For day 3 of my ode to all things open source in prep for my visit to the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to give a little love to one of the big European distrobutions of Linux OpenSuse. I pronounce it “Suzy” but I’ve heard many people pronounce it differently so I won’t be the one to tell you how to say it. Today we are also about to enter into the area of Linux where the freedom of choice can be a greater challenge than Hercules battling the many tentacled hydra or me decided what to eat for breakfast at a restaurant. You have so many choices on the look and feel of how you like your Linux to look. Then you have many choices on how you’re going to install software. These are the areas where the major differences are at play for me.
First, let me start off with saying I always have loved the look and feel of OpenSuse. I remember being blown away at a convention a couple years back where it was the first distro really making this 3d rendered desktop called Compiz look so good that I took the CD home and went crazy. I had my kids computers using OpenSuse and my computers in my office using it. Well, except 2. My desktop and my laptop. As much as I love it it has one thing that I really don’t like. It installs its programs using a program called Yast (not the easiest install tool) and it uses a package type called RPM.
To explain this easily. Linux gets new software in a thing called packages. Go ahead and picture a package. Packages make it easy to install software because it knows everything it needs to make your software run. Without packages (like a distribution called Gentoo) you have to do what’s called compile each thing to make it work on your system. Compiling can take some time but the benefit is that you have it custom made for your system rather than buying it off the shelf. I’ve been using Linux since 1994 so I know a lot about compiling my software and I don’t like it. My problem with RPM is that it is off the shelf but imagine getting your package home only to find out you needed more stuff to make it fit what you already have. These are called dependencies and finding all of them for a software package that you didn’t get straight from OpenSuse or another company called RedHat you will be lost so for super techy people I advise staying clear but that’s just me. Not a battle I’ll fight. I stick with Debian based Linux’s on my desktop (like Ubuntu or Mint) because it’s just easier in my perspective but for the average user I still think OpenSuse is an extraordinary choice.
I tried out the new OpenSuse 12.2 on a liveCD which is a CD that you can start any computer up on and you’ll have a running Linux system without doing anything to your computer. New users should all do this to get a feel of the operating system and you can download it here. I used the KDE one because I love the way KDE looks and feels rather than Gnome but that’s also my taste. Both are really great to use (some of the other Window managers I just don’t like at all). I’ll get more into these things in later blog posts.
OpenSuse has added a very cool thing to it’s site though and that’s a build service. What this means is that on their site there is a page called Suse Studio where you can build a whole entire computer system using OpenSuse that can just run in something like Virtualbox which I explored in a previous post so give that a look.
So, if it’s not green… It’s just not OpenSuse. By the way, OpenSuse does have a pay version they call Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for companies to use that costs quite a bit but is to fit into the corporate environment with support costs included. OpenSuse is for your personal use (even though you can easily run a business off of it with a little know how). Have fun and join me for more tomorrow.