Saturday, March 22, 2008

openSUSE 10.3

For the longest time, I tried to use FreeBSD 6.x. I found it remarkably stable and reasonably fast. Even though it has a decent binary package management system, there are a number of packages that I built from source for customization reasons. Like Gentoo Linux, the compile times quickly got out of hand. If you are using FreeBSD, make sure to look into portupgrade and its options for configuring software wholesale before an update of all of your installed ports and packages.

Compile times aside, not having an Adobe Flash plug-in (Gnash would crash the X server) is what lead me back to Linux. I've been a big fan of Debian for the longest time, but each time I come back to it, they make it harder and harder for me. The deal with Iceweasel and Icedove is enough to make me puke, as well as how long it takes to get new software.

It seems like all roads lead to Ubuntu. I gave it a shot, but my heart just wasn't in it. I tried Fedora, but that didn't trip my trigger either.

Enter the most reasonable distribution (for me) that I've tried: openSUSE

As with all GNU/Linux distributions, there are a significant amount of things that are exactly the same across all of them, especially in the way of userland. Here are the things that are different about openSUSE.

  1. Top-notch installer. I have to say that the installation process was fantastic from beginning to end. I chose to do a network install and no issues.
  2. Package management at its finest. I've used a few different package managers out there, including FreeBSD/OpenBSD ports & pkg_*, APT, YUM, and Gentoo Linux portage. So far, I think I like SUSE's YaST the most. It has a text mode, a GUI mode, and (here's where it is terribly convenient) the ability to automatically add software and software repositories by clicking on a link to a YMP (YaST MetaPackage). This is how I effortlessly added binary NVIDIA drivers.
  3. Great artwork. While not a technical feature, if I have to sit at a desk all day long, every day, it's easier if it's pretty. No shit brown and burnt orange here. Just a calming green with a number of chameleon logos.
  4. Great documentation. While many people point to Ubuntu as having the best documentation, what they may actually mean is that Ubuntu has one of the best user communities, who answer question after question in the forums. I actually feel like Ubuntu has slightly lacking documentation. With openSUSE being a test harness for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, the documentation is also of enterprise quality. The wiki (which is quite beautifully laid out) is also great.
Ultimately everyone should use what works for them, or what their boss says to use, but if given the opportunity, I'd say take a peek at openSUSE. It's free, attractive, easy, and doesn't suffer from a lot of the obnoxious parts of other distributions (like in-your-face methodologies, unprofessional web sites, ridiculous mascots, bad or impossible to pronounce names, etc.).

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