Switching to Linux which distro to use, openSUSE?

This is the second of a sequence of posts where we’ll take a look at a few of the main Linux distros to find out which are the most welcoming to Linux newbies. In our first article of this series, we took a look at Fedora 9 Beta.

We’ll do this test with the live (Gnome) CD to analyze: parts of the hardware that are recognized, software package installed, general usability (setup adjustments, software installation). Computer tested specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600, 2GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6100.

openSUSE 11 Beta

This Linux distro welcomes me to a desktop which makes me wonder whether I really used the Gnome or KDE version. The Gnome desktop layout tries to take the Windows (or KDE) style a bit by placing only one panel at the bottom, which has only one ‘Computer button.

openSUSE 11 desktop

When clicking on ‘Computer’ what I found was a bit too crowded and confusing. It looks like there was an attempt to shove everything in the same location, Applications, File Locations, Documents, Control Center, System Settings, Log out, Shutdown, Install Software, etc, but for me this was very confusing.

Different menus for each will get the user to the final destination faster, with only one click and probably less than a second. To open a program I can go through the search bar at the top (didn’t work for me for some reason), or I can click on “More Applications” which takes me to another window full of programs. So, a program can easily be 3-clicks away for me, the same for settings configuration.

As a note, you’ve probably guessed by now that I’m more familiar with Gnome. But, even the KDE distros I’ve tested were easier to navigate through than this release.

Since I have an nVidia card, my monitor didn’t work too well. The screen was blury and the size was way off, the same I encountered with Fedora. Again, I couldn’t even correct this through a simple settings change. Once everything is installed on my HD instead of running from a live CD I am pretty sure I won’t have this problem anymore.

I tried to test my microphone or speakers but the voice recorder software crashed and I also couldn’t play mp3 songs. I was able to play ogg video files, but it only had video with no audio.

Good thing to note is that while on openSUSE 10.3 I wasn’t able to get access to my NTFS partitions, now I was able to see all partitions of my HD without a glitch.

YaST, is openSUSE’s the control center. Everything you want to configure on your computer will be found here. The list of options is pretty extensive and gives the user quite a bit of flexibility. I really liked two apps, an automated backup utility and a firewall. Here, unlike in Fedora, the firewall GUI was much easier to manage.

openSUSE install software

To install and uninstall softwares on your machine, the process is also very easy. You can easily see everything that is already installed, remove something that you want and easily add. Also, everything is nicely categorized (Development, Hardware, Productivity, etc). openSUSE came with a very nice set of applications already installed. Pretty much all the necessary softwares were present, Firefox, Pidgin, Evolution, OpenOffice, and even Banshee, Brasero, Pulse Audio, and lots more.

openSUSE list of programs

First impressions results?
two pinguinsTo be honest I was a bit disappointed with openSUSE. Speaking about the good points, I liked the collection of software installed and the nice control center. But, I had no audio and the video was poorly configured with the liveCD. Also, the menu system just didn’t work for me. Having to go through 3 clicks to open a program is just too much, I can imagine going through this many times a day isn’t very interesting. For me, in this test I would give openSUSE 11 one and a half Pinguins, but since it is a poor cruelty to chop this cute animal, I’ll give two.

The problems that I encountered are most likely from openSUSE not having proprietary drivers installed, which is understandable. But, openSUSE`s Gnome layout was just too confusing for me to recommend to someone used to a Windows or KDE UI. The layout was just not effective.

Next up, we’ll take a look at the new Mandriva release.

*Note: the pictures here were snapshots taken from 10.3 openSUSE release. I couldn’t take screenshots from this 11 Beta release because Gimp wasn’t installed and the screen resolution was just too bad.

13 thoughts on “Switching to Linux which distro to use, openSUSE?

  1. P.S.: If you use an application often, it makes sense to add it to the main-menu. Either right-click on an application icon in the application-browser and choose ‘add to favorites’ or simply drag it onto the menu (‘Computer’-icon the taskbar).

  2. Definitely, a beta version isn’t something to test in forms of usability or how things work in order to recommend it to someone new to linux. I find openSUSE’s gnome menu very efficient for someone doing common desktop jobs (docs, email, net), but it really doesn’t suits me or a home user… I find it, too, really confusing…
    I strongly recommend Mandriva 2008.1 (Spring). It’s quite stable and I don’t think you’ll encounter the problems with nvidia, as it installs the proprietary driver by default.

  3. You use the menu to start applications?
    What about Alt+F2?!
    It even remembers your commands….

  4. @Chris you’re correct, these images were from 10.3, apologies I’ll update the post. I hadn’t noticed much difference from 11 Beta, the screen of it was too messy, plus for some reason Gimp wasn’t present to help me (it wasn’t included in this CD).

    Thanks for the tip about the main menu editing by the way 🙂

    @drem I agree with you Beta isn’t a true snapshot of the OS. But, from analyzing different versions of openSUSE I get the same feeling and analysis. Confusing UI and non-restricted drivers. I’ll speak about Mandriva next week, good news will come!

    @testestest normally I don’t use the menu, on Ubuntu my main distro I use Alt+F3 or F12, which brings me search options and application commands. But, for newbies this is an extra step.

    Awesome feedback!! Keep’em coming!

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  6. Fabrice, your links are awesome!! It is great to have information such as this. I’ll go through them indeed. Thanks!

  7. Pingback: Switching to Linux which distro to use, Mandriva? |

  8. To install Nvidia/Ati drivers in opensuse You need to add repos in Yast or use one-click-install (which is really simple for unexperienced user). Nvidia supports Novell distros directly (download.nvidia.com/opensuse/10.3/) what makes this distro special.
    Personally, I love modified suse menus (slab and kickoff) and I’m tired of boring, unfunctional and simply old “normal” menus. But, during normal work day I use alt+f2.
    You forgot to mention of new installer (one of the main reasons to name this distro 11 not 10.4). I think it’s now most powerful installer of all operating systems. Really fast, astonishingly beautiful, and functional.

  9. Pingback: Switching to Linux which distro to use, Ubuntu? |

  10. I had the same problem with having a sense of the interface feeling over crowded and cumbersome. i would like to see some stream lining before i switch over completely to the O.S. for now i think i’ll be sticking to windows.

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