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Distribution Watch: SuSE Linux 8.0 Beta - page 2

Meet SuSE 8.0, The Beta

  • April 18, 2002
  • By Kurt Wall

After booting from the CD, I pondered the installation options:

  • Installation (linux)
  • Installation - Safe Settings (linux ide=nodma apm=off acpi=off)
  • Installation - APIC Enabled (apic)
  • Manual Installation (manual)
  • Rescue System (rescue)
  • Memory Test (memtest)
  • Boot Installed OS (harddisk)

Just for fun, I chose the "Memory Test" option first. I have no idea if the RAM tested clean, though, because after drawing text mode screen with the words "memtest-86 v2.8" on it, my crash test dummy froze. I decided my memory was fine, rebooted (having to power off because the Vulcan neck pinch didn't work), and resolved not to try that again. The complete list of installation options includes:

You can also press one of the function keys to select the video mode:

  • F2 for text mode
  • F3 640x480
  • F4 800x600 (the default)
  • F5 1024x768

I opted for the high resolution (F5) and the plain vanilla installation mode, then pressed Enter to get started. One of the first things I noticed was that the installed searched for a braille display, which I found a nice touch -- I hope that SuSE continues to pay attention to this.

When the graphical installer, YaST2, started, it popped up the typical warning about using a beta, to which I readily assented. In the background, the initial screen appeared in German (big surprise). The first thing I did was select "English (US)" for the installation language, clicked "Next" to apply the change, and was able to proceed with the installation process without being forced to dredge up 5 quarters of tourist German learnt in college.

Having installed OpenLinux (Caldera) and Red Hat Linux more times than I care to count, one of YaST2's features I most appreciated was the ability to move freely around the installation using the hyperlinked installation task list that dominates the installer window. I much prefer this approach to the more linear Back and Next buttons that Red Hat and Caldera use. I don't know about you, but I like (and sometimes need) to flip around to various phases of the installation in order to undo or change decisions I made earlier in the process. YaST2 makes this easier and far less tedious than Lizard or Anaconda. Although I didn't test this features extensively, I imagine that at some point (say, after starting to install the software) that you can no longer go back beyond a certain point.

Accepting the default partition suggestions, a 6.8Gb root partition using ReiserFS on /dev/hda2 and a 180 Mb swap partition on /dev/hda3, YaST2 presented a variety of software profiles. The options included:

  • Minimum system
  • Minimum graphical system (without KDE)
  • Default system
  • Default system with Office

You can also customize the installation by clicking the "Detailed selection..." button. Because I wanted to install all of the available software, I clicked this button and was presented with the following "Categories":

  • Advanced-Devel
  • Games
  • Gnome system
  • All of KDE
  • KDE Desktop Environment (def)
  • Simple Webserver
  • Linux Development Tools
  • Multimedia
  • Network/Server
  • Help Support Documentation (def)
  • Install available sources

To select a category, you place a checkmark beside the desired category. I opted to install everything, which a disk space tally status message told me came to 4.88 Gb.

You can also select the available "Commercial software..." by clicking a like-named button, which enables you to select individual packages using another button ("Select single packages..."). I left these alone, but some of the available commercial software included a rich selection of IBM's Java2 offerings, video editors, the SAP suite of enterprise management software, Borland's Kylix, Moneydance, several database packages, Star Office, and more.

With my software selected, I continued. After accepting my various installation choices, the installation began. The start time was 22:20 p.m. The finish time was XX:YY p.m. The installer summarized the expected installation time at 2 hours, initially, but, as the installation progressed, the number stabilized at just over an hour, then jumped to 1.5 hours. In the end, the final installation time was just over and hour and a quarter. I guess it does take time to install almost 5Gb of software. The installation figures were broken down by CD-ROM (all *7* of them, even though I only had disks 1-5.

While the 817 packages I selected installed, I was treated to a nice photo of the SuSE development team, followed by a continuing display of SuSE adware in the installer window, a "feature" of Linux GUI installs that we all have, unfortunately, come to expect.

All told, YaST2 is very impressive, as impressive as Caldera's Lizard was when it first appeared.

When SuSE 8.0 is released later this month (if released on schedule, at least), it will be the first new distribution out the door with KDE3. The packages installed by the beta were from KDE3's release candidate 2. SuSE also includes the latest GNOME (version 1.4 in the beta), and a large number of other window managers, including WindowMaker, Sawfish, Motif, and everyone's favorite, twm.

One aspect of the installation process intrigues me. After performing a "basic" installation, which I presume puts enough SuSE on the disk to have a functioning system, it installed LILO, and then soft-booted into the new system. Software from the other 4 CD-ROMs were installed after this initial system boot. So, in one sense, the installation only took about 30 minutes. I confess that I don't understand why the process would stop and restart this way. While I don't object, I don't really see the point.

I'll never get used to needing 7 disks to install any software, but I know that many people like to have all of the options available to them. One of the reasons I dislike having 17 email clients, 4 web browsers, 2 office suites, and all of the other trimmings installed is the length of time it takes to install all of that stuff. Of course, when 80Gb hard disks are cheap enough that my 13 year old daughter can buy one with her allowance, a mere 4Gb of unnecessary cruft is probably inconsequential. Different strokes...

After all of the software was installed, the configuration process resumed. I set the root password, selected the "Expert Options..." and enabled MD5 password encryption -- a good thing -- and then added a mortal user for normal usage.

The hardware probe of the LCD screen video card was very interesting. The probe resulted in YaST2 choosing a generic monitor, but it was easy enough to scroll up and select the "LCD" option and then to choose the 1024x768@70Hz resolution. I would have preferred 75Hz because it's easier on the eyes, but... I also opted for the graphical login, which uses KDE's display manager, KDM . I did not get to select the graphics chipset but this proved not be a problem. The LCD screen, though, did turn out to be a problem, although one easily remedied, as you'll see.

With the video configuration completed, the installer started saving all of the settings and configuration information and running various configuration scripts. It took about 5 minutes on my system.

Surprisingly, the hardware detection did find my sound card, which it properly identified as an ALi South Bridge M5451 PCI card, and it also found the on-board Intel Ethernet Pro 100 NIC (an 82559, to be precise). Not surprisingly, it didn't notice the modem, which is one of those damnable WinModems. In fact, I've never used it on this system. Failing to find the on-board un-modem is no loss as far as I'm concerned and doesn't constitute a strike against SuSE.

Network configuration came last. I opted for a static non-routable IP that would fit into my home network and specified a name server and gateway, but otherwise left the configuration simple, declining to add any static routes. After configuring the NIC, and saving sound card settings, the system soft-booted again to the newly installed system.

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