OpenSuSE 11.4 was released back on 11 March so this weekend I took the plunge and upgraded my main PC from 11.3 to 11.4. And less than two hours later, I had the best ever SuSE running on my PC. Here’s how I got on…
SuSE offer two methods of upgrading, the first being an on-line update and the second being the more traditional iso image download, burn and boot. I chose the latter as the guidance on SuSE’s website suggested that this would be more reliable. It also means that if the upgrade does fail and I needed to carry out a complete install from scratch, I already had the media to hand. Before booting from the DVD to upgrade, I backed up all the user files from the home partition and made copies of the important files – fstab, hosts, passwd, groups, auto.nas and so on.
Booting from the DVD, the installer goes through the usual licensing screen before analysing the existing system. As I had 11.3 previously installed, the installer gave me the option to upgrade, which I choose. After more analysis, it gives a summary of the changes required before asking permission to proceed – which I gave.
About 35 minutes and 250-odd packages later, the PC rebooted, loaded Linux and displayed the login screen. I entered my username and password, and the screen faded to the X desktop, with all my icons and widgets still there. Sweet!
Even more surprisingly, all the 3D window effects worked out of the box. That’s never happened before – normally you have to download drivers from nVidia or ATi before all the graphic goodness works smoothly. To be fair 11.3 was a “nearly” release. While the applications and tools worked, the 3D effects were a bit hit or miss. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. But 11.4 hits it on the head.
The 3D eye candy is very slick. I run a 3 x 2 virtual desktop and the scrolling between the desktops is super-smooth, making it feel like one giant desktop. Windows glide in and out as they open and close. But by far my favourite effect is when you have overlapping windows and you want to bring one to the foreground. The upper window slides down the screen and then slips behind the lower window, bringing it to the front. Think of taking off the top sheet from a pile of paper and putting it to the back. So cool.
I’ve taken a couple of screenshots but (a) it’s really hard to catch the window closing when pressing the PrtScn button and (b) there’s no sense of the animation.
To finish off the installation, I added the ubiquitous Packman repository to load up all the unofficial multimedia goodies, such as DVD playing and video encoders.
Although it’s only been a few days, I’ve not encountered any problems at all with 11.4 and I’ve discovered that several of 11.3’s bugs have been fixed. Most of the major packages have been updated and OpenOffice.org has been replaced by LibreOffice (which is a whole sorry story in itself). Everything seems to be working fine.
If you want to try SuSE without messing with your current setup, there are live DVDs available for download. I run the KDE desktop rather than Gnome.
While it may be a little premature, I think this is the best SuSE ever.