An early look at openSUSE 12.1

Release candidate 1 for openSUSE 12.1 has been out for a few days.  This isn’t the final release version, but is likely to be close to the final version.  So it is time to take a look.

Kernel 3.x

This will be the first regular release of openSUSE with a version 3 kernel.  The release candidate has kernel 3.1.0-rc9 (release candidate 9).  The final release of 12.1 is likely to have the final released 3.1.0 kernel.

Systemd

12.1 will be using systemd in place of the traditional init (as process 1).  Systemd will be responsible for starting the various services that had previously been started by init scripts.  This is a substantial change in how services are started.

I have mixed views on this.  The old init method was like a swiss army knife.  It was marvelously flexible for doing many kinds of startup task.  With systemd, we might miss some of that flexibility.  On the other hand, systemd will provide a more systematic and consistent way of managing services.  And there’s a lot to be said for systematicity and consistency.  It is said that systemd is better able to parallelize operations, and will result in a faster startup.  That’s probably true.  But most desktop users won’t see much change, because the startup time for the desktop environment is the major visible source of delay.  The speedup might be more apparent to those running servers.

The switch to systemd might also be a source of problems.  The use of init scripts is deeply embedded in the unix/linux way of doing things, so it might take a while to adapt everything to the systemd way.

Gnome 3

This will be the first openSUSE with the new Gnome 3 as part of the release.  It (Gnome 3) was available as an addition to 11.4, but was not part of the 11.4 release.  Gnome 3 is at version Gnome 3.2, and that will probably be the version in the final release of 12.1.

There will be disagreement over whether this change is a good thing.  The change to Gnome 3 is controversial.  From the perspective of an openSUSE user, I see it as appropriate.  The real decision was made by the Gnome developers.  The openSUSE team is simply keeping up to date with the most recent Gnome version.

Some people love Gnome 3.  Others do not like it at all.  I’m in the “do not like it” group, for reasons that I discussed in an earlier post at my other blog.  I could live with Gnome 3, but it would be less convenient for the way that I use the computer.  Since I had already switched from Gnome to KDE4, I am not actually much affected.  Gnome 3.2 does seem improved from the original Gnome 3 release, but it does not change why I am not a Gnome 3 fan.

KDE4

With rc1, KDE is at version 4.7.2, and it is likely that will be the version in the final release.  Most of the changes 4.7 won’t affect the way I use KDE.  But others will be pleased to see them.  For myself, I have been happy with KDE since I switched to it last year, though there were a few instabilities at that time.  By now, it seems pretty stable.

Network Manager

NM has advanced to version 0.9.1 since I griped about it.  It has improved.  It still asks for the root password more often than I think it should, but not as often as it was doing back at version 0.9 .

Warts

I’m preparing a separate post to discuss the problems that I have run into with early trial versions of 12.1.

Overall

I see this as a good release.  I am planning to upgrade to 12.1 as soon as the final release is available.  Actually, I have already upgraded my laptop to 12.1 rc1, because of the benefits it offers me.  Most particularly, the video is working a lot better than with 11.4, where I had to use “nomodeset” to avoid system freezes.  And the touchpad is now reliably recognized, whereas with 11.4 it was only recognized about 40% of the time.  Those are both important for the way I use my laptop, so I decided to switch it over to 12.1 already.  I will install the final version of 12.1 when that comes out.

I’ll delay upgrading my desktop until the final 12.1 release.  There is software that I depend on, such as LaTEX, which is big enough that I prefer to wait on the final release before installing.  I’ll eventually install LaTEX on my laptop, too, but I can do without it on the laptop for now, as long as I have it available on my desktop.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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