openSUSE 11.2-- Incremental Updates, Plenty of Polish
New and Improved
Choosing a Linux distribution from the list of available options could be a daunting task for someone looking to try out Linux for the first time. Ubuntu seems to get the lion's share of the press coverage with new releases twice a year (hence the version numbers like 9.04 and 9.10 released in April and October, respectively). SUSE Linux has a long heritage in the Linux community and a heavy following in the European market due to its German roots.
With the purchase of SUSE by Novell many feared that the brand would be subsumed into the corporate borg and contaminated with proprietary add-ons. Novell did take the core of SUSE Linux and use it as the basis for their SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) and Server (SLES) offerings. These two products obviously targeted at desktop and server environments form the basis of Novell's supported operating system offerings. In fact, both are sold on a yearly subscription basis to include support and updates.
On the flip side, Novell recognized the need to continue a completely open source and free SUSE distribution. Out of that recognition came openSUSE Linux. Novell contributes heavily to the distribution and gets the benefits of continued community support and development of the core operating system and applications. They also take advantage of a much wider user base to test new releases and to provide feedback for future improvements.
What's New and Improved
One of the biggest items on the new list has to be switching to Ext4 as the primary file system. If you install openSUSE 11.2 on an unformatted partition, it will be set to Ext4. Support continues for Ext3 but the default now is Ext4. In a nutshell Ext4 is the next generation of the traditional Linux Ext file system. It provides a number of features and improvements over Ext3 to deal with large files, disks and all that goes with it. Check out the Ext4 wiki site at kernel.org for everything you ever wanted to know about Ext4 and its predecessors.
openSUSE 11.2 implements a dedicated partition for the /home directory tree. This has a number of advantages, not the least of which is the immunity from upgrades wiping out all your personal data. It also makes it easier to do backups or to encrypt only those files should you so choose. Another new item for this release is the use of different kernels for desktop and server versions. While this might not seem like a big deal, it should produce some noticeable improvements for graphic intensive applications.
On the improved side you'll find the latest and greatest of both the OS and popular applications. openSUSE 11.2 is based on version 2.6.31 of the Linux kernel while GNOME 2.28 and KDE 4.3 are the two primary desktop environment options. For KDE users there are some new things like Firefox and OpenOffice integration to streamline your productivity. GNOME faithful get a new desktop theme, updates to applications like Gwibber and an improved software update tool.