SuSE 9.3, my desktop OS

Posted by avasaralak on Jul 6, 2005 7:12 AM EDT
LXer; By Venkata Avasarala
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I have been using SuSE for quite sometime. I started out with Red Hat. However, the initial installations had problems with the graphics card of my notebook, resulting in poor stability and performance when using X. I switched over to SuSE at the suggestion of a friend and there was no looking back. I started out with SuSE 8.9 and with every release the distribution became more polished, and easy to use. I was running SuSE 9.2 and was eagerly waiting for 9.3 to be available for ftp installation. Detailed below are my experiences installing and configuring SuSE 9.3 on my HP Ze5155 notebook.

Installation

Over the past couple of years the process of Linux installation has become so uncomplicated that there is not much that can be said about it. The installers (particularly Anaconda from Red Hat and YaST from SuSE) do such a complete and through job that installing Linux has become an almost painless experience. However, it is worth mentioning that installing SuSE has been the easier and relatively more trouble free for me.

The YaST installer for SuSE 9.3 detected all the existing partitions and gave an option for modifying them. However, due to my initial bad experience with partitioning I just used the existing partitioning scheme. The existing Windows installation was detected and added to the GRUB bootloader automatically. The installer listed the available software schemes and I opted for the default installation with KDE. The hardware detection went smoothly without a hitch and all the components were detected correctly.

The FTP install took about 3 hours to download and install all the required packages from a US mirror. A few packages could not be downloaded in the first attempt (possibly due to network congestion or too many users on the mirrors) but a retry always succeeded.

First boot

The system rebooted with a greenish bootsplash theme after the download and install. The startup went fine till it was time to fire up X, the screen flickered a few times and kicked me back to the text console. I logged in as root and tried to figure out the reason for the strange and obnoxious behaviour. While debugging, I remembered that the installation of the libexpat library was skipped. Though not completely sure if that was really the cause, I started YaST in the ncurses mode and installed the missing package. After installing the missing package X had no problem starting and I was presented with the default SuSE 9.3 KDE desktop.

The first task after bringing up the desktop was to fire up YOU (which was red indicating the availability of updates) and install most of the security updates, the optional multimedia packages and the Microsoft fonts package. After updating the system, my next step was to install the development environment. The default KDE install does not include the development and debugging tools. I started YaST and installed the packages for kernel and KDE development. The auto-dependency resolver of YaST took care of including all the required packages in the download.

Configuration

During the install YaST did an excellent job of detecting the hardware and configuring the system. However, I had to manually configure the items listed below.

  1. Wireless network adapter

I have a Linksys WPC54G PCMCIA adapter. The card has a Broadcom chip inside and it does not have native Linux drivers. The only way this card can be used is through the use of ndiswrapper. I downloaded the ndiswrapper package using YaST and installed the Windows XP driver using the ndiswrapper utility provided along with the driver. The next step was to start YaST and configure the wlan interface to use the ndiswrapper as the driver and WPA as the security mechanism. The selection of WPA as the security mechanism resulted in the automatic download and configuration of the wpa_supplicant. The automatic configuration of WPA is an improvement (at least for me) in SuSE 9.3 since, in 9.2 the configuration had to be manually done by adding an init script for starting the wpa_supplicant after the ndiswrapper driver was loaded.

  1. Graphics card

The notebook has a Radeon Mobility M6 graphics card. Although the card was detected the 3D acceleration was not enabled and the screen size of not set. I enabled 3D acceleration and specified the screen size. The configuration of screen size based on the familiar diagonal screen dimension and the aspect ratio is new in SuSE 9.3 since, in 9.2 the X and Y dimensions had to be specified.

Desktop & Applications

The SuSE linux distribution has always been predominantly KDE based. The 9.3 release comes with KDE 3.4.1 which is more peppy and has a faster feel it for a more pleasant desktop experience. It comes loaded with applications required for fully functional desktop including but not limited to

  1. Firefox 1.0.4 and Konqueror browsers. The browser plugins for Java, Real, Flash, Acrobat are installed by default and I was able to view and listen to streaming content from various websites.

  2. Digikam and Gimp for image management. The Digikam application can be used to organize images in albums, fix them, export them to HTML etc. The GIMP is a comprehensive image manipulation application that almost rivals Adobe Photoshop. It should be mentioned here that my digital camera was automatically mounted and opened in Konqueror as soon as it was plugged in. The susplugger application can be used to change the default option of opening the mounted camera.

  3. The OpenOffice suite for creating and viewing documents compatible with the MS Office suite. The version provided is 2.0-pre.

  4. Adobe Acrobat Reader – 7 for improved compatibility with the latest PDF versions.

  5. A comprehensive suite of multimedia applications like Kaffeine, RealPlayer, JuK juke box application etc. to play content in almost any format.

  6. The K3B application for creating CDs and DVDs with multimedia (audio & video) content, and backing up data onto CDs and DVDs.

  7. Evolution and Kontact PIM suite for managing mail, contact list and organizing appointments among other things.

  8. Mozilla Thunderbird mail client.

  9. KDevelop IDE for developing KDE, Qt and non-gui applications.

  10. Dia for creating flow charts, circuit diagrams, network diagrams etc.

  11. Gaim instant messenger. I would have preferred to use Kopete instead which was provided in SuSE 9.2. However, somewhat to my surprise it is not available for download from SuSE for 9.3.

The applications provided with SuSE 9.3 is not limited to the above described list. In fact SuSE 9.3 comes with Beagle which is a desktop search application developed in and F-Spot which is photo management application, both the applications were developed in C# using the Mono framework. However, I am not using them because they are still in very early stages of development. Hence, they did not find mention in the above application list. The applications listed, in my opinion are the most commonly used desktop applications and hence the inclusion in list. In addition to the above list SuSE 9.3 incorporates many applications suited for various other tasks.

Conclusion

SuSE 9.3 is the most polished and easy to use release from SuSE. It goes a long way in dispelling the notion that Linux is not ready for the desktop. It is a comprehensive release with enhanced hardware detection and configuration and an exhaustive suite of available applications. The ease of use rivals Windows and in security it is ahead. I would recommend SuSE 9.3 to anyone who, desirous of unshackling themselves from the Windows centric view of the desktop wants to try out Linux. In my humble opinion SuSE 9.3 would provide an enticing and excellent alternative to Windows for the desktop.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Can you elaborate on the setup for the wireless Lan? Dynapen 1 1,912 Aug 26, 2005 12:42 AM

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