First Impressions: openSUSE 11.0
Those of you who have ever held any sort of conversation with me have probably heard or have personal experience with my bigotry concerning Linux. I absolutely love Linux, and I make all sorts of excuses for the things it doesn't to as well as Windows and Mac OS to convince people to use Linux. It's just the way I am.
I've been using Linux as my main operating system ever since about 2000, though I did dabble with it a few times before that. I started out with RedHat Linux way back when, and then moved on to Mandrake (now Mandriva) Linux. As time passed, I found out about this particular distribution called "SuSE Linux," which claimed to be able to detect hardware even better than the others I had tried. It even looked really pretty. I began to really want to use this distribution. It got to the point where I almost spent $80 on it, just so I could play around.
Eventually, I got my hands on a free copy by downloading all of the packages from their FTP server or something. I managed to get this installed, and I was even more impressed than I had anticipated. SuSE Linux was amazing. But by this time, I had already become addicted to downloading and trying out any distribution I could get my hands on. That meant that SuSE spent a few days or weeks on my computer before I replaced it with something else.
As I tried more and more distributions of Linux, I began to form opinions about them. I observed what certain distributions did well, and made hard mental notes about what each distribution didn't do so well. It wasn't long before I noticed that basically all of the RPM-based distributions I had tried suffered from two major problems: bloated installation packages and severe system slow-downs as time went on. It seemed that RPM-based distributions always slowed down just as bad as Windows machines. Other types of Linux, such as Slackware, Gentoo, and Debian, didn't seem to suffer from this nearly as bad.
With these opinions in mind, I carefully chose which distributions I elected to actually install with plans for keeping around a long time. It seemed like I would always download the RPM-based distributions, but I would do it "just in case" someone else wanted the CD or DVD. Sometimes I would download the distributions and never even bother to burn the CD image to disc. I would just stuff the image away for future reference.
However, despite my opinions of RPM-based distributions, I did end up installing SUSE Enterprise Linux Desktop/Server and openSUSE a few years ago. Part of it was for a class I had; another part was to find a distribution that would suit the needs of one of my buddies. I noticed several improvements in the distributions as the years passed, but those lingering problems with bloated packages and system slow-downs still plagued each distribution.
Last week, openSUSE 11.0 was finally released. Just like always, I downloaded the CD and DVD images with no plans of actually installing openSUSE anywhere. As the downloads were going, I read some reviews posted by other people. It sounded like this particular release of openSUSE actually addressed the issues of bloat and system slow-downs (finally!!), so that made me happy, but I still didn't quite consider installing it on any of my computers. I did use one of the live CD's at work for a day, though, and it treated me well.
This morning I got the itch to change the distribution I had installed on my main computer. I was going through the list of recent downloads that I had, and it occurred to me that the most recent version I had was openSUSE 11.0. It also occurred to me that it had been at least two years since I had seriously considered installing openSUSE or SLED/SLES on my computer. So I decided that maybe everything I had read was worth looking into on my own and possibly revisiting my biased opinion of RPM-based distributions.
I started the installation early this morning while I took notes and worked from another machine. The installation went very smoothly. Everything was logical and clean. It really was a good experience. The packages really did seem to install considerably faster than any release in the past, so I had high hopes for how the system would perform after installation. After everything was said and done, my computer rebooted into the freshly installed KDE 4.0 desktop of openSUSE 11.0. It looked nice, and it was actually functional--which I cannot honestly say about any other distributions that have a KDE 4.0 remix.
Since up to this morning I hadn't been able to use KDE 4 long enough to figure out what's changed, that's where I started. I explored the new menu, which I have to admit is quite funky, but I guess that's how the industry likes things nowadays. I played around with some of the personal settings that it offers. Things seemed logical enough, but it is quite a change from KDE 3.5, which I've been using for quite a while.
After a couple minutes of tinkering, I noticed a little bubble in the corner that said something about installing some system updates. I clicked it and ran through some sort of wizard, but I guess there were no updates to install. Or maybe I just have super-slow Internet and it was taking forever to download the changes. Whatever the case, I kept on tinkering with some settings while the updater did its thing.
Next thing I know, my screen goes black and flashes a few times. Then all I can see is a white mouse on a black background. That's it. Nothing else. I'm really not sure what the problem was. The settings I was playing with seemed fairly innocent, as I modify those sorts of settings all the time on KDE 3.5. After a few minutes of white-mouse-on-black-screen fun, I decided a reboot might solve the problem.
A couple minutes later, I was presented with my loading screen, followed by the black screen and white mouse. That's it. Nothing else.
Needless to say, despite all of the improvements that I did notice in this release of openSUSE, it left a rather bitter taste in my mouth in other areas. openSUSE is no longer on my computer--it's long been replaced with yet another distribution.
Maybe it's user error. Maybe it's my computer's hardware. Or maybe openSUSE really does suck. Whatever the case, it wouldn't surprise me if I wait another year or two to try out another RPM-based distribution.