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SUSE 9.2 vs. 9.3: A 64-Bit Comparison - page 2

Head-to-Head on an AMD 64 Notebook

  • May 19, 2005
  • By Rob Reilly

Loading 9.2 or 9.3 from the DVD is a relatively pleasant experience on my HP 5460 notebook. Both installations took about 2.5 hours (including the aforementioned after-installation tweaking) while consuming between 7 and 8.6 GB of disk space.

After my recent Pavilion, SUSE Make for Great Portable 64-Bit Computing story came out, there was some discussion about mounting a swap partition. During my follow-up investigation, I did a test by ripping a CD while watching the memory monitor. The free swap didn't move a bit. My conclusion is that on this machine, swap might not even be necessary. Anybody out there want to test this theory?

The overall look and feel is good old SUSE, with a new olive drab color scheme. It reminds me of the Ubuntu Linux colors. I like happier colors, myself. Experienced and novice Linux users will find 9.3 organized and easy to follow. One feature that I liked was the selectable simple or expert mode on some of the configuration screens. The boot-up screen also has a nice little progress bar at the bottom, telling you how soon the machine will be operational.

On a 64-bit notebook, you sure won't have to wait long for new screens to appear in YaST. I opted to check every box on the Software Selection section. As in 9.2, I added a few individual programs like, the Bluefish HTML editor and Mozilla Mail. As always, I had to change the time zone from Pacific to Eastern and the bootup runlevel from 5 to 3. I like to start up in the command line.

Nothing much has changed, in the online update department, from 9.2 to 9.3. You should definitely go through the update process to keep your security up to snuff. I made sure that the on-board NIC was wired into my network, since the Broadcom chip wasn't detected. The RealTek chip, of course, was easily detected and configured properly.

After the update, I was hoping that the nVidia driver would work, without any tweaking. No dice. The driver ran fine, except for hardware acceleration. Enabling that would reset the resolution and cause the screen to be scrunched over to the left side. I had to reload the update to get the screen back to 1280x800 resolution. I was disappointed that it was all working properly in 9.2 and broken in 9.3. I've seen some discussions about the problem on the Web and think it will probably be resolved shortly.

Sound was another area that caused me trouble. In 9.2 I had to change permissions on /dev/snd*, /dev/dsp* to make the mixers work. In 9.3 I was able to simply add my user (rreilly) to the audio group, in YaST to have audio. I also still had to change the permissions on /dev/hdc, (rw,rw,rw) to run CD player/ripper programs.

I did notice some instability in Mozilla. Clicking on a link would occasionally shut Mozilla down, without warning. I also had an occasional lockup, where Mozilla would stay on the screen, but I couldn't click on a link or even close it out.

While putting SUSE 9.2 on my then newly purchased 5460 notebook, I made sure that I created a separate /home partition during installation. This not only protects my data from possible corruption, should something go haywire, it also has the happy side-effect of letting applications immediately recognize my personal settings and data, after the new install. It also cut down on my post-installation tweaking and file copying when I loaded 9.3.

For example, after installing 9.3, Mozilla Mail immediately displayed all my saved folders and email messages. I didn't have to re-enter my SMTP or POP server names, either.

Even though there were a few shortcomings with 9.3, we should remember that it's a new release with quite a bit of work that has been done behind the scenes. I'm confident any issues will be addressed pretty quickly.

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