Tuesday, November 01, 2005

An Evening With Suse

Or more accurately, SUSE 10.0, the latest release of the Linux distro from Novell. Up until recently, I had thought Novell was charging $60 for this Linux version. But come to find out, that's only if you want their full tech support. If you don't, its 100% free. So I figured I'd give it a look. To play it safe, I decided to install the OS as a virtual machine in a handy program called VMWare. This will allow me to run Linux, on my high-end pc, without the danger of losing all my Window XP Pro settings and work.

I spent about an hour downloading and burning the 5 CD SUSE 10 setup disks. Then, about another 45 minutes installing the disks. It was a pleasant surprise to find this Linux install was about as easy as any Windows XP install ive done recently. I chose the default options and let the install do what it found best for my system. I was glad to see it only wanted to use 4GB of disk space and only 256MB of RAM to run the OS in. This hardly puts a dent in my 1.75GB of total installed system RAM. Once the install finished, I was prompted to set up my root password and create a normal user log in. After one final system reboot, I was up and running in SUSE Linux!

I had decided I was going try to use only Linux for the evening. Which immediatly excluded any gaming, since few real games are written to work on Linux. Web surfing seemed about normal. Using Firefox browser, I was able to install their browser extensions and surf pretty much like I normally would. My first problem came when I encountered a site using Macromedia Flash. I tried to install the Flash plug-in but found out that Firefox tries to download and install the normal Flash.exe file. The problem being, Linux does not use .EXE install files. It uses something called "Tarballs". Yeah, I laughed for awhile too. And unlike Windows where you simply click on the install file and a wizard walks you thru setting up the new program, tarball files, or ".tar" files must be de-compressed first, then installed thru a variety of command line based phases. I haven't quite figured it all out yet. There's a bit of a learning curve here. I even tried to follow some guys tutorial, but that didn't go so well. This "so-called" beginners guide, took for granted I knew certian things. One of his first instructions was, run some type of compiler to un-tar the files to a specific directory. Yeah, back up and tell me how to do that first!!! So, long story short, I was unable to install a Linux version of Flash. Or, any other software for that matter.

Thats ok, onward with whatever I could do then! I was impressed with the amount of software that came bundled with SUSE 10. There's a fully functional Office Suite, GIMP, the image editing package, a fully fuctional multi-client chat program and tons of others that come included. Even plug & play has greatly improved since my last Linux experience with Mandrake 8. I turned on my HP 1350 color printer and it was quickly detected, installed and ready to use. Nice. SUSE now even has its own version of Automatic Update. It popped up prompting me to check for updates. I clicked yes and in seconds I was shown a list of 15 or so updates. One more click and they all downloaded and installed on the system. Again, nice! I just wish installing a normal program was that easy. I decided to give the Office suite a compatibility test. I created a text document and wanted to see if I could open it on my Windows XP system in Office 2000. After typing up a few quick sentences, I clicked on "Save As". The drop down list gave me a choice of various Office suites and versions to choose from. I selected Microsoft Office 2000 and clicked save. I emailed it to myself and checked my email on my Windows PC. Office 2000 opened it easily with no format problems. Nice!

Overall, this latest SUSE 10 release is a very useable, pleasant experience. With the exception of not being able to install any software packages, there are some people who could use it right out of the box and be perfectly productive. Installing is a peice of cake, and using it only takes some time to get the hang of where everything is. Security is nice, but its Linux so thats a given. Making any changes to the system prompts you for the root (admin) password. I wish windows did that. I feel that SUSE (or Linux in general) is so close to becoming wide spread on peoples PC's. If they can just make installing software easy, it will explode in popularity. Then hopefully game makers will ship games for it. Look out Microsoft, and ambush looms.
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