posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 31st Mar 2003 03:17 UTC

"Usage II, Conclusion"
Click for a larger view Developers should feel fulfilled with the inclusion of a Java that works well and a healthy amount of dev tools, toolkits, languages, IDEs, etc. However, the default installation of Gnome does not include all the needed libraries. I couldn't build a Gnome app without going back to the SuSE Yast2 installer and manually finding and checking glib and other libraries between hundreds of packages listed there. I know that 8.1 had this problem as well, as mailing lists and forums were full of people who couldn't build Gnome apps, as pkg-config would report that it couldn't find vital libs during ./configure. Not installing Gnome's dev libs at all is fine with me, since it is a strategy and a design decision at the end of the day, but installing only half of the needed ones is weird.

Restarting X to load Gnome 2.2 (actually it is Gnome 2.2.1-pre and includes Nautilus' 2.2.1 fixes in it), we find a rather darkish theme that doesn't look too bad. This time we see that SuSE has taken care of Gnome as well (as Mandrake did for 9.1), instead of leaving it in its default state as it was on SuSE 8.1. Unfortunately, the Gnome panel would keep crashing very regularly, as you can also see on one of the shots. Galeon is the default browser for Gnome and the menu is pretty much identical to that of KDE's. When you load Gnome/GTK+ 1.x/2.x apps within KDE, the Geramik theme is used instead and so the desktop looks consistent.

Click for a larger view SuSE's legendary control center, named Yast2, is a powerful tool, but I haven't seen many new tools listed there compared to 8.1. The SuSE Update (YOU) downloaded a security fix and the MS WebFonts, and that part worked nicely. Yast was always SuSE's biggest advantage over other distributions, offering a number of text-mode and GUI tools for configuring NFS, your hardware and peripherals, etc. The main new feature on Yast2 is now the ability to save networking locations, so if you change a location, all your scanner, printer, wireless (which by the way has a reworked tool now), and network settings will automatically change to the ones that correspond to that new location. That's a neat feature; however, you will find no internet connection sharing or GUI Apache configuration tools. There is also no ZeroConf or BlueTooth support as far as I could see (I am not sure about Firewire support though, or how well the included wireless configuration tool or USB2 works as I didn't have such devices to test with). Sound worked very well for me, as SuSE recognized both my sound cards in that machine (a Yamaha PCI and the onboard VIA AC-97 one).

ISDN users will find additional fax and phone capabilities for ISDN cards (incoming fax messages can be received by e-mail while phone calls can be received by e-mail and encoded as sound files with the use of an integrated synthesizer found on SuSE Linux).

SuSE was installed on my AthlonXP machine which has an ASUS GeFoce2-MX-400 graphics card in it and it used the XFree normal "nv" driver. I didn't see any NVIDIA specific drivers in the package or in the YOU online updater. Also, I did not see drivers for the latest ATi Radeon cards (supports up to "Radeon 9100") listed in the gfx pref panel. On a similar note, SuSE had installed on KDE's Control Center the RandR extension tool, which allows you to change resolution and refresh rate on the fly under X, but it didn't seem to work. And checking its checkbox to tell it to load the little tool on KDE's notification area, didn't do that either, even after I re-logged in o KDE.

Click for a larger view Another thing that didn't work well was KDE's context menus on the dekstop when you right clicking on its shortcuts. They are full of bloat and garbage (meaning: irrelevant options unrelated to the icon that is selected). Even Trash's contextual menu is full of irrelevant options while this was fixed ~2 months ago, supposedly. Yes, all KDE systems have this problem, but SuSE takes it to the max, as it has installed a big number of apps and these apps that add their garbage on the KDE menu without asking. This is not "just a KDE problem" (which is already acknowledged by KDE core developers to me personally and online on the usability list) but it is also the problem of any company that uses and sells that software. Work should have already be done on this (and Konqueror's similar problem) a year ago already. This problem should be eliminated before KDE 3.2 or in this case, before SuSE 8.3/9, as it has an impact on the usability of the system.

On a last note, I couldn't connect via Samba on my WinXP machine (with command line utility smbmount). Same problem as in Red Hat 9 actually (OSX connects just fine and yes, I have double checked my XP settings for this directory). Also, I found no configuration panel for samba server/client on YaST. Additionally, I could not browse Samba with Nautilus either, as it seems that the smb-vfs addon for Nautilus was not installed at all.

Conclusion

Click for a larger view This SuSE release feels mostly like an incremental version of SuSE rather than a version that includes "at least one big new feature" that would apply to the majority of the users (most of the users don't use ISDN for example). It is more of the same overall, not groundbreaking or innovative new features not found elsewhere, but with newer package versions, bug fixes and with a better looking desktop overall.

In the last big Linux release madness last October, Red Hat was the big star of the three big distros. This time, it seems that Mandrake with its 9.1 "stole the show." I think that the next time (around September if we are to stay faithful in the big-3-Linux-distro release cycles) would be SuSE's show. But this release today is mostly a simple incremental release with few new features OS-wise and people should only upgrade as they see fit. However, if you are a user who has never tried SuSE, then this might be a good version to try out for the first time.

Installation: 7/10
Hardware Support: 7.5/10
Ease of use: 7.5/10
Features: 8/10
Credibility: 8/10 (stability, bugs, security)
Speed: 8/10 (UI responsiveness, latency, throughput)

Overall: 7.66 / 10

Table of contents
  1. "Installation, Usage"
  2. "Usage II, Conclusion"
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