It has been a long time since I last reviewed openSUSE. I don’t think it is quite as long as the numbering system suggests but it has been about 3 years.
There are 2 versions of openSUSE available via their website:
Today I will be reviewing openSUSE Leap 42.2.
How To Get openSUSE
The openSUSE website can be found at https://www.opensuse.org/
To get the Leap version click on the “install” button below the word “Leap”.
There are two options available. You can download the entire 4.7 gigabytes or you can download the network installer ISO.
There are no official live DVDs or USBs easily available from the openSUSE website but they do link to community ISOs which provide live versions.
If you want to try a live DVD visit https://en.opensuse.org/Derivatives
I went for the full 4.7 gigabytes download. (I made the most of the superfast broadband in the hotel I am staying in).
The openSUSE Installer
It has to be said that this is my least favourite part of openSUSE.
I think the best I can say about this installer is that if you are installing openSUSE as the sole operating system then it is adequate however if you want to dual boot with another distribution or Windows it isn’t very intuitive and it is very easy to accidentally overwrite the other system.
During the installation you get the choice of the GNOME or KDE desktop environments. I chose to install the GNOME desktop as that is my personal favourite.
GNOME is GNOME is GNOME. It doesn’t matter whether you install Fedora, Debian or openSUSE, the look and feel of GNOME is the same in each of them. The real value is added by each distribution in turn and later on I will show you the value that openSUSE offers.
For beginners to Linux the GNOME desktop has a single panel at the top with an “Activities” link in the top left corner and system icons in the top right.
Clicking on the system icons in the top allows you to do things like adjust the audio, change the language, set up bluetooth and connect to the internet.
The “Activiies” link when clicked brings up the screen below:
GNOME is very keyboard centric and so as well as clicking on icons you can find your way around much more easily by using one of the special keyboard shortcuts.
The above screen provides a list of applications you are likely to use quite often such as the Firefox web browser, Evolution mail client, Empathy chat client, GNOME music player, Shotwell photo manager, LibreOffice, the file manager and the documents folder.
On the right side of the screen is a list of workspaces. You can open a new workspace by clicking on it. The keyboard shortcuts are invaluable in this regard.
At the bottom of the list of icons is a grid of dots and when this is clicked you will see the screen below:
This screen shows a list of applications and you can see subsequent pages by clicking on the dots to the right of the screen. You can also switch between frequently used applications and all applications.
The search bar is useful for finding the application by name or description.
Connecting To The Internet
To connect to the internet click in the top right corner and choose “Select network”. A list of available networks will appear.
Click on the network you wish to connect to and enter the required security key.
Setting Up Audio
By default openSUSE doesn’t have all the multimedia codecs installed.
It is a good idea when using openSUSE to bookmark http://opensuse-guide.org/
This site tells you all you need to know. For instance you can mess around getting the multimedia codecs to work by adding the relevant repositories and installing the correct software or you can visit http://opensuse-guide.org/codecs.php and click the one-click install link.
I installed from the full DVD so I appear to have a great deal of software installed by default. By default because I have installed the GNOME desktop I have all the regulars which are as follows:
- Firefox – Web Browser
- Evolution – Email Client
- Empathy – Chat
- GNOME Music – Audio Player
- Totem – Video Player
- Shotwell – Photo Manager
- Nautilus – File Manager
Other software that is included is the LibreOffice office suite, GIMP image editor, Brasero disk creator, Cheese webcam viewer, Liferea RSS reader, GNOME Maps and GNOME Weather.
There are loads of other applications and tools included such as a remote desktop client, disk management tools and other clever little utilities.
The GNOME Music player is very basic. Import the songs and then play them. Sure you can filter by albums, artists and songs and there are some simple playlists which let you play your favourite songs, most played tunes, never played songs, recently added and recently played. You can add your own playlists as well by clicking on a song and selecting add to new playlist.
It is straight forward and it works, although I would say it has bombed out on me a couple of times with no error messages.
GNOME provides a fairly generic set of tools and the Shotwell photo manager is an example of this. As with GNOME music it is very basic. You basically import your photos and then you can view them and do fairly basic other stuff with them such as tag them, open them in external editor or set a rating. For more involved editing features you would use GIMP.
GNOME Video Player
The GNOME video player allows you to watch videos which are stored on your computer or from the web.
There are two headings at the top of the screen:
Under the Channels there is one option which is Raj.tv. I don’t know how many people watch this and why it is particularly included. It seems fairly random.
GNOME now comes with a nice desktop mapping tool. Simply enter your location and you can view directions and view a satellite image.
GNOME weather shows you the weather forecast in your current location or indeed any destination of your choosing.
You can view the weather by specific time slots during the day and you get a nice 5 day forecast.
GNOME software is the tool you are supposed to use to install software when using the GNOME desktop environment.
However it is about as useful as trying to eat soup with a fork.
Everything appears to be there. You have nice categories, you can click into the categories and software appears and you can install software.
It all seems to look good, except that it never shows anything good and the search tool never seems to find anything.
There is a much better application for finding and installing software within openSUSE and I am coming to that shortly.
YAST Control Center
So earlier on in the review I said I would let you know what else openSUSE provides above and beyond the standard GNOME desktop environment and pre-installed software.
The YAST Control Center is the best thing about openSUSE and it is superb.
From here you can do literally anything.
The YAST control center is broken down into the following categories:
- Network services
- Security and users
From this tool you can see why openSUSE is a professional choice and a key reason for using it as your desktop operating system.
Let us start with the software section. From here you can choose “Add-on products” or indeed “Software repositories” and they both lead you to the same place.
By default openSUSE is deployed with software repositories offering only free software. However using the Add-on Products tool you can add further repositories such as the non-oss software repo. You can also add the NVidia repository for installing NVidia drivers or the Libdvdcss repository so that you can play DVDs.
Where the Add-on products lets you add repositories the Software Repositories option lets you manage the repositories you have installed.
To install software you can use the “Software Management” tool which comes as part of the control center.
This tool isn’t as pretty as the GNOME Software tool but it packs more punch. You can find all the good stuff such as Steam, Dropbox and other such gems.
Chrome isn’t available via the repositories but you can install it via the Chrome website. Here is a good guide for installing Chrome.
Other items within the YAST Control Center under software include the media checking tool for checking the validity of ISO images and discs. You can also perform an online update to keep your system up to date.
Under the hardware setting you can setup printers and it works really well. You can also set up scanners, audio devices and set keyboard layouts.
The system settings has the options to manage the boot loader, manage disks, kernel settings, network settings, fonts, date and time and services.
The network settings lets you change the hostname and set up a mail server.
The security and roles section is for managing users and groups, setting up a firewall and managing the sudo settings.
Basically this part of openSUSE is really useful.
I haven’t really experienced any issues in the past couple of weeks. There is a bit of extra searching around for stuff as I am not overly familiar with openSUSE however I have most things set up now and it feels very stable.
The only blips I have had are with GNOME Music which for some reason has crashed without notice on the odd occasion.
So here is the deal. If as the Everyday Linux User you are going to use openSUSE then you have to stick with it and in reality it should be the only operating system on your machine. Trying to dual boot will probably tie you up in knots.
After you have installed it and you have the most important non-free packages installed (Google Chrome being the main one) then you are likely to find openSUSE and GNOME a joy.
GNOME is really easy to use. It really is point and click and if you can get a handle on those keyboard shortcuts then life will be very easy indeed.
openSUSE is stable and it won’t let you down with odd quirks that some other distributions have. It really is a case of taking that bit more time to get used to than you may have to with a Linux Mint for instance.
The good news is that there is a lot of documentation available and most things you will try have been tried before and there is usually a straight forward guide to follow to get to where you want to be.
All in all a positive experience.