posted by Steve Barnhart on Tue 18th Nov 2003 01:36 UTC
IconI recently picked up a copy of SuSE 9.0 Professional. I have never used or been familiar with a SuSE product before as I've only used Mandrake, Red Hat, and a bit of Debian. After using Red Hat for a while I decided to evaluate SuSE and I am now sorry for not having tried it sooner.

The Testing System

  • Intel 1.10 Ghz

  • Intel i810 graphics/Sound Card
  • 384 MB RAM
  • One 40GB HD and one 20GB HD
  • Intel Motherboard
  • Microsoft Intellimouse

What I Tested

  • SuSE 9.0 Professional (5 Disks+ 1 DVD)
  • $79.95 direct (Personal edition is $39.95 or free FTP Install).

Installation
Click for a larger version SuSE uses their own YaST2 configuration system for installation. YaST2 begins by automatically configuring a few settings before the main installation. This includes partitioning, the boot manager, and a default desktop system that the user does not even have to touch. It automatically set up the mount points for my Windows system and partitioned everything without me touching it; simply amazing. Sadly, SuSE did not detect my Intel i810 graphics card or just did not define the right color sets so I was forced to install in an ugly 16-bit color mode and had to move windows up occasionally. The default system included KDE and a wide variety of applications. I chose to install everything...or at least I thought I did.1 For those who want to decide on their own what to install, the categories are set up very nicely.

After setting up the prerequisites, the actual package installation began. I think I like SuSE's information display better then Red Hat's as YaST2 puts an estimated time remaining for each disk and shows progress on each CD, allowing you to go and do something else and come back after that amount of time has passed. After the first CD, the system restarted, to my surprise, and then proceeded to boot the default system selected during installation. Luckily, I chose Linux to be the default system or Windows would have booted and I would have been left wondering. After disk one, the rest of the disks finish in the same session.

Click for a larger version After the packages were done installing YaST2 then continued by detecting all of my hardware and configuring my printers. The only annoyance I saw was the cups server loading. It took about 2-3 minutes and I am not one to enjoy waiting. Then I was prompted for a root password and to set up any extra users. In all, the installation was painless and very easy, so easy in fact, I really see no reason why Linux can not begin conquering the desktop.

Post Installation

When the system was done installing I was immediately able to use SuSE, as no restart was needed. I felt that was quite cool and makes the reboot after disk one worth it. SuSE also automatically logged me into KDE 3.1, the default desktop environment in SuSE, a per-user setting. SuSE's own hardware detection tool also automatically detected and configured my scanner correctly. I was shocked, Red Hat 9 did not even do that. My Windows partitions were also mounted and my mp3's played. It was nice using a distribution that had NTFS and Mp3 support out-of-the-box. I know its due to patent issues, but still that's something I use and many newcomers will use so its a plus to have it included.

The Desktop

Click for a larger version SuSE 9 comes with a very nicely done pre-configured KDE 3.1 desktop with the Keramik theme by default. My Kodak digital camera was mounted on the desktop as well as an icon for my printer, two cdrom drives (previously in other distributions I had to add my cd burner to the desktop manually), and my Windows partition all there for me and accessible without having to switch to root. The one problem I faced was even though SuSE included packages for my HSF modem free-of-charge (thank you!), I had a heck of a time getting them to work2. I suppose its my fault for having a winmodem!

The KDE menu comes with a wealth of applications and some are labeled by their task instead of their sometimes confusing name. Although some of the applications were missing icons (or just did not come with one). I find the SuSE default desktop very attractive and quite professional. GNOME 2.2 and a slew of other window managers are also included for everyone's enjoyment. The fonts are getting better everytime in Linux and SuSE offers a download of Microsoft's core fonts (and the NVIDIA 3-D drivers) directly through their update program as an option.

System Administration and Updating

Click for a larger version SuSE 9.0 Professional (not Personal) comes with seven new configuration modules for YaST2, which is a plus for anybody who wants to get specific configuration tasks done without using the command line or for newcomers to configure their system. The modules are fully integrated into the KDE Control Center now as well as the other modules. These new modules include DHCP, TFTP, SAMBA, HTTP, and DNS servers and SAMBA and NTP clients configuration. I have found all of SuSE's YaST2 setup and administration tools very nicely integrated and well-designed.

SuSE provides an automatically configured update program called YOU (YaST Online Update). There is no registration or anything required before you can begin updating your system. YOU puts an icon in your system tray that will automatically search for updates available on your system and can be configured to download and install them for you automatically. You can select the updates to download when the program is run and also install optional add-ons including bug fixes, Microsoft's Core Fonts package and the NVIDIA 3-D drivers, both were unable to be included in the distribution due to licensing issues.

Conclusion

Click for a larger version I have been told that SuSE 9.0 does not feature a great many new features compared to 8.2 so some of the already existing SuSE users may not care to upgrade. As for new users who have never used SuSE's distribution, like me, I highly recommend it. SuSE 9 provides what perhaps is the most user-friendly Linux system for both Linux newcomers and advanced users of its time. There is no longer an excuse for not using Linux as a normal desktop solution (even if one needs to switch to Windows every once in a while for Photoshop or gaming). A person either wants to or they do not, it's as simple as that.

1 There was no “everything” option that I saw so I just selected all of the categories to install all. It still did not install everything, unlike in Red Hat and Fedora.

2 For directions regarding the modem, feel free to e-mail me at the e-mail address provided.

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