gallery.

Managing Your Music Collection.
amarok plays media files in various formats like FLAC, Ogg, MP3, AAC, WAV, Windows Media Audio, Apple Lossless, WavPack, TTA and Musepack.
Even associating cover art with a particular album, and retrieving the cover art from Amazon. However it does not play digital music files embedded with DRM. Associating cover art with a particular album, and retrieving the cover art from Amazon.

Enjoy watching DVDs with full navigation menus.
Kaffeine is a full-featured multimedia player for Linux. Almost all supported multimedia files can be played by point-and-click.

Instant Messaging.
Kopete is an instant messaging program. You can talk to your friends using AIM, ICQ, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, QQ, Lotus Sametime, Skype, SMS, SILC, win pop up. Kopete has webcam support for MSN & Yahoo Messenger.

Creating a CD or DVD.
K3B is CD burning software like Roxio's Easy CD Creator that enables users to create music CDs, data CDs, and much more.

Security Updates.
Security updates are provided for 18 months for every openSUSE release. When new updates are available you'll be notified by KPackageKit which will appear in the system tray.

openSUSE 11.4 performed very well for me. I didn’t have any system crashes or other noticeable headaches, however it did not work perfect-fully with the dell inspiron 1420n laptop. The home button did not work. If you tap the power button it takes a while for shut off menu to appear. Those things worked perfect-fully under Ubuntu. They can have more to do with some problems with KDE than the openSUSE release.


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