A look at the release candidate for openSUSE’s 13, the next step in the Linux distribution for everyone to use.
ProsYaST is now built in Ruby, allowing for easier development, and is still as easy to use as everCons.
No live booting off the full DVD, and a limited selection of official desktops compared to some distros.
The 13.x line of openSUSE releases is just about here, ready to move beyond the troubled development woes that the community experienced last year for the early releases of 12.x.While there are only a few changes coming to the next version of openSUSE over the previous ones, there are some wide-reaching effects to various levels of users.
One of the most important changes implemented in 13.1 is porting YaST to Ruby. Previously, the openSUSE control centre software was built in its own proprietary language, meaning few people in the community were able to easily contribute to its code. The port to Ruby has been a straight job, and it was introduced as part of the distro during a beta version of 13.1. For the desktop user, this may not mean much, but to the developers and the community it’s a huge step forward in allowing one of the major features of openSUSE to be much more open and friendly to those who want to commit changes.
With the first iteration of such a port let loose in the wild, it’s natural to be concerned over the new YaST’s stability and quality – thankfully, the porters seem to have done an exceedingly good job. The control centre is as usable as it’s ever been, and there were no issues using it for adding and removing software, changing network settings, adjusting the boot menu and all the other tasks it can perform.
As well as YaST, there’s been some great improvements over Btrfs, the future fi le system that keeps being just out of reach. It’s not a default yet, but the developers and community have been making an effort to improve its support in the latest version of openSUSE with some impressive results. Right now it’s considered safe to use, with the intention that it’ll be a default in 13.1. We’ve heard that line before, though, about Btrfs from other developers.
There’s a host of updates to all the desktop environments, the Linux kernel has been updated to version 3.11.3 (with the added Btrfs patches) and interestingly, there’s an effort to update GStreamer from 0.1.0 to the newer 1.0 – although this hasn’t been implemented as of the release candidate.
Aside from the big changes to YaST, it’s somewhat of a safe update for openSUSE. There’s no problem with this, of course, though, and it’s allowed it to stay rock solid and compatible with a lot of hardware types and keep its great user experience intact.
Updates and new features aside, openSUSE 13.1 still works as advertised. The images supplied come in three main flavours – two live discs containing one of the two main desktop environments, and the full installation DVD. The KDE and GNOME spins allow you to live-boot into openSUSE and give it a test before committing to installing, while the DVD version is specifi cally just for installation.
The DVD installer is still one of the better Linux installers out there. The dedicated process is split up into distinct sections with a logical flow to the process. Default options are passable for the lower-end users, while there’s plenty of room for customisation and further setup for the more advanced users that encompass the targeted user base of openSUSE itself. You can also choose between the main supported desktops, or select a more lightweight alternative if you require it. The only thing really missing is adding or removing
different software packs, the kind that the Mageia installer provides. While you can make your own custom ISO that will do this for you with SUSE Studio, it would be nice to have even a basic version of it with the official release.
Installation is quite fast, and will automatically restart and dump you into the desktop. The openSUSE desktop themes continue to be some of the best around, with great aesthetics and design ethos that eke a little bit more out of the standard KDE and GNOME.
The next generation
Right now, then, everything looks fantastic for the next openSUSE. The philosophy of the distro has always been about making it the best OS to use for novices and veterans alike. This is again accomplished with a fantastic selection of tools for sysadmins to manage the systems locally or remotely, and a smart design that allows normal desktop users to quickly get into a new workfl ow rhythm. OpenSUSE is also about community, and the changes to YaST and efforts made with Btrfs are a great indicator of how strong it currently is. We look forward to seeing what the next version brings.
The community distro returns with a new version of YaST and a series of updates that still allow it to be one of the most usable and stable distros available.
The 13.x line of openSUSE may be the best yet.