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openSUSE 13.1 review – an OS for grown-ups

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Posted November 21, 2013
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openSUSE 13.1 has just been released, though I was running an RC for a while with latest updates so I was keeping up with 13.1 from the early days. That’s where openSUSE surprised me. It was extremely stable considering it’s pre-release status – there was not a single crash.

Installation
Installation of openSUSE is extremely easy and straightforward. openSUSE doesn’t come only with one default DE, if you have downloaded the DVD then you will get the option to install KDE Plasma (which is checked by default), Gnome or other desktop environments. If your internet speed is good you can also check the option to enable other repositories during installation so you don’t have to worry about it later. If you chose the Live CD or GNOME or KDE, then also you can easily install other DEs on the same system. They will all work together without breaking each other. So, if you want to give a try to other DEs you can easily do it in openSUSE [how to install other DEs in openSUSE]

Every DE gets first class treatment
This is another area where openSUSE shines over other distros as all major desktop environments – GNOME, KDE’s Plasma Desktop (the openSUSE default desktop), Plasma Netbook, Xfce, LXDE and E17 get the same first class treatment. There is no secret sauce created by openSUSE which is available only for their own prefered DE or shell.

In addition to offering the latest packages from these DEs, openSUSE teams work really hard to integrate these DEs with the system so that a user gets a very pleasant experience instead of a Frankenstien’s monster where everything looks out of the place.

When you use Plasma with openSUSE you get the best Plasma experience, when you use GNOME – you get the best GNOME experience out of the box and same goes for Xfce, Lxde and E17.

What’s new?
Before we move forward let’s have a quick look at what’s new in this version. As expected openSUSE 13.1 comes with the latest patches from Linux kernel series 3.11 which brings better hardware support.

Talking of the kernel I would like to point out that openSUSE/SUSE developers are among the top 10 contributors of the Linux kernel. So when I use openSUSE, I am using the OS developed by the same people who are also building the kernel and other core technologies used by other distros. This fact alone makes me feel better when I use openSUSE.

Need for Speed
There is good news for those who are in ‘need for speed’ over Networks. openSUSE 13.1 comes with NFS 4.2, which is a new version of the NFS standard currently under development. This version offers improved performance reducing the tail latency.

Better support for laptops
With this version openSUSE is introducing a new suspend power state for devices which can deal with extremely low power states.

In addition this version improves support for hardware through new and improved drivers. We have already seen openSUSE running flawlessly on Chromebooks and 13.1 brings even better support for devices running Chrome OS or powered by Intel’s latest Haswell chips.

Improved ARM support
openSUSE 13.1 is bringing better support for ARM. In addition to ARMv7, it also has ARMv6 and AArch64 ports.

Raspberry Pi support
In order to support Raspberry Pi, openSUSE ARM has switched to hard-float and created a completely new distro for AArch64 and builds all images from a single source kiwi file.

Typical openSUSE – Houston, there is no problem
The gem of openSUSE is YaST – yet another system tool. What’s new about YaST, it’s been around for a while? This YaST has been re-written in Ruby so more developers can dive into it.

YaST is yet another tool that sets openSUSE apart from every distributions out there. It’s like a command control center which allows a user to manage the entire OS (not just a few parts of it) from one place. A ‘mature’ tool every ‘grown-up’ user will crave for.

The image below gives a glimpse of what all you can do from YaST. Everything is there in front of your eyes so whether you want to manage firewall, printer or what ever.

Combine YaST with KDE and you have a perfect match made in heaven which complement each other.

More secure privacy respecting
openSUSE, by design and through defaults, offers extreme security and privacy protection to its users. That’s in stark contrast with Ubuntu which doesn’t even come with a Firewall installed and let’s not even get into the online search feature of Dash.

openSUSE comes with a very advanced Firewall and has some ports closed by defaults so by design a user is ‘protected’ by default. You can easily open needed ports through Firewall. It does mean additional work for those who do need access to such ports, for example, ports for DLNA are blocked by default so you may not see Plex Media Server running unless you open the post. Same can be the case when trying to get KDE Konnect to work.

But in my opinion security by default (which protects a user) is always better.

So if you are running openSUSE 13.1 you can be rest assured that your data, privacy and freedom is very well respected and protected.

Apps & Apps
openSUSE offer apps via its main repositories, community repositories and through 3rd party repositories. Once you enable the pacman repo you get access to thousands of packages out there. Then you have software.opensuse.org which allows you to easily search and install packages with one click. Every software that’s available for Linux is available for openSUSE so there is no dearth of applications.

Hardware support

openSUSE 13.1 has great support for hardware, everything that I have worked out of the box.

Best Linux experience
openSUSE offers, in my opinion, the best Linux experience – every piece of it works very well with other pieces. With openSUSE you get the feel of running one OS and not some disjointed pieces put together an as OS.

I have couple of desktop environments installed on my system and no matter which environments I am in if I fire up any openSUSE tool it will open it using the appropriate tool kit so I get a consistent experience.

What’s desired
There are several things that leaves me desiring for more in openSUSE 13.1. While it’s extremely easy to install 3rd party apps via software.opensuse.org, there is a need of a desktop tool integrated with YaST which allows me to search and add packages without having to open the web browser. There used to be a command like tool cnf which enabled one to search and install packages from OBS but its defunct. There are plans for Ubuntu Software Center for openSUSE along with a tool written by KDEfolks, but none are there yet. However if you are using Gnome then it’s Software  center, simply called Software, can search and install packages from official repos (still not all of OBS). Being an Arch user I crave for Yourt or Packar for openSUSE.

Conclusion
So what conclusion do I drive after using openSUSE 13.1? Before concluding, I would like to point out some reasons why have I chosen openSUSE over the one that I had been using since 2005?

  1. openSUSE is more and more community driven project.
  2. It’s a distribution for grown-up who want some serious work to be done.
  3. It’s extremely polished and offers a consistent experience across the OS.
  4. Extremely user friendly – no need to fire up the terminal.
  5. It’s being built by the same people who are writing Linux kernel and developing core open source technologies – so it just feel good.
  6. It’s extremely secure and respects user’s privacy. It chooses security by design instead of privacy invasion by default.
  7. It offers great integration with different desktop environments so it doesn’t matter if you use KDE or GNOME or Xfce you will be treated as a first class citizen.
  8. Total control over your system via YaST, at the same time total customization of the OS.
  9. A very friendly developer community which minds it’s own business instead of mudslinging.

So the conclusion I draw is that openSUSE is a great operating system for those users who want the work to be done. It’s a perfect OS for those who want their privacy to be respected. It’s a very user-friendly operating system for those who wants to migrate from Windows. In a nutshell, it’s a modern GnuLinux OS which will take care of your computing needs. The icing on the cake is that openSUSE 13.1 will be supported for three years under Evergreen initiative so if you want stability with an enterprise grade OS, you know which one it is.

So if you have not tried openSUSE yet, what are you waiting for. The download button is here:

Download openSUSE 13.1

Special thanks to new openSUSE user Chad McCullough for peer-reviewing this review.

Source: Muktware

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