OpenSUSE 11.2 the Perfect KDE Distribution

While openSUSE community is preparing to release openSUSE 11.2 in the next month, we decided to discover what’s new in openSUSE 11.2. We downloaded the RC1 image and started playing with it. In short, it is fast, stable and beautiful. We think the decision to move to 8 months release is a wise decision. It gives more time to build and test the software. But the most exciting decision is putting KDE as the default desktop environment. OpenSUSE 11.2 is the best KDE distribution (IMHO).

In this post we will review the most 10 important features in the default openSUSE 11.2 desktop:

1- Linux 2.6.31 kernel

Linux 2.6.31 kernel is the latest version of Linux kernel. It was released on 9 September, 2009. It brings tons and tons of new features and bugs fixing. You can check this article to see what’s new in this version. Most upcoming distributions will ship this version.

For openSUSE 11.1 users, be ready to jump from the version 2.6.27 to 2.6.31. So many things happened in these four releases. Linux becomes faster, more secure and has more built-in drivers. Moreover, openSUSE (or I should say Novell) developers paid a special attention to the netbook market.


2- Ext4 filesystem

Like most distributions, the default filesystem in openSUSE 11.2 will be Ext4. Ext4 is  the successor of the most used Linux filesystem, Ext3. It brings a lot of features and better performance compared to Ext3. You can find more details about Ext4 here.


3- Live upgrade

For the first time officially, openSUSE will support live upgrade in the same manner of Debian’s dist-upgrade. This feature “ has a powerful psychological impact at the Enterprise level and a much more tangible impact at the small user / single user level”. According to the feature page, “The rationale for pursuing this is to revoke the special status of coolness this functionality gives Ubuntu, and to terminate the negative influence that may have on our SLE sales (from the expert’s  opinion, the preference then easily spills into purchasing).”.

The bad news is it does not have a graphical tool and does suffer from many bugs.


4- YaST revamp

In OpenSUSE 11.2, YaST (the control center) has been ported from Qt 3 to the shiny Qt4. The new things are:

  • There are Novell AppArmor modules by default.
  • The virtualization module is ready to install.
  • Modules are searched (filtered) as you type in the search field.
  • The partitioner module has seen many user interface improvements. It also gained RAID6 and RAID10 support.

5- YaST web interface

OpenSUSE 11.2 will ship a technology preview of the web interface of YaST. The objective of YaST web interface is to enable remote 1:1 management of a machine. It is built using Ruby on Rail framework.

When I try to test it, I get an error. Further work is required to make it usable.

Login page of Web YaST


6- Improved software management

The software management has been improved vastly in openSUSE 11.2. First  Zypper (the backend to control packages) gets an enhancement for download reliability. Second, now you can download all packages first before installing them. Third, the layout of the user interface has been improved as you can see in the screenshot below.

Finally, you can search within all known openSUSE build-service and openSUSE community repositories using „Webpin package search“. I like it  because it is more convenient than using a browser for that task. By the way, I like „1-Click Install “ button.

New Layout of software managment

Keep downloaded packages option

7- KDE 4.3

My lovely desktop will get a big improvement in the next openSUSE release. It will come with the latest version of KDE 4.3. According to release announcement of KDE 4.3, “The KDE community has fixed over 10,000 bugs and implemented almost 2,000 feature requests in the last 6 months. Close to 63,000 changes were checked in by a little under 700 contributors.”. Well done KDE developers.

I’ve used KDE 4.3 on openSUSE 11.1 (thanks build service) since release day. It is stable and crash free ( maybe I exaggerate a little bit ). Most important KDE3 applications have been ported to KDE4.


8- KDE/Firefox integration

The most annoying thing when you use Firefox in KDE desktop is the lack of  integration (File dialogs, default programs, notification system, and proxy settings). OpenSUSE developers have worked hard to make sure that Firefox will behave like KDE application. See the proof in the video:

By the way, openSUSE 11.2 will ship OpenOffice 3.1 with KDE integration.


9- Wonderful Art works

I must admit that the art work in openSUSE 11.2 is amazing. Have a look at boot screen, login manager, Air theme and finally the wallpaper, to judge yourself. OpenSUSE comes with few wallpaper because you can get hundreds of wallpapers online using „Get Hot New Stuff“ from KDE.

Boot Splash

Login screen

The Desktop

Get New Wallpaper Online


10- Social desktop

OpenSUSE 11.2 comes with a lot of programs that support social networks (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, …etc). Firefox is the king in the area. But if you do not like the default webbased interfaces, you can use other applications like:

  • Choqok: New KDE twitter and client.
  • Kopete: The KDE client now has additional support for Facebook IM protocol.
  • Social plasmoids: KDE 4.3 comes with plasmoids for Twitter/ and openDesktop.