SUSE 9.3: More, Better, Faster, Now! - page 2
Cutting Edge and Oh, So Stable
So as not to violate my contract with the IOSR (International Organization of Software Reviewers, Local 666), I am required to begin this review with comments about the process of installing SUSE 9.3. In a nutshell, it just works. Like the installers for all modern Linux distributions, SUSE's installer provides a nice graphical front end and provides an easy mechanism for selecting additional package groups or individual packages to install. SUSE's installer is known as YaST (Yet Another System Tool), and shares the same framework with the administrative utility of the same name that you use after completing your installation.
With 9.3, SUSE's installer provides a single default installation group "Standard system with KDE" (as shown in Figure 1) that includes KDE and Open Office, and clocks in at around 2 GB for a clean install. YaST makes it easy for you to customize the packages that you want to install, as shown in Figure 2. Because disk space is cheaper than dirt nowadays, even on most laptops, I'm a big fan of JIC installations, where I install everything "Just In Case" I ever need it. Selecting everything shown in Figure 2 (with the exception of the Laptop and Mobile Computing sets of packages) brought the total disk space requirements to 7.2 GB.
As test cases, I installed SUSE 9.3 to a clean P4 machine and to a virtual machine under VMware 5.0, and encountered no problems at all with SUSE itself. VMware seemed to get confused about whether I'd actually installed their VMware Tools package (which I did at least twice in order to get higher-resolution graphics and generally better performance), but that's the stuff of a different review. I also upgraded my existing SUSE 9.1 laptop and my 64-bit server without any problems. 64-bit fans can look forward to a separate review of 64-bit SUSE 9.3 coming soon on Linux Planet.
Selecting all packages for installation included some software that requires acceptance of special licenses, such as Macromedia's Flash Player (version 7) and AT&T's Graph Visualization software, graphviz. These packages both displayed license dialogs that had to be accepted in order to actually install the related software. Figure 3 shows Macromedia's license dialog. While some GPL purists may be up in arms about this, I merely found it convenient. For example, I was happy not to have to surf to Macromedia's site to download and then separately install the Flash Player.
Since SUSE's 8.x releases, SUSE has shipped a modern distribution media kit containing both DVDs and CDs. SUSE 9.3 provides a double-layer DVD that supports complete 32-bit and 64-bit installs, accompanied by another DVD that contains the source code. For classicists or people without DVD readers in their systems, SUSE 9.3 also provides five installation CDs. All of these CDs come in a nifty plastic case that survived a nice tumble down several slights of stairs in the office building where I toil during the day. I hadn't planned on making this particular test, but such is fate and my goal (in retrospect) is a complete review.
One of the best features of SUSE's last few releases is their
off-the-shelf support for hardware that can be problematic. The best
example of this is their Wireless Ethernet (802.11b) detection and
support, which worked out of the box in both my laptop upgrade (no
surprise) and in the wireless card I have in my test system as part of
my personal Neighborhood Watch program. Laptop users who have
traditionally brought bottles of Aspirin to the Linux installation
process will be dancing in the pain-free streets after installing SUSE
9.3--just enter your SSID and WEP key, and you're ready to surf or