Opensuse linux for education 13.2 — a review

The 13.2 release of the education variant of opensuse was announced a few days ago:

It is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.  The Wiki gives a download site for the live image.  That’s a DVD image, though small enough to also fit on a 4G USB flash drive.

First use

I downloaded the 64-bit image, and wrote it to a 4G flash drive.  Then I booted that on my laptop, as a live system.  It ran quite well.  On first boot, it created an additional partition for persistent storage.  There wasn’t a lot of free space on the 4G flash drive, so it is a smallish partition.  But it was enough for me to save the WiFi settings, so that it will automatically connect on the next boot.

The live system ran smoothly.  So I decided to install.

Installation

My install was on a different computer.  I booted the live USB, then clicked on the “live installer” icon on the KDE desktop.

My first surprise came when a window popped up asking for the root password.  I am not used to that happening with a live installer.  I’ll put that down to a minor bug.  It is usual for the root password of a live installer to be blank (empty).  So I hit Enter on the prompt, and the install proceeded.

Boot setup

The partitioning part of installing was typical for an opensuse install.  The first “problem” arose in setting up the booting.  I’ll go into a bit of detail here.

The “known issues” section of the wiki says “Switch to GRUB if your hardware does not support EFI booting when using x86_64 edition of Li-f-e.”  I had the reverse problem.  I was installing on a UEFI box, but the live installer wanted to use standard grub2.

This is actually a known problem with the opensuse live installer, when run from a USB flash drive.  The system remembers how it was  booted the first time, and attempts to install booting appropriate for that.  I first booted on a non-UEFI box, so the system attempted to do a non-UEFI install.  Apparently, the people who wrote that “known issues” item in the Wiki did it the other way around.  They first booted on a UEFI box, and later tried on a non-UEFI box.

Either way, you can switch that in the boot settings for install.  Select “grub2” for a non-UEFI boot and select “grub2-efi” for a UEFI boot.  If you are expecting a UEFI boot, make sure that you have the EFI system partition mounted at “/boot/efi” during the partitioning setup.

Selecting the appropriate booter wasn’t difficult.  But you do need to look out for it.  In my case, it didn’t actually matter.  I was installing on the same box where I have Tumbleweed installed.  And I was intending to add an entry to the Tumbleweed boot menu for this education version.

The remainder of the install (mainly copying the live system to the hard drive) went smoothly.

Running the installed system

Since then, I have spent some time running the installed system.  On first boot, it seemed to be doing some left-over install chores before I saw the main login screen.  I had deselected “auto-login” when installing, because prefer to actually login to the desktop.

The login menu indicated that I could choose between KDE, Gnome, Gnome Classic, MATE, Icewm and Sugar Desktop.  I have since tried all of those, and they seem to be fine.

I did not have an infinite caja problem with MATE.  However, when I added a second user, that second user ran into the infinite caja problem.  I was able to solve that as indicated in my previous post.  I’m pretty sure that the person who reported that solution is one of the opensuse-li-f-e team members.  He was able to set his workaround for the user setup during install, but apparently could not force it to be applied to other users.

The wallpaper for most desktops is that from opensuse 13.1 (the growing sprig with an opensuse lizard on it).  I actually prefer that to the wallpaper for standard opensuse 13.2.

Applications

There are a number of educational applications installed.  I have not tested most of them.  I did test “Stellarium”, which I liked in the 13.1 version of opensuse-li-f-e.  And it seems to be working well.

The Wiki (see link above) lists the variety of educational software.  I’ll be trying some of those later, but I did not yet have time to test them.

Sugar Desktop

I did try a login to the Sugar Desktop.  This seems to be designed for children.  The desktop shows a large number of applications.  The first one that I tried (jigsaw puzzle) did not work — the software for that was probably not included in the install.  But several of the others seemed to load.  I did not spend enough time with any of them to evaluate them.  It does look as if this could keep a child busy and interested for some time.

Summary

Overall, this is a nice package.  It might be a good place to start for someone wanting to try out opensuse for the first time.

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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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