I’m an happy user of openSUSE for many years now. I started with openSUSE 11.1, and I decided to test 12.1 RC1 to help improving it. openSUSE 11.4 is a good distribution, but it suffers of many small issues which gives a bad first impression to new users. That’s only after a few tweaks that you finally feel at home. I think it is a pity and I would like 12.1 to be more polished. Therefore I download the KDE LiveCD (openSUSE-KDE-LiveCD-Build0379-i686) to make a feedback. This is more a general review so I didn’t open bug reports, so I hope that some developpers will stop by and read that.
LiveUSB with Unetbootin
I had no CD on hand, so I wanted to make a LiveUSB using Unetbootin. To make it short, it didn’t work at all. When you boot on the USB key, you get the following message :
Could not find kernel image: gfxboot boot:
Hitting the Tab button, a list appears :
openSUSE_Live_KDE linux harddisk memtest
If you enter one of the first two options, the system boots, but quickly fails to start :
Checking CD/DVD device(s)........not found Checking Hybrid disk device(s)...not found Couldn’t find Live image configuration file rebootException
It starts very badly…
Test under Virtualbox
As a result, I had to fall back on Vistualbox. A test with a LiveUSB would have enable me to report bugs related to my hardware, but without LiveUSB, openSUSE does without a tester, and I don’t think I am the only one in that situation in 2011, while LiveUSB work like a charm on most of the other distributions.
So with Virtualbox, openSUSE 12.1 RC1 boots perfectly. Internet and hardware acceleration works without any problem.
First impressions from the LiveCD
The new theme is nice, but it reminded me of Windows Vista’s one, released 5 years ago. I liked better the theme in 11.4, but it is mainly a matter of taste and I know many people didn’t like it at all. It was more unusual, whereas this one is more classic, but also more looks maybe more professional, which is a good thing. For me, the green is too light, I would have prefer the same green as on LibreOffice’s loading screen.
The default font is still SansSerif. I prefer DejaVu Sans or Droid Sans which are prettier, but it is also a matter of taste and it is easy to change it.
Finally, the welcome screen is still the same as many years ago. I find it not very informative and not very useful. It seems to me that there is no clear target user for it.
openSUSE 12.1 ships KDE Plasma Desktop (KDP) in version 4.7. It is more or less as the vanilla KDP, except that there are two virtual desktops (they are disabled by default in KDP 4.7, to promote activities). Concerning language, after choosing French in the bootloader, I end up with KDP in English. Only English and German are fully included on the LiveCD, but some apps like Firefox are available in more languages (strange).
Next to the Kickoff menu icon, there is a button to trigger the activiry manager. By default, there are two activities named “Desktop Icons”,in addition of the “Desktop” activity which is activated by default. I am not sure that having these three activities (even two if there was no duplicate) would help users figuring out the concept of activities.
Moreover, the fact that both virtual desktops and activities are enabled is disrupting. Either you trust KDE developpers and consider that activities are now user-friendly enough to be promoted, and then you set virtual desktops aside for advanced users who will know how to activate them, or you hide activites and keep the virtual desktops only. In my mind, having both of them is a wrong decision.
Using the Office icon on the desktop, you get an error message :
*LibreOffice requires a Java runtime environment (JRE) to perform this task. Please install a JRE and restart LibreOffice.
Clicking Ok, LibreOffice starts still…
By default, Firefox’s menu bar is visible. While Dolphin’s one is hidden in KDP 4.7, it seems to me logical to do the same for Firefox. Especially as it is the default in Windows and new users are used to that.
Strangely, YaST modules’ theme is not the same as the other applications (Oxygen). This was already the case in openSUSE 11.4 by default. I set it back to Oxygen and use it for more than a year without a single issue. I don’t understand this choice, that make YaST appear as not integrated whereas it is developped in Qt !!!
Installation on the harddrive
Clicking on the “Install” icon on the desktop, the installation processus is launched.
First deception : the installation is in English !
I can understand that there is no room for including all the translations for all the application on the LiveCD, but the ones of the installation app is essential. Partionning the harddrive is a very stressful task for someone not used to doing that. If the tool is not in your native language, you have even more doubts that you will not erase all your data. It seems that it is a bug as some éléments are translated in French.
Lack of polish
During the first boot, you can see some command lines before the automatic configuration. That’s not a big issue, but it is in part because of these things that people feel that openSUSE is not polished. I hoped that the switch to systemd would have improved that, but apparently not.
While the network was working on the LiveCD, that is not the case anymore once installed. In YaST module “Network Settings”, “Traditional Method with ifup” is selected, while KPD only supports Network Manager. Selecting Network Manager brings about a segfault of Plasma Desktop Shell, which might explain the default. Selecting ifup again in YaST, the network finally works, but it is impossible to configure it through the plasmoid.
As there was no network, the system was not updated during the configuration phase, so my system is still in English, even if I selected French as my primary language. I launched the update tool to fix that, but it only downloaded the test package, used during the development phase. Using YaST Language module, I’m warned that there is only a partial French support, but impossible to install the missing packages from there. Then, I installed manually the packages “bundle-lang-common-fr” and “bundle-lang-kde-fr”, but my system was still in English and I couldn’t select French in KDE’s system settings. I had to look for “kde4-l10n-fr” and “yast2-trans-fr” packages (the latter one is only 600 ko, so it could be included by default on the LiveCD). Now, KDE is in French but YaST is still in English, despite “French” being selecting in the Language module…
I am quite disappointed by openSUSE 12.1 RC1. There are still huge bugs for a RC, such as the one with network. I am afraid that the few days left before the release will be spent on fixing those bugs, and that it will not be possible to fix the small details that count, that could make openSUSE more polished. I will not go to another distribution only because of that, as I am used to openSUSE, zypper and YaST, and I am sure that once set up, it will be an amazing OS, just like 11.4. But I think that the lesson from 11.4 have not been learned, and I would certainly tend to advise another distribution to someone who is looking for an operating system looking as finished and professionnal as the proprietary competitors which are Windows and Mac OS X or even as some other distributions like the last Ubuntu 11.10. I really hope that the final release will make me change my mind.