Reviewing openSUSE 12.3 Milestone 2

It is almost as week since I downloaded 12.3M2, so now it is time for a review.

Ignoring the few warts for a moment, my overall impression is positive.  When booting the install media, I first saw the new Plymouth splash.  It is interesting, better than the bland splash animation that we saw with 12.2, but I’m inclined to say that it is nothing to write home about.  But then I’m not a graphic designer, so I’m in no position to criticize.

With the exception of the crypto problems, mentioned in an earlier post, the install went very smoothly.  The bug report on those crypto problems has already been flagged as “resolved”, so I expect the final release of 12.3 to install smoothly.

As has been my recent habit, I installed from a USB flash drive.  I downloaded the DVD image, and checked the validity of its PGP signature.  Then I ran the command “isohybrid” against the image.  And, finally, I copied it to an 8Gb USB flash drive, using the “dd_rescue” command.  All of those steps went smoothly.  Then I configured the BIOS to boot from USB.  My 64 bit computers are all Dell systems, and all I need to do is hit F12 while booting, and a BIOS prompt allows me to select USB boot for this one time.  My older 32 bit system does not support booting from a USB.  So, in that case, I used the PLOP boot manager, which I can start from a grub entry.  In turn, PLOP boot manager supports a USB boot, though it is rather slow compared to a BIOS supported USB boot.

The actual install screens are similar to those in previous opensuse versions, so no surprises.  And I did not run into any serious problems apart from those related to crypto.

KDE

I first logged into KDE4, my preferred desktop.  KDE comes in as version 4.9.90, which is apparently a beta for the forthcoming 4.10.  I expect the final 4.10 to be available by the time of the final release of opensuse 12.3, which is tentatively scheduled for March 2013.

The first thing to notice is the spruced up oxygen them.  Here’s a screen shot, taken from my 32 bit system (1024×768 screen).

12.3M2

The image is similar to what you will see if you don’t change a lot.  I plugged in a USB drive, so that you could see the drive notifier window.  Click on the image to see a larger version.

The tray on the bottom right of the screen contains, from left to right, the klipper icon (scissors), drive notifier icon, sound icon, network manager icon, the button to access hidden icons, and the time.

Overall, KDE seems very stable and its behavior is familiar enough.

What I didn’t like in KDE:

I am not thrilled with the new screen locker, which replaces the old screen saver.  My computer is in a secure place, where I do not need the screen to be locked.  But I could only turn off the locking by disabling it.  There’s a “Require Password” option looks as if it could turn off screen locking, but the screen still locks even with that unchecked.  Instead, I have to turn off the “Start automatically” option, leaving no screen saver function.  I hope that changes by the final release.

I also did not like the settings for desktop effects.  They default to enabled, and I usually turn that off.  But, on my 32 bit system with older ATI graphics, it would not let me near the setting to turn that off.  If I tried, it would instead show a message that desktop effects have been forced of because they cause problems with this hardware.  I later setup KDE on a different computer, and disabled desktop effects there.  Then I copied $HOME/.kde4 over to my 32 bit system.  That gave me a starting configuration with desktop effects disabled.  I was then allowed to see the settings for desktop effects.  And I did not run into problems with KWIN crashing (as happened in my first login with desktop effects enabled).

Gnome

Gnome comes in as version 3.6.2.  I have never been a big fan of Gnome 3, so if you are looking for a review of the strong points, I suggest looking elsewhere.

On my older 32 bit system, Gnome gave a message that fallback mode was forced.  That’s fine, as I prefer fallback mode anyway.  This is better than with Gnome 3.2 and Gnome 3.4, where it just crashed and logged me out again.  I had to force fallback mode at the command line (while logged into KDE), in order to access those Gnome versions on my older hardware.

On my 64 bit systems, Gnome 3.6.2 came up in full mode, without a problem.

Here’s what annoys me about Gnome.  I am used to working with “focus follows mouse” or “sloppy focus” as it is sometimes called.  I have been working that way for many years, and find it the most productive way of using X.  With Gnome 3, I could not find the settings for that.  I eventually found how to do it from a Google search.  That method still worked with Gnome 3.2.  It no longer worked with 3.4, though there was an alternative way that I could easily find in the menus.  Now with 3.6.2, I am back not finding a way to set that up.  The message comes through loud and clear.  The gnome developers seem want to tell me how to do things their way, and make it difficult for me to do them in the way that I find most congenial.  That’s why I don’t like Gnome 3.

Nouveau

I had a pleasant surprise with my 2007 vintage 64 bit system with nvidia graphics.  I was using the default nouveau driver.  And it actually worked when I logged into Gnome.  That system has always been fine with KDE, but in previous versions, Gnome 3 came up with a lot of screen corruption.  I was at least able to switch to fallback mode, where it was fine.  But now, with 12.3M1, it is working well in full Gnome 3 mode.

It looks as if the nouveau driver has improved.  Whether it has improved enough to work with newer nvidia cards, I don’t know.  My guess is that some people will still have problems.

There’s a downside, though.  On two occasions, I have lost the cursor.  That is, the mouse pointer no longer shows up.  This happened when running KDE.  It looks as if something in the graphics driver is not recovering properly from switching off the display.  For the present, I have disabled the timed display switch off in KDE, to avoid a repetition.

LibreOffice

I’ll just mention that it has advanced to version 3.6.3, according to the documentation.  I don’t use LibreOffice much, except to read documents sent to me.  And I have not had occasion to actually use it in 12.3 M2.

Summary

That’s my review for now.  I’ll be continuing to experiment with M2 until M3 or a beta release is available.  Unless I run into something unusual, I probably won’t be posting more on M2.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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  1. Opensuse 12.3 is now available | Thoughts on computing - 2013/03/13

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