posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 7th Oct 2002 07:27 UTC

"Using SuSE 8.1, Part I"
Kontour does not launch SuSE loads in fully graphical mode, and this is nice. It has the right blend of "user friendly" loading screens and professional look. Getting to the KDM, you are able to select from various DEs. The main DE for SuSE is KDE 3.0.3. SuSE comes with several window managers, but KDE is the main and recommended one. There is some minor tweaking on the Kicker (there is a very beautiful gradient image for it), Browse buttons for "Work" and "Documents" and a tweaked KMenu. SuSE is using the Keramik Qt theme and the Connectiva Crystal icon theme. SuSE has introduced its own window manager theme which looks spiffy, but it has two problems. The buttons are really narrow and you literally have to carefully "target" them with your mouse and the fact that there are no handles ("grab bars") in the resizing parts of the windows (always nice to have a visual representation for the resizing handles). Based on this two points, I like Red Hat's Bluecurve window manager theme much better. On the good side, I simply LOVE the two background images SuSE includes in the distro. One is the main blueish one, and the other one is a greenish one. Both extremely beautiful.

Analyzing a bit more the UI, I found that the "work" browse button on KDE does not make much sense the way it works overall. I am not sure what exactly it is. I don't understand what kind of "work" menu would have there card games. I think that this menu is like a "Quick Launch" for the things you mostly do at an office. But I found no easy way via context menu or drag n drop to edit this menu, making it look a bit limiting and maybe amateurish (you have to click on SuSE Menu/Preferences/Tools/Menu Editor to edit that menu. A menu showing on the Menu Editor along with 5 more menus, making it kind of confusing which one is which).

Also, the 'Window Background' color was not relevant at all to the rest of the color theme and in some applications it just looked weird having this pink-ish color among everything else blue-ish. I changed the pink-ish color with color #F5F8FA, and while this fixed the color on the windows, it unveiled a Qt bug with the menus. The menus also are supposed to get this #F5F8FA color, but when the color is pretty "light" (close to white), the menus and context menus will render as white, even if they should have picked the requested color. Picking a color that it is not so light, the menus would inherit it correctly. Messy.

Also, the default font on KDE is terrible. I immediately leached the Microsoft Web fonts from my Red Hat 8 partition and changed everything to be using the official Arial font. Now everything looks a bit better IMO. All the screen shots in this article are not showing the default SuSE coloring/fonts/Kicker.

For some reason I don't understand, all the YaST2 modules do not follow the Qt/KDE selected font, but they are hard coded to another font (Helvetica I think, not sure). This breaks the consistency with the rest of the KDE environment.

I was not happy with the Gnome setup. It is pretty much the stock Gnome2 setup, nothing new or exciting to see. There is not nearly as much tweaking as KDE has received, there is no unified look with Qt, and if you run a Gnome2 app from within KDE, you don't get AA because the GDK_XFT variable is not set by default. Gnome feels left out from SuSE, but that is not too surprising as KDE is the main environment for SuSE.

That package manager. Hmm... SuSE 8.1 comes with a plethora of applications: OpenOffice 1.0.1, Mozilla 1.0.1, 2D and 3D games, a working Java environment and Macromedia Flash plugin, Broadcast 2000, Real Player, Opera and more. However, not all work. I found Everybuddy not be able to connect to Y!, while Kontour would just "die" upon launching (see screenshot). Also, for some weird reason, pkgconfig could not be found installed and I had to manually download and install it (required in order to build Gnome2 apps). Also why there was an empty "Illustration Document" in my ~/public_html folder, only God knows... And why when I delete some files from Konqueror do not automatically go to the Trash Can but instead they get immediately deleted (I haven't touched these default settings).

You can at any time install new software from the CD, or you can change the installation source and get RPMs from Samba, FTP, HTTP sources and more. Impressive. I just wish that the actual package manager was not so arcane. It has potential, it just needs to make more decisions of its own for most users (except for the people who asked not to), while SuSE should definately work out a bit the dependency problems by trimming them down to the minimal.

SuSE offers a service called "Online Updates" from where you can install updates coming from SuSE's FTP site for the OS itself. There were already 8-9 updates available for version 8.1, and I could find there "official" drivers from Nvidia for SuSE 8.1 (latest version). Very handy indeed.

For those who read my Red Hat 8 review last week should be familiar with my crashing problems due to the nvidia drivers. I tried everything people suggested since then, and even this mem=nopentium option to start up the kernel. SuSE also crashes with these drivers coming from their online update, in the exact same way Red Hat does. Disabling AGP and passing kernel parameters didn't help either. Also, SuSE comes with kernel 2.4.19, where a potential AMD problem/bug is not part of the Linux kernel anymore. So, I don't know what is wrong. One thing is for sure: Nvidia's 3D drivers on this machine end-up in freezing in simple things like resizing a window or moving a window on the dekstop.

Table of contents
  1. "Installation"
  2. "Using SuSE 8.1, Part I"
  3. "Using SuSE 8.1, Part II"
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