A quick review of openSUSE-Edu-li-f-e-12.3-1

I saw the announcement of opensuse 12.3 as packaged for education, and decided to take a look.  I only intended to look for online information, so I clicked the download link and expected that to give me some information.  It did.  But it also started a download.  So I allowed the download to continue.  And a while later (I didn’t time it), I had the iso for the 32-bit version.  I checked the md5sum for safety, and then copied the iso to a flash drive for testing.

The iso file itself is around 3.4 G in size.  It is intended for either DVD or a USB.  Since I prefer using a USB, I wrote the iso to a drive that I  had available.  I used “dd_rescue” for the copy.

The announcement itself seemed a little unclear.  It hinted at being for live media, but it was worded so that it could have been only an installer.  So I prepared one of my computers to install on a spare partition.

Booting

I plugged in the USB drive, powered on the computer, and hit F12.  On that particular box, F12 during boot gives me a BIOS menu where I can select the boot device.  It quickly became clear that this was live media.  The menu gave me several boot options.  One of those was for Gnome, and another was for Cinnamon.  I did not see a menu option for KDE.

I selected Cinnamon for my live boot.  And it looked as if it was booting into KDE.  Well, silly me.  I had thought that Cinnamon as a version of Gnome with extensions.  It never occurred to me that it was just a fancy name for KDE.  Okay, sarcasm aside, that was evidently a typo, or perhaps a thinko would be a better term.  Never mind.  I’m a KDE user, so that would have been my boot choice if KDE had appeared on the menu.

First looks

Once booted into the live media, I took a look around.  Everything seemed to be working well.  So, having prepared a partition for installing, I decided to go ahead.  I clicked the “Install” icon on the desktop.

Installation

This was very similar to any install from live media.  First the license, then set the timezone, then the partitioner.  And, once past that, the installation begins.  For live media, install is mainly copying from live media to the hard drive.  That usually is pretty fast.  On this occasion, it took around 20 minutes, which is longer than the typical install from live media.  But that’s because there is so much preloaded into this system.

A small confession here.  The USB drive that I used for the install media is actually an IDE drive mounted in a disk enclosure.  It is faster than your usual flash drive.  So it is possible that install from a flash drive will take longer.  However, because the data is compressed on the install media, most of the time is probably spent writing to the disk where it will be finally installed.  So it might not be much slower with flash media.  If I had used a DVD, I would expect the install to take longer.

The install itself went smoothly.  Once finished, it asked to reboot.  And, on reboot, it completed the final steps of installation.

The installed system

Once installed, I spent some more time looking around.  I first booted into KDE, which seemed to behave normally.  I noticed that the network was configured to use NetworkManager, even though I had installed on a desktop computer.  That’s probably a reasonable choice for a system intended for educational use.

The root file system turns out to have around 11G of data.  That’s bigger than my normal 12.3 desktop installation.  That gives you an idea of how much is there.  Some of that is actually the kernel sources.

The installed system was running kernel 3.7.10-1.4-default.  So it already has the 3.7.10-1.4 version that was added to the repos only a few days ago.  That’s an indication that the installed system is pretty much up to date.  I did run online updates, and only 4 items were listed.

I notice that it has the default kernel.  That’s fine for my use.  The box where I installed it only has 2G of memory.  But if you have more than 4G of memory, you will probably want to switch the desktop kernel, at least with a 32-bit install.

Problems

It has been rather smooth sailing.  I have only run into three minor problems, though perhaps more will turn up with further testing.  Here are the problems that I have noticed:

  • That “Cinnamon” on the live boot menu, where it should have been KDE.
  • While tweaking the ssh configuration, I noticed that “sshd_config” seems to be from 2010, and apparently not updated for recent software changes.
  • There were three entries in “/etc/hosts” for ip addresses 10.0.0.*.  Presumably those are related to the testing and install enviroment.  But they should have been removed before creating the iso.

Configured repos

The advertising mentioned software from packman.  So I checked the configured repos.  The packman repos were not there.  The only repos were:

# | Alias               | Name                         | Enabled | Refresh
--+---------------------+------------------------------+---------+--------
1 | repo-non-oss        | openSUSE-12.3-Non-Oss        | Yes     | Yes
2 | repo-oss            | openSUSE-12.3-Oss            | Yes     | Yes
3 | repo-update         | openSUSE-12.3-Update         | Yes     | Yes
4 | repo-update-non-oss | openSUSE-12.3-Update-Non-Oss | Yes     | Yes

On checking some of the installed software, they do indeed appear to have installed from packman and several other repos.  But they did not leave those repos configured on the distributed media.

Included software

There’s a lot there.  I have not come close to discovering it all.  Cinnamon is indeed there, with an entry in the KDM login menu.  It looks nice, but I probably would choose Gnome fallback over Cinnamon.  And I continue to strongly prefer KDE to Gnome.

VirtualBox is there.  The kernel sources are there.  Wine is there.

Both Kmail and evolution are included.  So is claws-mail.  But thunderbird is not there.  The web browsers are firefox and konqueror.  LibreOffice is installed.

There’s a menu group for “Education” with sub-menus for “Art and Culture”, “Chemical”, “Languages”, “Mathematics” and “Teaching”.  I looked in the “Mathematics” submenu, but I did not recognize the various applications listed.  And latex was not there.

There is also a menu group for “Development”, with a number of packages including development environments.

As I explore the menu, there is a lot of software that I have not heard of.  Hmm, classes are just about over.  Maybe I’ll soon have some spare time to explore what’s there.

Summary

This is an interesting version of opensuse.  There is probably something there for almost everybody.  If you are a teacher, looking for ideas, this is worth exploring.  And even if you are not a teacher, there are probably some interesting packages here.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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