Suse, like every other distribution, cannot legally ship some of the multimedia codecs with their distribution because of patent reasons. Sure enough, videos in Windows Media and other proprietary formats fail to play with the Kaffeine video player. I'm perfectly fine with this as I am used to getting these codecs via an external source from my days with Debian.
So I start my hunt for the w32codecs package which should contain all the codecs I need to play my video files. A quick search leads me to two packages on different web sites, one for the Quicktime codecs and one for the Windows Media and DivX codecs. I click on the RPM files in Konqueror to install them and the view changes to a nice overview of the package and a button to "Install with Yast". So far so good I think and click install. After a long delay the Yast software installation module appears with no sign of my codec package, but clicking "Accept" does proceed to install the requested package.
Unfortunately my videos are still not working. Off on another web search, I find that I should install something called "avidemux", which, after wrestling with the dependencies, I manage to do. Once again, however, this does nothing to phase my video files, which still refuse to play.
At this point I gave up on the video issue because I was sick of jumping through so many hoops to make Suse's crippled multimedia applications play game with the additional codecs. Why does Suse even bother including the multimedia software if it is virtually useless for anything other than playing plain mpegs? I think it would be more productive to not include it at all and provide some easy instructions for adding the software from an external source.
All that was necessary to add multimedia support to Debian was one additional line in my apt sources list.
The Yast Configuration System
One of my mayor gripes with Suse is with the Yast2 configuration program. While it is nice to have all the configuration in one place, the whole thing felt quite cobbled together and is missing important features. The hardware section has an icon for setting up the mouse, but nothing for the keyboard. How is anyone supposed to know that to set up the keyboard they need to go into the KDE Control Center instead of Yast? Also, every time I access the network configuration to change an IP address or something equally trivial, Yast goes through the network card detection routine again. Why does it have to detect my network cards again if I just want to change an IP address? Yast seems to take every opportunity to waste time and make common tasks frustratingly cumbersome.
Along with being poorly organized, many icons for configuration tasks just shouldn't be displayed by default. Everyday, mundane things like "Select keyboard layout" or "Choose language" are right next to "LVM" and "/etc/sysconfig Editor". Suse should really move the advanced configuration options, which no ordinary users or even most knowledgeable users would ever touch, into a separate section.
Suse has done a lot of things right with this release, unfortunately almost none of those things are particularly useful to me in everyday operation of my computer. The important things, like software availability and management, proper detection of my basic hardware, and straightforward configuration are quite lacking and have sent me straight back to my old Debian install. I have earnestly made an effort to like this distribution and wish I could switch to something "easier" than Debian, but I just cannot bring myself to use Suse 9.1 on a regular basis.
About the Author
I am a Computer Engineering student in Victoria, Canada. I'm currently working in a research position on eye tracking technologies for the severely disabled at the University of Victoria.
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