I had a special partition waiting for SuSE 8.1 on my dual Celeron machine (2x533 Mhz, 256 MB SDRAM). SuSE 8.1 Professional comes in 7 CDs or 1 DVD. SuSE sent me the CD version, so I placed the first CD to my Matshita DVD-ROM (which has successfully loaded and installed more than 15 Linux distros during its time) but to my surprise, SuSE wouldn't load. It would read and read and read from the DVD-ROM, but it would not load the kernel or anything else. After about 1 minute of this behavior, the CD would revert the booting process to the boot manager of the machine instead. I tried it again and again, but always with the same effect. When I tried to load it to my husband's dual 450 PIII via its Plextor SCSI CD-RW it would load fine, a sign that the CD was not physically damaged. Searching at SuSE's knowledge base, I found that they have specific problems when loading from some DVD drives and they do not know yet the cause of the problem. It only seems to happen on SuSE though and not other distros. I had to find another machine to load it, so I decided to delete my QNX partition on this AthlonXP 1600+ and install it side by side to my Red Hat 8.
The SuSE installation is not exactly what I would call 'self-explanatory'. Newbies would most certainly have a hard time at specific points throughout the installation. I am not sure I am very fond of the way SuSE expects you to click to different parts of the installation instead of going step by step. It looks like a web page and by clicking on different links it gets you in different parts of the installation. This has its ups and downs. It easily lets you go back and fix something that you might have done wrong, but on the other hand, it is not the most obvious way of doing things. At some points, it was not very obvious what one had to do. I also found it to have lots of micro-management to do. In other cases, I found this to be a good thing, but on others not. I feel that the "micro-management" part should have been only visible after clicking an "Advanced" button or something similar.
I already had a SWAP partition that SuSE automatically recognized and was inclined to use it as its own SWAP, but after telling SuSE to get installed on hda3, it would 'lose' the fact that it had selected the hda1 as SWAP earlier. Trying to tell it which SWAP to use, it would not mark it as of its own (while it would do it before I tell it where to put the /). I have 768 MB of RAM in this machine, so I didn't quite care, but after booting the OS I saw that it had successfully included in the fstab the swap partition.
The installer successfully found all my hardware and configured both my sound cards, networking, graphics card. I installed SuSE on this machine while I still had the (loaned) 24" SGI monitor and SuSE either wouldn't give me a 1920x1200 resolution. Entering the right sync and requested resolution, it would only give me that resolution at the low 73 Hz, as on Red Hat 8. SuSE 8.1 comes with 2D drivers for the nvidia drivers, but a note in the SAX2 tool said that SuSE offers nvidia 3D drivers via the online update.
A few weeks ago we commented on some screen shots regarding the Yast2's package manager. I didn't like its UI and its suggested usability back then, I don't like it now, after using it. This package manager is *bad* from the usability point of view. It is fast, stable, "clever", but it is not what a package manager in 2002 should have been. The fact that during installation of the OS, I had to resolve dependencies by hand (well, by clicking the "correct" (whatever the correct might be) option to that arcane dependency panel) just to install things like Nethack or Python, well, sucked big time. After using this package manager, I am even more convinced that SuSE did the wrong thing by developing such a monstrosity. The fact that it finds the dependencies and offers many details for all the packages is nice, but not always important for all. The author of the package manager emailed me a few weeks back and told me that this is a tool only for professionals and experienced users, so I wonder how the plain user would be able to go around using it too. I know that SuSE is trying to pitch their distro to plain users too, not just businesses. And at the end of the day, a bad interface is a bad interface. No matter if it is for experienced users or not. And if experienced user means "the person who can go around bad interfaces and screwed up designs", then it does not make it a better application. I will stop here about the manager, because all I had to say about it, I actually already pointed it out a few weeks ago.
The installation went well for the first 3 CDs (there is a two-stage installation method, not my favorite), but the 4th CD wouldn't work on my main 52x-MAX CD-rom (I have two CD-roms on the AthlonXP machine). It would just not see that there is a CD in it. Entering the CD to the other CD-Rom (which happens to be a BTC CD-RW) would work perfectly...
SuSE loaded GRUB in graphical mode and was presenting me three options, one to load the normal SuSE, one in safe mode, and one option for the "other" Linux it found installed (Red Hat 8). At the bottom of the GRUB screen you have a text input widget where you can insert more booting options to configure the kernel. It proved pretty useful actually, in order to enter the mem=nopentium option.