I’ve been an Ubuntuer for several years. I know some people look down on it as only suitable for beginners and other non techy folk, but I disagree. It’s the distro used by Ken Thompson, the father of Unix (admittedly he uses it because it’s the distro used by Google, his employer, but I still feel like I’m in good company).
Nevertheless, I felt it was time to expand my horizons. As I was pondering which way to take my allegiance, OpenSuse released version 12.2 and it seemed as good as any. Now, two and a half months on, I thought I’d share my conclusions with you, the good people of TuxRadar.
The first thing I noticed was that the file manager seemed to change at a whim. Sometimes the menubar was there, other times it wasn’t. This confused me as I regularly switch View Hidden Files on and off, and the option kept moving. After a few days of confusion I realised that if I clicked on the My Computer icon on the desktop it started Konqueror, whereas if I opened the file manager form the menu, it started Dolphin. This isn’t a massive problem, but it was a needless source of confusion.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t get on well with KDE. There were too many niggling issues that I won’t go into here - they’re not the fault of OpenSuse. Nevermind, though, XFCE was only a Zypper install away. I’ve used XFCE many times on other distributions and never had problems, so I can only suspect that my issues were down to the packaging.
At first, it was only mildly annoying. After a few hours of use, the system would refuse to open any new windows, forcing me to restart. A little annoying, but not a huge problem. Then, a few weeks later, I found that when I turned the computer on, there would be no borders around the windows (the bits that let you resize, minimise and maximise the windows), but these would be restored if I logged out and logged back in again. Now I’ve found that they just won’t come back so I’ve had to return to KDE.
I’m sure I could solve this, but to be honest, I’m just not motivated to. I think that I’ll switch distributions instead. There’s one big problem that I’ve hit, and can’t like with: package management.
The Zypper RPM-based software OpenSuse is reasonable. In my opinion, it’s not as good as the options available for DEB packages, but it’s live-with-able. For example, I prefer it if, when you install a service (such as Apache), it starts it automatically. I understand the reasons not to do this, but I prefer it if it does. DEBs do, RPMs don’t.
Before I continue my grumble, I will take a moment to point out one thing that I think OpenSuse has done really well: one click installs. These allow you to embed a link in a website that automatically installs a package or repository. Ubuntu has a similar thing with the apt:/ protocol, but OpenSuses offering is significantly more powerful as it includes repositories as well as packages.
So, what’s the big thing that’s making me move on? Packages. There simply isn’t enough depth in the OpenSuse repositories. For the first time in years, I’ve been stuck in dependency hell as I chased different versions of RPMs through package websites and I’ve added some fairly dubious-looking repositories all because I couldn’t find the software I needed. In this respect, I am a demanding user. We all are at LXF towers. We clog up our machines with all sorts of programs so we can bring you the best, and this puts a strain on our package managers. OpenSuse just wasn’t up to the task.
The only remaining question I have about OpenSuse is what to replace it with? I’ve just grabbed Mint 14 to include it on next month’s cover disc, and it looked pretty tempting. Graham’s been trying to bring me into the brotherhood of Arch for a while. I’m unsure.
So, dear reader, what do you think? Am I being unfairly critical of OpenSuse? Do you have a hot tip for a next distro? Add a comment to let me know your thoughts.