As you know, I’ve been refreshing my experience on the current crop of Linux distros, last week’s overviewed was Ubuntu 6.10 – “Do you Ubuntu?”  Moving right along in my “which Linux Distro is right for me” Evaluation is SUSE 10.2.


Having not looked at SUSE since before the Novell merger/acquisition, I expected significant changes. After torrenting down the DVD image I threw it into my “classic” test system, an old Compaq P3 with 512 MB of RAM. I’ve used this old beater before for testing, and given Linux’s relatively mild requirements I figured this would be no problem.


Was I in for a surprise.  None of the installation options worked on the P3-733. Not exactly state of the art, but certainly it should have been sufficient. I even put an old NVIDIA MX400 in the system thinking that perhaps the onboard Video was the problem, but nothing.


So over to my Intel Core 2 box. Immediately the installer was up and running. After quickly answering questions about my language and location, I was given the choice of which desktop manager I wanted Gnome or KDE. This was a nice option, one that I have not seen in many new Distros installers lately. I selected Gnome, as I have been using it with most of these Linux evals and wanted to keep things consistent.


Next came partitioning options. SUSE greatly simplifies the process with its prefab selection. There are expert options to go in and modify, but I have to admit, even I was a little intimidated by the way these slices where displayed – so I let it be and rolled with the defaults.


A nice progress bar gives a total time remaining, after about 30 minutes, three gigs have been moved and we are ready for reboot. Upon reboot, I was pleased to see that my Vista install had been auto-detected and was intact, something other distros have not picked up correctly. 


Completing the install after reboot, was uneventful. You are giving the opportunity to create some users and setup Novell support options.  I’m not up on the ins and outs of how Novell’s support options work with SUSE, so I left this blank for now and was able to progress through the installer. I’d welcome anyone’s input as to what you get/don’t get in the “free” vs. “pay” support options.


Just as with Ubuntu, driver support was excellent, auto detecting my Video/Audio and other peripherals like USB drives upon boot. A very OSX looking desktop screen, serves as the default background.  


SUSE Desktop

Also of note is the very different “start” menu or application browser, pictured below. It’s fascinating to see how OS menu systems are moving away form traditional linear designs as they grow more and more conceptualized around tasks, and less about a specific application. This is true of most new modern OSes (Vista, OSX and now here in Linux windows managers.)

SUSE Application Browser

Bundled apps were plentiful and featured Open Office and Firefox 2.0. Totem serves that the default media player, but like Fedora and the current Ubuntu it does not default install with many codecs; Ubuntu 7.X plans to support an auto download on demand of unknown/uninstalled codecs, I was hoping to see that in this refresh of SUSE.


And let me clarify somehting about this post, as well as the whole series of Linux Distro overviews, this is not indented to be an over-arcing exhaustive review of SUSE, but rather an accumulation of observations I’m making about the current crop of Linux offerings. There are many great sites devoted to much more granular detail than I can get into here. In a future article I will give some recommendations on sources you can draw from for more info.


Overall this is a very impressive offering and should be considered as a free/low cost PC OS option. Keep watching as I will look at Fedora 6 next in the series.