Caved in and downloaded and installed openSUSE 11.0 yesterday, when I discovered they had 1-CD installers, i.e. the live CD ones (I incorrectly assumed you could only get the DVD).
So I downloaded the KDE torrent and burnt it. However, I could not get to install it. No problems installing it after I burnt it again at a slower speed, although the LiveCD does take quite a long time to boot. Apparently the LiveCD is KDE4, which was nice to give me an idea about how KDE4 would look and work. Gave me enough confidence to install it right away.
The installer is superb; clean, beautiful, easy to use. The partitioner gave me the proposal I was looking for: format the root partition / and mount as ‘root partition’ (former openSUSE 10.3 root partition) and keep the /home partition and set as mount point for /home. One thing that would be nice to add, is to give the option import documents from other user accounts (if detected) to the new account.
One minor ‘nitpick’: the dialog boxes that pop up are still quite bland/ugly especially the border, feels out of place when the rest of the installer is so slick.
Boot process is very slick; the boot screen is even nicer than the previous one. Was worried for a while that it did not pick up my Windows XP installation, but seems that was because it was the second part of the installation and I was kind of half-expecting a Grub ‘boot choice’ screen.
It boots fast (a little under 40 seconds), even without turning off unneeded services in Runlevel manager. Personally I prefer the boot screen to ‘change layouts’ as little as possible, but that’s nitpicking I suppose (or… almost? ).
Login was uneventfull… I picked ‘autologin’.
KDE 4 desktop
It took very little little time getting used to it; then again from reading kde.org and Plasma blogs I was already quite familiar with the concepts. I do feel a little disappointed that some things like FolderView plasmoid are not in there yet for me to try out, but I don’t want to risk stability updating to the latest KDE 4.
It looks very beautiful and fresh. It’s all very nice but I do not know why they picked a rather non-standard windows decoration (e.g. with ‘up’ and ‘down’ arrows to minimize and maximize). I agree this should(?) be clearer, but the “_]x” buttons are probably a very strong convention by now.
One impression that lasted while using KDE4 is that it feels a little ‘finicky’… it’s hard to describe and maybe it will go away as I use it more (or, with updates?).
I like the new layout for the configuration center as well. One confusing thing was that I was looking for the desktop effects in ‘Appeareance’ but they show under ‘Desktop Settings’ (or some name like that).
The Kwin composite effects are beautiful, performant and non-obtrusive; perfect for me since a full-blown compiz fusion would be a little overkill for me.
Adding Online Repositories
Could not be easier; first time I started Yast, I got a window with a very clear list of what repos were available and what they did (although some repos could use a little longer/clearer description).
House keeping and file managers
Out of habit I clicked the ‘Konqueror’ button to start file management; I got the web browser but wanted Dolphin the file manager… which is the icon to the right of it… woops. Did not try Konqueror as a browser since the allmighty Firefox 3 is just out.
Dolphin was pretty intuitive and (for me at least) a fresh breath of air; enough features but still clear, uncluttered and easy to use. It took a little getting used to the way navigating to the home folder (your own or some other account’s home) works via the breadcrumb trail.
Copying over files and folders was pretty easy using the ‘split view’ mode. However I do find the location of the ‘close’ button a little odd: you have to first click inside one of the ‘split’ windows then press the ‘close’ button on the main toolbar to close that (split window) view. The icon for it is also a little odd. To me it would be more logical if some kind of ‘x’ would appear in the top right space of each split window.
One thing that annoyed me was the icons with a ‘question mark’ inside them; i.e. things that do not have a custom icon yet (for example, Digikam database files).
The driver (and codec) dance… here we go again
In good openSUSE ‘tradition’, some things do not work straight away like you would expect them to, mostly this is for legal and/or technical reasons. Things like mp3 playback, nvidia drivers, video codecs, … in Yast however it is not very clear from the package names or even descriptions which package provides the ‘nvidia’ display driver (instead of default ‘nv’ driver).
Luckily, using Google and the 1-click method and Yast Meta Package handler, I managed to install all I needed in half an hour (previous versions of Suse it took me a couple of evenings to get to this state).
Installation of this stuff was fast and I did not encounter any problems at all. I also appreciate the zypper command line tool, for example to install the Wine 1.0 version I could simply do:
sudo zypper in wine
Once all of this was installed, I could listen mp3’s, watch videos etc. effortless using Amarok and Kaffeine (I didn’t like it before, but I think I like it much better now).
A couple of other applications: Digikam, Gwenview
Did not use Digikam a long time, just long enough to try and import my pictures; however because it found ‘old’ Digikam databases, it gave a warning and insisted on removing those and the pictures associated with it… I think(?) I nearly lost my vacation pictures this way! Good thing I was careful and backed them up somewhere else first…
Gwenview was really nice: quick, intuitive layout and everything I expect from an image viewer… I did have some trouble finding the ‘slideshow’ function… looked for it in the menu. Apparently you can start a slideshow with it if you choose ‘View’ mode.
I also tried Okular, and it looks like a really nice PDF viewer with a lot of features found nowhere(?) else. Loads fast too, but in fact all applications loaded and responded quickly, even the much-maligned OpenOffice.
For the rest I did not try many applications yet… well, Firefox and Amarok. But Firefox is Firefox (only 3.0 and more awesome), and Amarok still is Amarok… (1.4.4 Fast Forward version).
Going to test it further this evening, see what gives with my iPod, USB sticks and other removable device stuff.
My first impression: 11.0 is very impressive!
IMO it is worth ‘upgrading’ (clean install) to 11.0 for the improvements in zypper/yast alone.
Even though it still has a couple of rough edges (mostly due to the brand-new KDE4, some missing features and software), it still has everything you would need for a basic home desktop: excellent file and web browsing (Dolphin, Firefox), excellent audio (Amarok), excellent video (Kaffeine) and excellent image viewing (Gwenview).
I can see myself using this a lot. Now I’m just waiting for a newer stable KDE 4 version to come out