Reviewing newly released openSUSE 12.1

I have previously posted reviews of pre-release versions here and here.  But now the official release is available, so a more detailed look is in order.  The quick summary: it works well and looks good.

What’s new

One major change is that systemd has replaced the old init system.  This is a big change, though it will not be visible to most users because it is “under the hood.”  It affects how system services are started.  The changes were a cause of some of the bugs found in early testing.  Most of those have been sorted out.  A few may remain, but most users won’t notice it.

Another “under the hood” change is the move to a version 3 kernel.  OpenSUSE 12.1 comes with the 3.1.0 kernel version.

A third major change, is that Gnome 3 (actually, Gnome 3.2) replaces the older Gnome 2.32 in the distribution.  This change is very visible, and brings a whole new look to Gnome.  It is also controversial, as there are many who dislike the Gnome 3 experience.  I don’t much like it myself.  But I commend the openSUSE team for including it.  It is up to the Gnome developers to decide the direction of Gnome, and the openSUSE team have correctly brought us their latest version.

The Chromium browser is now part of the standard distribution.  There’s no longer a need to add additional repos if you want Chromium.  I will be experimenting with it as I move into use of 12.1, though I will keep firefox as my primary browser for now.

What is improved

KDE is now at version 4.7.2.  Most of the changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.  There is a new activity center icon in the panel.  You can use that to experiment with some predefined activities.  The icons for Dolphin and firefox are smaller, and if you change your preferred file manager and browser, those icons should change to match.

NetworkManager has been updated to a version 0.9.1.  The downside is that it asks for the root password more often than I think it should.  However, KDE users now have the ability to configure a system connection which is shared by all users.

Installing

I installed using the iso for the DVD.  I chose to run the “isohybrid” command on it, and then write it to a USB stick.  I booted that USB stick to install.

I have installed on two systems.  I first installed on an older laptop that is now in semi-retirement as a test machine.  That was an install of the 32 bit version of opensuse 12.1, since the older machine is from the 32 bit era.  The install went very well.

I next installed on my newer laptop, where I installed the 64 bit version.  That install also went very well.

Those two installs are among the smoothest that I have ever done.  Congratulations to the opensuse team for their fine work.  The had been small problems in the earlier beta release and the rc1 and rc2 releases.  But those seem to have all been clear up.

Comparing the two installs, the 32 bit install was far slower.  That partly because of a slower processor, and partly because it uses an IDE disk while the newer laptop has a SATA disk.

I will delay installing on my desktop for a few day.  I need to be able to use latex.  Until I have tested that out on the laptop, I’ll keep the desktop system at 11.4 where I know it works.  But it will probably be only a few days before I switch that over, too.

How 12.1 affects me

For me, the most important change is with the touchpad on my laptop.  With 11.3 and 11.4, the touchpad was only being recognized on about half of the times that I booted up the system.  It is now being recognized all the time.  I am using synaptiks to manage it in KDE.

The intel graphics on my laptop still freezes up from time to time, though I am getting fewer freezes than I had with 11.4.  I had been using “nomodeset” to avoid the problem with 11.4.  But, with 12.1, I’m going to try going with the i915 driver.  It looks as if the freezes will be infrequent enough for that to work out.

The Broadcom wifi now works out-of-the box on my laptop.  I will no longer need to install the drivers from the packman repo.

Overall, I am looking forward to a good experience with 12.1.

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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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