Friday, 20 August 2004, 23:31:22 EDT

I got a new hard drive in for the laptop I use at work because the one that I was using was just plain horrible. So far this one is working excellently. Since I got a new drive I decided I would load it with SuSE 9.1. I had tried out a demo version of SuSE back when it was version five or so but shortly loaded Debian Slink over it because it was a time limited demo. I liked SuSE at that time and I must say that I still do. They now provide a personal edition so that you can install it and use it free of charge. Basically, they let you install from either FTP or a single downloadable CD that does not contain all of the numerous packages available in the distribution. That is easily rectified after you get the system installed by adding an FTP install source as the FTP mirrors contain all the packages.

The SuSE, I keep wanting to write 'SuSe' as that is the way it used to be, install is very straight forward and will take about thirty to forty minutes, depending on your machine, if you go with the default package selection. The installer is quite smart and can pick up Windows partitions to add to the boot menu. The only thing I have found that I don't like so much about the installer is that it uses the "twice the ram for swap" rule when anything over 128MB is overkill; unless, that is, you are using suspend to disk. That seems to be the only hitch to the installer as it picks up hardware very accurately and supplies enough information to at least guide newbies through the process without much confusion. Once the installer is completed and the system boots you are presented with this desktop. As you might be able to see, this brings me full circle to KDE; strangely enough, almost one year to date.

Probably the nicest thing about SuSE 9.1 is YAST2. One can think of it as the control panel in Windows except that it only deals with the actual system configuration; KDE provides its own "Control Center" for user configuration of the desktop. YAST2 makes browsing and installing packages a snap. For the most part it will automatically resolve dependencies and install them for you. There are some dependencies that it feels are too strong to install without asking you though and I believe that is probably a good thing. It lets the user decide what large or troublesome packages get installed. In complement to the software installation portion of YAST2, SuSE 9.1 comes with an application that runs in the background to notify you of available critical updates. In the screenshot it is the little 'i' icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The icon will change to a red exclamation point if there are critical updates available. YAST2 also allows you to easily configure and manage the hardware in your machine. It didn't do such a good job selecting the proper driver for the Dell TrueMobile 1150 wireless card built in to my laptop but I can live with that. Wireless cards use various chipsets within the same model so it can be quite difficult to figure out which chipset your particular card has. Once I realized it was selecting the wrong driver for the card all I had to do is fill in the correct one and my wireless connectivity is working perfectly.

If you are considering trying out Linux for a desktop operating system I do not believe you can go wrong with SuSE. I think that it is a very good, easy to use and setup desktop operating system. While I would prefer to use Gnome, I am going to stick with KDE on my laptop since that is the default SuSE has chosen. I have read that the Gnome support, as a desktop environment, is a little lacking at the moment. But, I believe that will change soon as Novell recently purchased SuSE and Novell has a large stake in the Gnome development. If you feel like giving it a shot you can pick up the ISO from ALE's ftp archive. Once you get it set up you can read how to add the ALE ftp archive as an installation source and YOU repository.