posted by Leo Spalteholz on Wed 9th Jun 2004 07:59 UTC
IconI'm sure everyone is sick of reading reviews of Suse 9.1 by now but perhaps this one is a little different. This is not an ordinary review in the sense that I don't provide lots of colourful screenshots, or ramble on endlessly about the included software versions and other trivial things. Written from the point of view of a Debian user trying to switch to an "easier" distribution, I concentrated on how Suse stacks up compared to some of the traditional Debian strengths.

Before I begin with my impressions of Suse, I'll start with a little background information:

I switched from Windows to Linux about 4 years ago when I finally found a distribution that didn't annoy me, Debian. It required a bit of manual tweaking but I always found that the important things "Just worked". Well after 3 years of just working, I finally rode my installation into the ground through a combination of kernel upgrades and running a diverse mix of packages from the "unstable", "testing", and even "experimental" branches of Debian. It got to the point where KDE would boot unbearably slowly, applications would fail to start, and my mouse and keyboard would stop working if I didn't use them for a few minutes. After much fiddling I finally decided a reinstall would be the path of least resistance. Since I'd been hearing all these fantastic reviews for Suse 9.1 I thought I would give it a try; after all it sounded like this was finally a no-nonsense, "just works" distribution for the fabled average user.

First Impressions

I downloaded the FTP install version of Suse 9.1 and installed it on a spare partition. The installer is absolutely great and I had no problems with it whatsoever (looks pretty too). The install finished and I boot into my shiny new Suse 9.1 installation. At first glance, everything seems to work great, I can see the Windows shares on my roommate's computer, the internet connection is set up and working, the KDE 3.2 menu is well organized, and the desktop gives a very polished first impression. In terms of setting up a pleasing desktop environment, Suse is far ahead of Debian.

The Problems Start

Unfortunately I immediately ran into my first problem, the wheel and the fourth button on my mouse didn't work. So I fire up the sluggish but slick looking Yast2 and click on the mouse configuration module. My mouse, a Logitech Cordless Mouseman Optical, is not present in the pitifully short list of mice to choose from. So I select the generic USB mouse and check the "Enable mouse wheel" box. The wheel still doesn't work and I spend the next half hour unsuccessfully trying different combinations in the configuration module. Finally I decide to restart the system and voila, the wheel works (although my fourth mouse button is still broken). On a related note, this mouse, including wheel worked great with Debian on the first try.

Similarly, my keyboard was set up as a generic 104 key keyboard, when in fact it is a Logitech Cordless with all those volume wheels and special buttons. In Debian, once I had selected the proper keyboard in the KDE Control Panel, the volume wheel was automatically mapped to the volume controls of the KDE Mixer. Not so in Suse. Sure this is easy to correct but I had been hoping to leave these annoying chores behind by moving to an easier distribution like Suse.

Software Installation and Updates

Input problems aside, I decided to get on with setting up my system, which brought me directly to the next issue. Installing software in Suse is a very frustrating experience. I start up Yast2 and click on the software installation management. I don't know why this isn't directly in the K-menu since it's a huge annoyance to have to start up Yast2 every time. The software installation module is very slow to start up and when it appears, offers relatively limited functionality. There is no apparent way to view only installed packages and the package information fails to show you the files that the package will install (although the embedded Yast in Konqueror does). Nevertheless the applications that were available in the database did install cleanly and did a good job of adding shortcuts to the K-Menu.

Suse has a system tray icon which automatically checks for updates and supposedly informs you if there are any available. While this is a good idea, the implementation needs some polish. There is no tooltip on the icon to check the status of updates, nor any progress indication when checking for updates. Also, if there is no updates to install, there is really no reason that this icon should even be visible. The same can be said for the system tray icon for the suseplugger application that monitors for new hardware. Why do we need to see this if there is no new hardware? Does anyone actually reconfigure their hardware so often that they need a quick link in their system tray?

Table of contents
  1. "Debian2SuSE, Page 1/2"
  2. "Debian2SuSE, Page 2/2"
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