In a time when the new comercial Linux front runner is still up for grabs SuSE comes out with SuSE Linux 9.0. SuSE released the new point release just under one month ago giving it one of the most up to date system configurations in the comercial Linux world.

Test System:
Athlon XP 1700+
512MB Registered DDR RAM
19" NEC MultiSync 95 Monitor
Generic DVD-ROM
10X8x32x Acer CD-Burner
ATI-Radeon 7200 AGP
100G 7200RPM Drive
20G 5400RPM Drive
Logitech Wireless/Optical Mouse
SoundBlaster Live! Audio Card

SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro:
Price: $79.95 USD ($59.95 USD at Amazon)
Release Date: 2003/10/15
Package Format: RPM
Configuration Utility: YaST
Download: FTP Only (no ISO's)

Distro Spec's
Kernel: 2.4.21-99
Glibc: 2.3.2-88
Grub: 0.93-102
XFree86: 4.3.0.1-29

Quick Screenshot Links
SuSE's Screenshot
YaST Installer

The Installation:
After getting my new SuSE CD's, I quickly popped in CD 1 of 5 in my box and booted up. By default the installer won't even start, instead passing you off the the current bootloader. This is both a good idea and a bit anoying as I've grown use to putting the install CD in and then walking away to come back in a few minutes to actually start the install. On the other hand, it helps keep the anoynce down for those who allready installed SuSE or don't plan to but have the CD in the drive.

The installation program was decent. It's more in depth than Red Hat's Anaconda, but also not as good at auto probing. My NEC MultiSync 95 monitor was not found as it is in Anaconda, but it was easy to select it from a list of monitors. The first time I went to the main configuration screen it couldn't find the RPM's on the CD. It could have either been a CD-ROM glitch or a bug in the installer, but refreshing the list seemed to fix the problem.

The package selection area is very simple even though it is for advanced users. By default, you are given a default SuSE system, but you can specify what to install and what not to install all the way down to the package. The installer has a list of package groups on the left with the specific packages on the right. I really liked the way they had this set up as it lets you quickly select what you want, see what packages provide in terms of libraries and binaries, what they need to run and so-on. I did find it somewhat laughable when installing fortune and BitchX that both claim with a disclaimer for language and non political correctness.

One thing that struck me odd was the fact that SuSE defaults to DES as it's password encryption scheme. This seems like a horrid idea due to DES's bad track record and the availability of much better algorithms (like MD5 and Blowfish). It was simple enough to click advanced and then select MD5, but I wouldn't have even thought to look if I wasn't planning on wririting a review of the product. Hopefully SuSE will start defaulting to either MD5 or Blowfish in the next release.

Near the end of the install you are given the chance to update your system via the network to get all bugfixes and security patches. Unfortunatly, about half of the mirrors don't have a mirror of SuSE 9.0 yet and the main SuSE ftp site is horribly slow. Luckily, 3 of the mirrors where quick and responsive to the update. After the installation I added other non-official mirrors to the list of update servers just in case.

First Boot
SuSE, like just about every commercial Linux distro today, uses graphical grub to boot the system. SuSE's bootloader is a bit plain compared to Red Hat's but it does it's job fine. The boot itself defaults to a graphical screen where you are shown a slick looking progress bar window while the system boots. You can get 'more information' by hitting F2, which shows you the normal boot sequence that we are all use to.

SuSE defaults to KDE with their own custom windowing theme. Unlike Red Hat, they have not changed the look and feel of KDE, but have just made some enhancements on the windowing buttons. They also provide Mosfet's Liquid and other modern and eye chatching themes. Since they default to KDE, they also use all the normal KDE apps such as Konq, kmail, etc ... Luckily, they default to Open Office rather than KOffice for the office suit.

Configuration
SuSE uses it's YaST and YOU system for configuration and auto updates respectively. I was really impressed by YaST's speed and ease of use. In the 7.x days of SuSE I remember hating to even touch YaST because of it's massive memory consumption and it's proclivity to break down and only half do what you asked it to. YOU is also a dream come true as it takes Red Hat's update utility a step further. It's simple to set up, it uses the same mirror you chose in the install, and allows for adding new ones from it's GUI. It's GUI is a simple window with 4 buttons and two checkboxes. You can check for updates, show last lof, start an online update or show update messages. The check boxes let you start YOU automatically and automatically check for updates and install them for you. This simple way of doing updates beats Red Hat's wizard view, and beats Debian's/Fedora's apt-get update in terms of the average user.

SuSE also has a nice device manager called SuSE plugger which lets you browse your hardware and configure it manually using a Windows-Like GUI interface. Anyone who has delt with the Device Manager in Windows will feel at home using SuSE plugger.

Network Services
SuSE also uses YaST to configure your network services. SuSE defaults to Apache2 as it's webserver along with postfix as it's sendmail system. YaST can also configure sendmail in plate of postfix if need be. It also comes with a plethora of other network server including imap, pop, samba, nfs, etc ...

What I Like
Quick boot time
Pretty Interface
Auto Updates
Commercial Support Available
Easy to Maintain (so far)
Easy to Configure

What I Don't Like
Price
No Community Eddition ISO(s)
Defaults to KDE (personal preference)
YaST2 License

Conclusion
I really like this release a lot. All SuSE needs to do is get rid of the YaST2 license and replace it with and Open Source/Free Software one and they would be the perfect commercial Linux company.