Linux examined: OpenSUSE 11.0

This latest edition has some updates and improvements, but is not for the faint-of-heart

A few weeks ago, the OpenSUSE Project announced the release of OpenSUSE 11.0, the "community" edition of SUSE Linux, Novell's commercial Linux distribution. Like most recent distributions, OpenSUSE is made up of the usual suspects, including GNOME and KDE-based desktops, Live CD and full DVD installation options, and an online repository of software that can be installed using a GUI tool.

OpenSUSE started life as the offspring of SUSE Linux, a German company that based its distribution on Slackware, one of the oldest Linux distros. When Novell purchased SUSE in 2003, it began a two-pronged development path: a licensed SUSE Linux version, which comes with at least some degree of support, and a free OpenSUSE version. The base SUSE Linux product is identical to OpenSUSE -- the only difference is the support and printed documentation.

Novell also offers multiple licensed versions of SUSE, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. These versions add non-open-source software, developed by both Novell and third parties, to the mix.

The 11.0 release of OpenSUSE is largely made up of version refreshes. You'll get the latest editions of Compiz (the 3-D Linux screen manager), two versions of KDE (a 3.5 and 4.0 release) and GNOME 2.22. There are other under-the-cover improvements, including a new installer. In short, OpenSUSE 11.0 is a step-wise refinement of the OpenSUSE line, rather than anything revolutionary.

Installation: Not for the inexperienced

There are two schools of thought concerning Linux installs. On one hand, you have installs such as Ubuntu's, which asks almost nothing and installs a standard set of tools to begin in a standard manner. On the other hand, you have distributions such as OpenSUSE and Fedora, which offer more control over the installation and administration process. The trade-off is that you need some degree of expertise to use them effectively.

OpenSUSE, like Fedora, is a simple install if you are an experienced user, but it is probably beyond the skill set of a casual home user. For example, during the install you will be asked if you want a partition-based or LVM-based partitioning scheme. Admittedly, if you just click Next, the right thing will happen, but it's definitely a confusing question to ask a user who may not even know what LVM is.

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