I have to admit that I have never been a big fan of SUSE Linux. With the
boxed sets not available in my part of the world, coupled with prohibitive
international shipping costs in online stores, the only option for
obtaining SUSE Linux, until recently, was to wait patiently for the
distribution's RPM package tree to appear on its servers and perform a
remote FTP install. This usually happened 2 - 3 months after the official
product release, by which time other distributions might have released
newer versions with more up-to-date packages and perhaps more exciting
After SUSE was acquired by Novell, things began to change. Version 9.1 was
the first SUSE Linux release that was made available in the form of a
downloadable single-CD ISO image - an equivalent of SUSE's "Personal"
edition. Novell became even more generous with the next two releases as
both versions 9.2 and 9.3 appeared on its servers as five CD images and one
DVD image, which effectively represented SUSE's Professional edition
without the commercial applications and support. Finally, in August 2005,
Novell opened SUSE Linux to public participation in its beta testing
program and the ISO images of SUSE Linux 10.0 were released for free
download as soon as the boxed products were ready to ship.
For many Linux hobbyists and enthusiasts, participating in a distribution's
beta program, reporting bugs, and exchanging information with the
developers on a mailing list is one of the key reasons for choosing a
distribution. Excited by the prospect of joining the testing process, I
rushed to download the first beta of SUSE 10.0 as soon as it was announced,
updating it after each new beta and release candidate. The newly created
openSUSE mailing lists quickly gained a large number of subscribers as
other SUSE enthusiasts discovered the joy of helping a project to fix the
bugs and produce the best possible release. Overnight, SUSE Linux became an
open project where the developers and testers were having "a lot of fun"
building a great distribution.
Finally, the long awaited October 6th arrived and SUSE Linux 10.0 final was
released to public mirrors. The resulting rush utterly surprised the SUSE
release team which, until then, had little experience with making large
files available for public download. The main SUSE server, which also
hosted BitTorrent files, was virtually inaccessible for several days,
preventing legitimate mirrors from synchronizing with the main server in
order to take some of the load away.
There was also some confusion over all the different editions of SUSE Linux
10.0. Although both the "OSS" and "GM" (GoldMaster) editions are free to
download, the "OSS" edition contains Free Software only, while the "GM"
edition includes some freely distributable but proprietary applications,
such as Acrobat Reader or RealPlayer. Furthermore, the retail edition ships
with additional commercial applications, as well as a printed manual and
installation support. A 1 GB "LiveDVD" edition, also available for free
download, is meant for those who wish to evaluate the product or test
hardware compatibility. The "OSS" edition (distributed as five CD images)
supports x86, x86_64 and PowerPC architectures, while the "GM" edition
(distributed as five CD images or one DVD image) only supports the x86 and
SUSE Linux 10.0 is not a revolutionary release. Instead, it seems like a
transitional product from a closed-door SUSE to an open project similar to
Fedora Core. As such, the initial release was probably a testing ground for
all the new bug reporting and information exchange infrastructure. That
said, SUSE 10.0 does ship the latest versions of most applications; in
fact, the GNOME 2.12 packages were included in SUSE just one day before the
final release candidate went public - this might give us an indication of
how cutting edge SUSE 10.0 really is. Several new applications, such as the
amaroK media player, Krita vector drawing program, Mozilla Sunbird calendar
application, and Novell iFolder file synchronization tool were also added.
The new SUSE now ships with AppArmor Lite (included as a YaST module) - an
answer to Red Hat's SELinux functionality and a piece of technology Novell
acquired earlier this year from Immunix.
Early reviews of SUSE 10.0 indicate general satisfaction with the product.
The installer is slightly simplified to hide some of the "expert" options
while the latest version of the KDE desktop looks better than ever. Some
issues remain, however. Multimedia playback of many popular audio and video
formats is not included, so further downloads and tweaking are required to
set these up. Some users have also complained about the lack of integration
of PDF and other plugins into Firefox. The distribution also contains newer
versions of the Beagle desktop search engine and Xen virtualization
technology, but because they are not considered mature enough, they are not
part of the default install. Wireless networking also remains a problem
area for many users. And the ever-present complaint about the sluggishness
of YaST is still valid - although well-designed and very useful, especially
for Linux newcomers, the time it takes to complete certain tasks can test
your patience, even on a reasonably powerful computer.
With SUSE 10.0 behind us, openSUSE's true direction should manifest itself
more clearly in the next release - version 10.1, scheduled for early March
2006. It will go through the full cycle of four alpha (the second of which
is expected this week, complete with the latest beta of KDE 3.5) and four
beta releases, before one last release candidate. This is where the
openSUSE project is likely to start fulfilling its promise to build a
product that can be deployed and enjoyed by any computer user, not just the
venerable "Linux enthusiast". From this perspective, SUSE 10.0 represents
little more than an open continuum of SUSE's 9.x releases. The upcoming
SUSE 10.1, however, might be an altogether different product.
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