Originally Published: Tuesday, 27 February 2001 Author: Nico Lumma
Published to: enhance_articles_desktops/General Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

SuSE 7.1 - A First Look

Recently released Linux.com German correspondent Nico Lumma gives us a brief first look at SuSE 7.1, a big step in the right direction....

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Early Saturday morning the mailman rang and handed me a small heavy package: SuSE 7.1 had arrived on time at my doorstep. I opened the box and found one book (> 600 pages), two smaller books, a booklet, some flyers (SuSE merchandising), a pin, and last but not least, 7 CD-ROMs and 1 DVD. I had what SuSE calls the "Professional Edition". The "Personal Edition" has 3 CD-ROMs and all the books.

Documentation

First of all, I must say that the documentation is superb. The booklet has a nicely illustrated "Getting started" tutorial, which is good to see. One of the smaller books, The Applications Guide" gives a nice overview of a few popular programs on a Linux system (Netscape, StarOffice, mc, Acrobat Reader, joe, GIMP, kscd, xmms, and xsane). The other smaller book, Configuration, is illustrated (by Rolf Wogt) and four color. It shows you how to customize a SuSE distribution to fit your needs. The Configuration guide focuses on the SuSE standard desktop: KDE2, but also deals with common tasks: printing, Internet access, system administration, GNOME configuration, working with the bash shell etc.. The 600 page SuSE Linux 7.0; The Handbook not only guides you through the installation process, but also manages to answer most of your questions dealing with hardware and software setup. For those who still have questions, there still is the SuSE support database online and free support (personal edition: 60 days, professional edition: 90 days).

Installation

Installation went smoothly. Having used SuSE since 4.4.1, 7.1 I'd have to say that this version is the most polished and suitable for Mom & Dad so far, but without sacrificing features for the oft mentioned power user. The installation can be done either with yast2, (a SuSE supplied installation tool) with plenty of gray/green graphics or in textmode using yast. I used yast2 and didn't experience any problems whatsoever, with the possible exception of risking Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by double-clicking too many times in the package selection menu. Since I installed SuSE 7.1 on my laptop, I wanted to keep my current partition scheme and use ReiserFS. I was surprised that I could choose a 2.4 kernel with ReiserFS without having to use a /boot partition, which was not possible with 7.0 due to problems with lilo 21.5 and ReiserFS. Hardware detection was very good and detected everything without a problem. I selected a few profiles (KDE2, GNOME, Networking/Server) and then manually added/removed some packages and started juggling with CD-ROMs since my laptop doesn't have a DVD drive and my selection was spread out over a few CDs.

Starting up SuSE 7.1 for the first time

After a while everything was installed and I was greeted with a kdm screen. To my utter astonishment, the installed GNOME version was nicely configured and had recent packages, something that I have looked for but never found in other SuSE distributions. I don't use KDE2 and therefore cannot say too much about the setup, but the installed KDE2 stuff seemed to be working.

What's New?

What's new besides KDE 2.0.1 and the 2.4 kernel? Quite a lot. XFree 4.02 can be used, as well as XFree 3.3.6, installable kernels are either 2.2.18 or 2.4. YAST2 can use GNU parted to shrink existing Windows partitions during the installation setup, everything is glibc 2.2.0 based, Netscape 6 is included, CUPS can be used for printing, a Logical Volume Manager (LVM) can be used, etc. SuSE 7.1 comes with so much software, it's impossible to cover it all in a short review like this. SuSE also tries to stick to the LSB standard and got rid of the /sbin/init.d/ directories and also changed the runlevels accordingly.

YAST2, while still ugly as sin in textmode (black background with lots of green, gray and yellow, yuck.), has some more modules which are really good. The one I like most is "Online Updates", something long overdue for lazy people like me who never bother to look at the update section of ftp.suse.com. I also used the soundcard module to set up my soundcard and the network module to configure my pcmcia card for networking and dialup. All this worked without a hassle. (Particularly useful is the database of dial-up providers, which makes wvdial configuration super simple.) Since this is a German distr., support for ISDN and ADSL is included. I think YAST2 is particularly handy for users who "want to get done" with the installation process first, and then use one tool to configure the system, add hardware, setup networking, etc.

Summary

SuSE 7.1 professional edition offers an easy installation, lots of packages, excellent documentation and a very much improved YAST2. Still, there were some glitches I noticed (Apache wouldn't start because the php4.so module couldn't be found) and perhaps there are more bugs that I didn't notice, but my overall impression was very positive. In comparison to SuSE 7.0, which didn't have many new things to offer, SuSE 7.1 seems to be the "big" step in the right direction.

Nico Lumma is a big fan of SuSE living in Germany.





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