OpenSUSE 12.3 Detailed Review - When Beauty Meets Strength

-By Vaibhav Kaushal

OpenSUSE 12.3 Logo"Jabroni-beatin, pie-eatin, trail-blazin, eyebrow-raisin, faster than a cheetah, stronger than a buck, hottest thing to hit the Internet because the others ran outta luck!" Yeah, I love wrestling and The Rock is one of my all time favourites. I had a look at OpenSUSE 12.3 (may I please refer to it as 'Dartmouth' as well? Thank you!) and holy mother of god; what have they done? Wonders? Magic? Fantasy? Ok, enough trying to fit the word 'awesomeness' into other words – it just doesn't! Gathering all the 'whoa's and 'wow's, my friends, I present to you, in form of a review, my heart's happiness after seeing Dartmouth.

Now, if you haven't had the chance to taste Linux, I must express my sorries for your bad luck, unwillingness or hatred towards open source (or whatever it was) because you have missed a form of Zen. About a couple of days back I wrote about my take on hardships to upgrade an OpenSUSE 12.2 (Mantis) system to OpenSUSE 12.3 (Dartmouth). Since then I have upgraded 3 more systems – the laptop I am typing this on and the other 2 machines belonged to my friends who have been slurping and drooling over OpenSUSE ever since I presented them the Linux dish! Thanks to (the absence of ) NVidia's closed source drivers, nothing went wrong in any of the other systems! For two days I have been drinking this pure juice of awesomeness and here is the best of it.

A good beginning, a good day

From where I belong, it is popularly said that "a day that begins well goes well and ends well too". And OpenSUSE proves that every single time I boot it. The first thing you would notice with OpenSUSE 12.3 (in particular) is the beginning of a session. Damn, the bootup is fast. Don't believe me because Windows 8 boots in 8 seconds? Well, frankly speaking Windows 8 is fast; just that OpenSUSE is a bit faster (IMHO). I have two versions of PostgreSQL servers (9.2 and 8.4), a MySQL server, a FTP server, Apache web server and a few other services starting with the bootup. The login screen comes up in about 12 - 15 seconds. Now, that's what I call 'fast' because normally such a setup needs quite some time to boot up. I am sure this would be even faster on your system because my system possesses only 2 computing cores. One of my friends whose system I upgraded to OpenSUSE 12.3 has a similar setup (only 1 PostgreSQL server) has a Core i3 processor (with 4 cores) and he gets to the login screen in mere 10 seconds. This is because of the complete integration of systemd into the OS which parallelizes the boot up procedure by using all processing cores on the system. More the number of cores you have, faster the Dartmouth will start.

The speed at which programs used to launch has gone a bit low and that means performance gain. I would credit this to KDE 4.10 which comes attached with the chameleon. While I had observed speed improvements with KDE 4.10 when I was on Mantis (OpenSUSE 12.2), I must say somehow Dartmouth improves it further. If you are booting your laptop right after a sweet morning dream, you would get a green grin added to your morning because you wouldn't we dealing with yawns of a computer as it tries to boot up. Guess how the rest of the day is going to be for you?

All green. And black

OpenSUSE 12.3 desktop ScreenshotIf you are not too fond of the color green, it is very much possible that you will hate the way OpenSUSE 12.3 changes the color of the entire KDE interface to green. But then, green is practically one of the easiest colors for our eyes (wondering why hackers love to use green letters on black terminals, eh?), there should not be any reason in particular.

And again, KDE is fully flexible - you can change the colors a bit! Just head on to the KDE's configure desktop entry in the Kickstart menu and go to application appearance section. Change the colors and you are done. If you want to go back to the default blue color - the default blue theme is called Oxygen. You should be able to find it there. But if you do not, download the original Oxygen theme file (if it opens as a text file inside the browser, try right-click / "Save links as..." option) and import the theme into your current set and apply it. The theme is named as Oxygen-Original. If you want to change the theme name, just rename the file to something else (given the fact you do not have the original one, 'Oxygen' should be the appropriate choice)!

One of the most beautiful aspects of OpenSUSE is the Plymouth boot screen and that heart pounding beauty of the black wallpaper with the green chameleon on a plant! I am sure you would not want to change it to something else immediately.

Facelift

OpenSUSE 12.3 new themeI remember fondly nodding my head in agreement to the one post by Mr. Too-Frank-To-Be-Real Linus Torvals where he flamed KDE for looking kiddish and unprofessional (https://plus.google.com/+LinusTorvalds/posts/DbmEE8kXLDA) . Guess what, I am unsure about how much KDE guys took that seriously but I am sure OpenSUSE people, being the best KDE distro did take that seriously; pretty damn seriously. They have come up with an entire customized theme of their own and believe it or not, it looks downright sexy! Cool icons, brilliantly polished black color theme with green features make it look as professional as the color black commands.

As far as looks go, one of the most beautiful things added to OpenSUSE this time is the default wallpaper. While previously it came with bright green wallpaper which did stress eyes to some level, the new one is filled with noise, gradient and beauty. I am sure, by this time your eyes would have been drawn towards that piece of art, at least twice!

Stopped being Windows

Windows is furniture and I like software. OpenSUSE has stopped giving a daKInfoCenter is not that an impressive toolmn about 'My Computer' icon it created on the desktop. That one is gone. Instead a new icon of KInfoCenter is in place. Frankly, I'm not impressed with the KInfoCenter when compared to the old My Computer icon. It does not let me open the drives but then, it's okay for me because I did not use it much either, nor have I seen it being used by someone who has been using Linux since some time (like a week or so). So in one way, that is one point less for Microsoft to say "Linux copied from us" which they did try to say back when they claimed that Linux was violating dozens of their patents.

Accessibility and Ease of use

How bad is a system which is difficult to use? Well, it's as bad as bad can be. I did not have an issue using anything. All the while, since it comes with KDE as the default environment, one can say that the accessibility is high. But that is not the only way OpenSUSE enhances accessibility.

OpenSUSE is one of the rare Linux based distributions which come with a hell lot of (let me repeat that – a hell lot of) GUI tools to help you in administering the system. While Ubuntu has removed Synaptic package manager in favour of a dreadfully functioning but beautiful looking software centre, OpenSUSE has chosen to stick with its a-little-less-user-friendly installer within YaST. YaST happens to be the 'Control Panel' of OpenSUSE where you would find GUI wizards and interfaces to control almost every aspect of the system – user management, KVM based Virtual machines control, Apache web server configuration, FTP server configuration, remote control, software installations, bootloader configuration editor, partitioner, services configuration editor, basically anything and anything that you could ask your system to do. For example, if you have not installed Apache server, its module will not appear in YaST's main interface.

YaST is an awesome tool for administering the systemAdministering software installations is straight forward – you start the software management module in YaST and install or remove software by searching their name. Honestly, it is next to impossible to find such a powerful GUI interface for installing software! I have used dozens of Linux distribution and YaST has so many options that you would get lost. Mates, that's gonna be the last time I bitch about YaST in this post.

Also, OpenSUSE is the only distribution which can help you install packages much the same way as people are used to – download a file, double-click to install software. You just search for the software at software.opensuse.org and download the .YMP file. Double click that file and an installation wizard will start – to connect to the related repositories and download and install packages needed. No need to start the terminal! Need something better, aye?

In case you love your keyboard more than your mouse, you can of course use the zypper command-line tool to install or remove software. Basically, YaST is one heck of a cool stuff because nothing as such exists on Linux (and probably it never will).

A note to my friends who have been asking "but zipper breaks packages right" – no, unless you are trying to install something foolish, it does not. Even then, changing software repositories priorities wisely will make sure that your packages do not break. The only thing that has ever troubled me in last 6 years of usage of OpenSUSE is installing VLC Media Player because sometimes it does get me a warning about some of the packages already been installed. All I have done all these years is 'change vendors' and everything was fine. So unless you are being purposefully messy, Zypper does a great job at managing software in machine.

Ok, that's a bit too much for talking about a new OS release. I mean how much attention does a software package manager really deserves. If it were Ubuntu or Fedora, I wouldn't have stretched it but since it was about the superpowers of YaST, I guess it is all okay. And then, no review (once again, in my humble opinion) would not be complete without praising YaST.

MySQL – the gone case

MySQL is actually MariaDB on openSUSE 12.3Ever since MySQL got owned by Sun Microsystems, the people who have been using the database and were closely following the development, did not like the move. They were wary about the future. And then, Oracle bought Sun Microsystems and it has been one of the hottest acquisitions ever in the history of mankind – they got OpenOffice, Java, SPARC architecture and MySQL. One by one, Oracle killed all those, except java. Since quite some time now, people who created MySQL have been complaining about the way Oracle has been leading the development of MySQL. The original founders of MySQL had left the company already.

Later on, some of the MySQL's original developers came together to build what is called 'MariaDB'. It is based on the GPLed code of MySQL and is a drop-in replacement for the same. Just as other Linux distributions did with OpenOffice – replace it with LibreOffice, a free-from-oracle fork of the software, they are doing with MySQL. Ubuntu and Fedora have already dropped out MySQL in favour of MariaDB. OpenSUSE does that in this release.

Well, that was an introduction for those who did not know about what MariaDB is and why MySQL was dropped in its favour. However, the great thing about OpenSUSE is that if you are upgrading from 12.2 to 12.3 and had MySQL installed on 12.2, it will automatically replace MySQL with Maria without changing any of the links. That converts to total ease – you do not have to rewrite your shell scripts and all the old commands keep working. Fact be said, unless you login into the database server, it is difficult to notice that you are actually working on Maria, not MySQL!

Summary – others ran outta luck!

Though purple is fine with me, I dislike Ubuntu for being kiddish and irritating; gnome and unity UI respectively! All other distros had a chance to make themselves look irresistibly cool and they all are out of luck now. While I would not despise any other Linux distro's contributors or the distro itself (I am a open source contributor and I know what pain it takes to perfect things), OpenSUSE 12.3 over-delivers on being good. While user friendliness has always been high for OpenSUSE, this release uplifts the UI and the overall smoothness of the system.

If you do not have any reason to shy away from a Linux and you haven't used it till now, go with OpenSUSE 12.3 and you would not regret. If you are already using some other Linux, stick with what pleases you but if you are in any mood of getting a new and fresh OS, look no further. And now that I am happy having told all this, I would let my fingers rest.

Posted on Mar 20, 2013 01:21 PM
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