Over the past few weeks, my distrohopping has effectively come to a halt, in favour of a particular GNU/Linux operating system titled "openSUSE Leap". I had the full-size 4.7 gigabyte ISO file for Leap 42.1 sitting around in my ISO folder, so I figured I'd give it a second test run (the first test run being summarized here). In the more recent test run, I ran this distro on my distrohopping root partition on my internal hard-drive (with an external drive for my /home partition), but because I was satisfied with how openSUSE was working for me, I decided to wipe my internal hard-drive, and install openSUSE Leap 42.2 as my sole distro. In this article, I'm going to go over some of the struggles I came across when getting started with this distro, as well as the reasons why I'm sticking with this distro full-time.
Of course, the first thing to do in this process was to install the system. For my installation of Leap 42.2, I decided to try out the network installer ISO instead of the precooked 4.7GB ISO. I never have much luck with getting network installers to connect to my wifi, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the openSUSE network installer actually worked very well for me. It was a bit slow to load upon booting into the USB, but the installer then went into a simple NCurses environment that asks for the ESSID, type of authentication, and password. After that, the installer was connected to the network, and proceeded to download the installation files! Why this was pleasantly surprising to me was because, in my experience, network installers often don't have the proprietary network drivers that I need to work with my laptop's wifi hardware, but this one worked with no doubt about it!
The remainder of the installation process was identical to that of the aforementioned 4.7GB ISO, which is good because the openSUSE installer always asks the right questions, and makes sure that you can get through the necessary steps. The installer downloaded and installed 3.6GB of data onto my hard-drive, meaning that I shaved off just over a gigabyte compared to the size of the precooked ISO.
Though the installation process was pretty good, I ran into a few hiccups when setting up the system the way I wanted it. The first thing I do after installing openSUSE is to install multimedia codecs; Not too much trouble, since I have a one-click install file that includes all of these codecs. For the most part, all was well after installing these codecs. However, for some reason, I couldn't play most audio or video in Firefox (with the exception of YouTube), which was odd considering that all of my other applications pertaining to audio worked just fine. Luckily, I'm equally as comfortable with Firefox as I am with Chrome, so I replaced Firefox with the Chromium browser, and all was well again. The only other issue I came across that pertains to multimedia was with kdenlive, which would not work for me at all. This didn't surprise me, because the kdenlive package in openSUSE has always been defective to some degree, but it's a piece of software that I usually like to keep around (though I haven't been doing a lot of video editing lately, so it's not the end of the world, really). Outside of (but nearly relevant to) multimedia, I noticed that the package for pithos (a pandora music client) in the 42.2 repos was incredibly slow (I will elaborate on this shortly).
As far as I'm concerned, the most important thing about any operating system is the ability to get sufficient software; And oh boy, openSUSE does indeed deliver on this front! All of the package management tools you'll ever need can be accessed from openSUSE's every versatile "YaST" application. Whether you're getting packages from the openSUSE repos, using a one-click install link, or installing from an rpm package, YaST's software management tool is the go-to application, whether you prefer it in a graphical interface, or its equally functional terminal counterpart. What's even greater is the ease of access to each package. There's a fair chance that the application you're looking for is in the main openSUSE repos, but if you can't find a package you want to use, openSUSE has a Package Search on their website that gives you access multiple versions of likely every linux application you may want to use. For me, this is great on two fronts:
1. Because every package I needed could be found on openSUSE's package search, I never needed to visit an external website for the packages I wanted to install. This isn't so much as to say that I don't trust the websites where my packages come from, but that it's very convenient to obtain everything I need from a single source.
2. In the case of the aforementioned pithos application, the version in the 42.2 repository clearly didn't work for me, so I was able to go onto the openSUSE package search, and get a one-click install file for the version in the 42.1 repository, which works spectacularly!
Of course, if you're a fan of installing software via a simple command-line script, openSUSE's "zypper" command is this distro's equivalent of something like Debian's "apt-get" command.
It's hard to say whether or not someone who is unfamiliar with linux would be able to thrive in an openSUSE installation. On the plus side, this distro has YaST, which is hands down the most versatile system tool that I've ever worked with, and I've ran into very few bugs while working with openSUSE. On the flip-side, however, openSUSE is not as much of a "ready out of the box" distribution, in the sense that it isn't preloaded with common multimedia codecs, and doesn't provide the most newcomer-friendly feel in YaST. I can say from personal experience that if you can get everything you need set up on your openSUSE installation, it should be smooth sailing from that point forward. As with any operating system, there's a bit of a learning curve, but there is plenty of information out on the web to help you get started. Granted, said learning curve is greater in openSUSE than in something like Ubuntu MATE or Solus, I think that openSUSE is better in the long term.