openSUSE

Some comment on openSUSE 11.3

OpenSUSE 11.3 has just been released, after eight months of development. It follows openSUSE 11.2, one of the best openSUSE releases of the last years, at least in my opinion. Unfortunately openSUSE 11.3 does not seem to be at the same level. It still is a good core release, but it is not as clean as openSUSE users are used to.

First of all, it seems the release was rushed again, without preparing the last very important details: there are no official repositories for accelerated video drivers, a problem that affected also other releases in the past, disappointing users, especially the new and inexperienced ones. Someone claims this is not openSUSE fault, since the drivers are not open-source. I disagree: openSUSE is an operating system, and should provide what is needed to support user’s hardware at best. It is the job of a Linux distribution to package software and provide a complete solution to its users.

Second, a deeper look at the installed system resulting from the KDE live CD of openSUSE 11.3 shows the lack of care in packaging the medium: two additional tools to be installed in virtual machine guest systems are installed also on real hardware, originating a failure message at boot. Similarly, nscd is started with an error message due to a missing configuration file. Additionally, SSH daemon is executed automatically, which was not the case in openSUSE 11.2, without any additional information in the release notes (in the 11.2 release it was disabled for additional security).

Of course these details are not going to prevent old users from using openSUSE, however they might discourage new users, which surely are not willing to download hundreds of megabytes of kernel sources and compilers just to manually build the driver required to visualize desktop effects and 3D games, and they do not know what packages to search to remove the useless services started at boot. A clean experience is essential to attract new users and to keep the old ones, and the lack of polish of the 11.3 release does not help to realize this goal. Surely, under the cover of these small but annoying problems there is the technically sound and robust SUSE, but why should new users and potential contributors be supposed to see that? They’ll probably see an unpolished distribution, and move elsewhere. Relying only on the technical aspects, which are clearly essential, is not enough, and openSUSE cannot afford that.

The openSUSE project has been struggling in attracting contributors for a long time, many discussions were opened on this topic, and many different conclusions were drawn. I believe the major reason of not being able to do so is strictly related to the global quality of the distribution: the lack of consistency between releases, the lack of care for those small details that make user’s experience better and easier play a very important role in forming the first impression in new users, who are future contributors. A contributor wants to be part ofย  a project with a clear goal and a clear intention to succeed, which improves user’s experience. I do not think this is what characterizes, at the moment, the openSUSE project and its distribution, and it is surely one of the aspects on which openSUSE needs to work more.

8 Comments

  • srikant

    There is no plasma network management applet seen in system tray of KDE , and moreover seen couple of freeze incidences since RC release till final release and continues, really disappointing..:-( As I was very much impressed by 11.1 release.. was very beautiful and robust. I don’t know how SUSE11.3 will convince the power linux users..!!

    • Alberto

      How did you install it? I did not meet this problem with KNetworkManager. Do you have a nVidia card? The nouveau driver might explain the freezes. As a suggestion, you can stick to openSUSE 11.2, whose quality is pretty good, and wait one or two months before upgrading, so that these problems can be fixed with updates.

  • Naresh

    I agree with your comment. I have downloaded Suse-11.3 DVD image and Installed on my Lenovo Y310 laptop. After booting. I am not able to find “NetworkApplet manager”. When I installed Plasma network applet manager. My laptop started hanging. It is really stupid thing happened. I immediately removed Suse OS from my Laptop. I don’t think Suse maintained quality.!!!

    • Alberto

      It is too early to take a final decision: they might still be able to patch 11.3. For the future however, they should plan releases more carefully, or they surely lose users.

    • Alberto

      Hey Ionut! I’m not sold to the “brown team”! But sometime the lovely Geeko (openSUSE chameleon for those who don’t know his nick ;-)) is a bit of a traitor ๐Ÿ˜€ Anyway, I always give openSUSE a second, third, fourth… well you know I gave it many chances in these years ๐Ÿ™‚