openSUSE.org – openSUSE 10.3 review

open source Linux distro
Photo of openSUSE.org – openSUSE 10.3
£33.08 for retail package or free to download

The latest release of the openSUSE Linux distro has a lot to offer anyone looking to get to grips with the open source OS. It’s quicker and slicker than previous releases, with numerous performance and interface enhancements. It’s also easier to install and designed to better co-exist with Windows. Plus you get the usual bundle of new and enhanced applications and a veritable sack-full of virtualisation tools, as standard.

It’s important to understand that openSUSE is the community developed and supported version of the SUSE Linux OS, sponsored by Novell which uses it as a base for its commercial SUSE Linux Enterprise products.

The Novell version, however, is based on much older code and has to be licensed, whereas it’s possible to download the latest openSUSE software for free and, as we did, burn it to CD/DVD for use on as many desktops or servers as you want. However, if that sounds too difficult, you can also buy a boxed set containing ready-made discs plus full documentation and 90 days installation support, from Novell.

The openSUSE distro can be installed on both 32-bit and 64-bit Intel/AMD systems (PowerPC is another option) with support for dual-boot Linux/Windows setups one of the features of the 10.3 release. A graphical installation routine takes care of most things making setup no more difficult than for Windows, with most common hardware options, for example, detected and configured automatically, including the latest wireless networking adapters.

Desktop and server implementations are both available with – for those interested in such things – the same 2.6.22.5 Linux kernel offering significantly quicker boot times. KDE (version 3.5.7) is the default desktop, with version 2.20 of Gnome provided for those who prefer it, along with a preview of the upcoming KDE 4 release. The classic all-green colour scheme also gets a cosmetic makeover here with, as well as the enterprise version of Kontact, a bundled copy of the KDE personal information manager.

Windows users will find it easier to navigate around the desktop in this release and access resources on Windows networks. Added to which the latest 2.3 release of the bundled OpenOffice.org productivity suite understands a lot more Microsoft formats, making it easier to swap and share documents with Microsoft Office users.

On the management front, YAST continues to be the centre of attention and is still one of the best utilities around (think of it as the Linux equivalent of the Windows Control Panel) with several new modules in the 10.3 release. The most notable is a new one-click install option which really streamlines the process of installing and maintaining code, working out any dependencies automatically before downloading and installing everything required from the appropriate online repositories.

Finally, just about every virtualisation tool known to man is now bundled as part of the openSUSE distro, including the latest Xen 3.1 software with support for both full hypervisor and para-virtualization setups. Processors with Intel VT and AMD-V hardware virtualisation extension are also supported by the Xen software, but aren’t essential, plus there’s an enhanced graphical management tool.

Kernel extensions to better support VMware are another new feature, along with a number of other virtualisation products including VirtualBox 1.5, QEMU and the experimental Kernel-based Virtualisation (KVM) project.

Something of an acquired taste as a business tool, openSUSE is a popular with both enthusiasts and developers alike. It’s also a good choice for those wanting to try Linux for the first time, offering easy installation, a high level of Windows integration and a good level of free support from the open source community.

Company: openSUSE.org

Contact: 01344 724000


Verdict
A solid update to this popular Linux distro with numerous performance and management enhancements, better integration with Windows, new and improved applications and a host of virtualisation options. A favourite with enthusiasts and developers, it will also appeal to Linux newbies, with a simple upgrade path to the commercial Novell platform, if needed.