It's that time again! Wife's away, and I'm installing Linux distros for fun. :) Feel free to click on any of the images below to see them at full size.
Our friends at Novell recently released the second beta of OpenSuse 11 (although all the screenshots in this post are from Beta 1. It took forever to download, and I am not going to re-download for a beta rev :) As the installer reminds us, this is a beta. Expect no support!
You can see what has changed since 10.3 here, although the highlights are:
The themed installation is quite pretty, and you can't go wrong with Qt. Suse is also the only distro I have found that JUST WORKS with Virtual PC. No funky kernel arguments needed for the mouse to work and the graphics to display properly. They are also not shy about using color in their installer. Kudos!
For your desktop, OpenSUSE gives you the choice of GNOME, KDE 3 or 4, or XFCE (along with the naked look, if that is your ball of wax). I have always been partial to KDE, and version 4 adds some neat new features (it has also been ported to QT, uses less memory, and is faster)
Flash, Java, and Acrobat are installed by default, which should probably help with the girlfriend Linux acceptance factor when Youtube comes into the equation.
I wonder where they got the icon for their music package installation screen? It looks remarkably similar to the much-better-looking iTunes logo...
I'm just saying...
After finishing the install, I ended up with a strange kernel initialization error of some sort. Urrrggghhh. I downloaded the CD (rather than the DVD) of beta 2 (as it did not require BitTorrent). The rest of the screenshots are from the beta 2 CD. Even after installing, the Desktop looks very similar to the LiveCD, which may be a side-effect of installing from the CD instead of the DVD. In any case, KDE4 has some new widget thing. I did not like widgets from Konfabulator, I did not like them from Apple, I did not like them in Vista, and I do not like them in OpenSuse. The stupid fade effect in the "Add Widget" dialogue box is particularly egregious. Bleh!
Shortly after closing the widgets, I got to see OpenSUSE's crash handling system. I have to admit, I like the one in Vista much more. It is less obtrusive, and keeps a log of old problems, so that if a fix is ever found in the future, you are notified. As far as I can tell, this crash handler does not even have a "Send to KDE" button that will submit the dump to KDE.
In a BIG UI step-up from other distributions such as Ubuntu, OpenSUSE labels its applications in plain English ("Web Browser", "Word Processor", etc). In the land of Linux, where there are 59 versions of any given program (all cleverly named something like KMusiOggGimperor), your standard end-user has NO CLUE what the program does. Awesome job here!
OpenOffice is pretty much the same as it ever was... a clone of Office XP. I understand that Open Office.org 3 will solve cancer, cure world hunger, and make you sandwiches when you are hungry, but the version included with OpenSUSE 11 is pretty blah.
The music player (Amarok) shows the reason that Linux is not yet ready for my wife... how the heck should she know whether her music files are kept in /bin /etc /sbin or /mnt...
The UI once you have finished the First-Run Wizard is not much better. It looks like it has a ton of bells and whistles, but does not hold a candle to iTunes or Zune in terms of UI.
All-in all, a fairly good experience. It is clearly a beta product, and many of the errors that I experienced should be fixed once the final version is released. The fact that I can install OpenSUSE without any tweaking of kernel parameters is always a good thing. There are some great features (as mentioned above) that make OpenSUSE usable for newbies, but has some features such as Amarok that would drive anyone mad. I look forward to revisiting this distro once it finally releases in June.
Currently Listening to: Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap