SuSE 9.1

SuSE Linux has intrigued me for a while, especially now that they are owned by Novell. My recent Fedora Core 2 installation was so full of bugs it was unusable and Mandrake 10.0 lasted the statuatory 30 minutes before it was wiped. Debian unstable got a bit too flaky when I added experimental gnome 2.6 packages. So could SuSE 9.1 (a supposedly newbie friendly distribution) cut the cheese?With the new DVD-CDRW installed it was time to scrap the SuSE 9.1 boot floppies (nightmare) and go for the ftp install from the boot.iso image. The SuSE installer is very nice and allows a variety of network and local installs, just remember to write down the IP address and directory of the SuSE ftp mirror before you start. Having never used SuSE before I was pleasantly surprised by its hardware detection and ease of setup. It found all the useful hardware in my Fujitsu Lifebook C2210 and pretty quickly (using the UCLA network - 5 Megabytes per second… yes megabytes not megabits!) everything was installed and KDE 3.2.1 was up and running.The YaST configuration program seems a lot better than anything I have used on Fedora Core 2 or Mandrake (even 10.0). SuSE was the first distribution I have used that allowed me to configure my PCMCIA wireless card settings using only the mouse! However, the default install is missing some key packages (as is Fedora Core 2) but these are fairly easy to grab after setting up apt for SuSE. After updating the sources.list and disabling the strict GPG signing requirement it was simple to install Firefox and Thunderbird and my new favourite command line ftp program lftp (forget about ncftp).Update Things continue to impress. Suspend works! A little fiddling with /etc/powersave.conf to allow suspend for normal users… an /etc/init.d/powersave restart later and the laptop button now puts the machine to sleep. All looks less than promising when it starts booting into Grub but once the kernel gets going it reloads the stored system and bingo… back to where you were… wonders never cease.I’ve been fiddling now for a few hours (Catherine was watching What Not to Wear on BBC America) and I haven’t found anything that isn’t good. Konqueror seems much improved and has built in spell check all round. It also does nifty smb://bla.bla.bla/gpd connection to my G5 windows samba share. I inserted my wireless Belkin PCMCIA card… and a window pops up (ala Windows) saying New Hardware found… minutes later it is configured with no terminal required. Linux seems to be approaching Desktop readyness!Other good features… Realplayer already installed… flash plugin already there… kaffeine and xine work nicely for video and mp3s. Juk looks a lot like iTunes… apt-repositories include a daily-kernel… ideal for the uber geek.So far SuSE is all good. But what will be the deal breaker to switch back to Windows XP? Obvious things missing still: support for the built in SD card reader… no sign of it in lspci. TV output (haven’t tried yet and possibly not worth the effort)… Palm syncing… again haven’t tried… DVD playback… tricky to install due to licensing issues of libdvdcss but should arrive shortly… Fonts… still a bit dodgy at times… we shall see… for now I will stick with it out of interest in what will cause the switch back.

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