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Thread: SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

  1. #1

    SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    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

    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.

    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
    No Community Eddition ISO(s)
    Defaults to KDE (personal preference)
    YaST2 License

    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.

  2. #2

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    nice review - thanks Ash. One thing I am wondering about is if there is a 2.6 kernel includes or is it 2.6 ready?

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2002

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    Yes, 2.6.0-testX is available on the CDs. And the system meets al requirements for running 2.6.

  4. #4

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    thanks Demian!

  5. #5
    Mentor coltrane's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2001
    North Carolina

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    Its "ok"
    I wasnt happy with the lack of default libraries with this distro (7.3 installed most popular ones on default), so upgrading software has become a chore.

    Other than that, its well on its way to replacing RH as my main Linux distro (again)

    Daddy's home....

  6. #6

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    I really have been liking SuSE since 7.3 but I agree on the YaST license thing. Personally I see YaST being entirely dependent on GPL programs anyway so opensourcing it only makes sense -but I would continue to purchase my initial copy as I always have.

  7. #7
    Mentor coltrane's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2001
    North Carolina

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    More review linkage :

    More screenshot linkage (gnome 2.2 @ kde) :

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2001

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    If it won't boot from the cds, how exactly did you install it? Mine boots from the cd but (like RH9) the default option is to boot from hard drive if you don't hit a key in the 10 or so seconds it gives you to change the option.

    the 2.6.0 kernel is not on the cds, it's on the dvd only on the 9.0 Pro release (the cds were done before the dvd, so there's a few newer items on the dvd), also, the version that came with 9.0 was 2.6.0-test5, which I wouldn't run. I downloaded test9 myself and have that up and running, it's 2.6 ready so you just need to drop the new kernel in (and create /sys for the sysfs).

    The only one thing I really like about SUSE as compared to other distributions like redhat,fedora,debian, etc.. is the menu organization. Sure, you can edit the menus to whatever you want, but I'm generally too lazy and leave menus mostly in the default setup. SUSE has a very good organization on the menus, it makes me cringe when I'm on my RH9 machine that has rather hideous "click here for more stuff because it's too much for the one page and we're too lazy to organize better" default menu structure.

  9. #9

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    I can't wait for Ximian to do their thing to SuSE, maybe then the KDE guys can feel the anger we GNOME users have felt with their PISSPOOR default GNOME implementation for years.. 8.2 fx. shipped with the uglist GNOME ever, 9.0 is better but not much, the default look is nicer, why don't they stick with that - they don't plan to do a unitheme like bluecurve or galaxy it seems so why butcher GNOME?
    They may have done a good job organising menus in KDE but I didn't find this to be the case in GNOME.

    Their installer is WAY to complex and KDE'ish (lots of options) - and why is SuSE the only distro makes too dumb to make /boot on RAID1 work - I really hate this, the installer complain ENDLESSLY about this despite it being a perfectly okay way of setting up a system - it's the only distro I've ever used that does this - it's idiotic. Look at Anaconda, the best installer on earth IMHO.

    YaST2 I find to be complex, WAY to complex for my taste. I simple doesn't seem to be worth the trouble to review all those options. The Mandrake Control Center is pretty and easy to work with, why not look in that direction for a good example?

    I found one REALLY annoying bug in the installer, the I18N work isn't complete, it would read "Current Package" in english and the rest would mostly be in relatively correct Danish, with the odd strange english frase here and there.. Why do they not review this kind of thing - I would do it for free (if the YaST license was changed) - It annoys me that they allow such things to happen because new users will be SO confused about it.

    That being said the distro itself was fairly stable and SuSE has a nice kernel which has the brk() security bug fixed (of Debian fame). It doesn't annoy me much that I have to do an FTP install to get it for free, I would prefer ISOs for download but I refuse to pay for it in the current state - once Novell gets a release out with Ximian Desktop as the default and RedCarpet replacing the awful YaST YOU, then I'll cough up.

  10. #10
    Mentor cga's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2001

    Re:SuSE Linux 9.0 Pro Review

    I pretty much disagree with everything LC has said. I find YOU to work very well, and I find YaST to be easy and well organized, not to mention very powerful. And I really hate Gnome. :P

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