When SUSE Fails

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, OpenSUSE, Review at 5:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft SUSE

Some early reviews of OpenSUSE 11.1 are beginning to trickle in and several of them highlight the problems in more obvious ways than reviews which we mentioned on Saturday.

Here is one person’s horrific start with OpenSUSE 11.1:

In the past 24-hours with the latest openSUSE 11.1, I’ve had a horrific experience. And while I’ve not given up on the distribution, I’m putting down my experiences here neither as a call for help nor as a rant to keep people away. Rather, an honest approach spreads honest knowledge… and hopefully I will be proved wrong, and others will not make the same “mistakes?” I made. What follows is a quick historical recount of my experiences with openSUSE and also my current trauma.

This one was posted in USENET:

    Message-ID: <%Fc3l.12739$i_6.11499@newsfe11.ams2>
    From: The Lost Packet <jmthelostpacket@googlemail.com>
    Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
    Subject: OpenSuSE 11.1 PPC Part II
    Date: Sat, 20 Dec 2008 20:34:49 +0000
    User-Agent: Thunderbird (Windows/20081105)
    Organization: virginmedia.com

Not much to tell, I haven’t tested it (the memory) and have no intention
to do so ‘cos it works thus far and that’s all that matters to me.

Really all I did was to add the 11.1DVD to a virgin 10.3 install as an
update repository. After adding kernel, KDE and proprietery ATI drivers
as the update package and resolving the few dozen dependencies that
cropped up (which mainly consisted of “<i>gnore this conflict and carry
on”), YaST updated the install to 11.1 and after that, allowed me to
autoupdate everything else via YUM. Have fun! Warning, when you get a
stack of XML files downloading it’ll take an hour or so on a fast link;
you know the kernel update’s worked and it’s updated the version key as
well, it’ll be downloading the latest patches for 11.1 rather than for
10.3 which seems to be AWOL. Though, for some reason it requires the
10.3 disc to clear the update cache the first time round… hohum.

(cc of a reply to a private message)

There are a few more positive experiences that we will mention later, but either way, comprehensive reviews typically conclude that SUSE is matched or surpassed by its competition that has no ties to Microsoft.


ODF, New OpenOffice.org off to a Great Start, Despite Novell’s ‘Sabotage’ Attempts

Posted in Deception, Fork, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Java, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Review, Standard, SUN at 9:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Downtime and Novell hecklers out of the way

The word “sabotage” is a bit strong, so we put it in scare quotes. But the word sabotage was previously used to describe Microsoft’s malicious interception of a big OSDL announcement [1, 2], the sabotage of PlayStation3 launch parties, and similar not-so-laudable conflicts throughout VMware’s big event [1, 2, 3]. There is a whole long history there and Novell is inheriting Microsoft’s tactics now [1, 2].

Ryan Paul sort of fell into Novell’s trap in his coverage of the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0. It does begin with some good bits though.

OOo supports several file formats, but uses OASIS’s OpenDocument Format (ODF) by default. ODF is rapidly gaining widespread acceptance and is also supported by Google Docs, Zoho, IBM’s Lotus Notes, and KDE’s KOffice project. ODF is increasingly being adopted as the preferred format by government agencies in many different countries. This trend has placed pressure on Microsoft, which has agreed to include native ODF support in future versions of Office.

Towards the end, it becomes rather clear that Novell — albeit through its programmers (well, companies are just people) — is trying to throw mud at this announcement in order to gain greater control over the project.

“There is a whole long history there and Novell is inheriting Microsoft’s tactics now.”The headline used by Ars Technica is deceiving because it’s based on the words of a senior Novell employee, whose message is disguised in a seemingly-innocent post about the success of OpenOffice.org. The gentle insults are piggybacking the limelight earned by Sun for a few days.

For clarification, see the other side of this debate. There is no “development stagnation.”

Why would Novell do this? And no, please don’t buy the “I’m just a hacker” defence — an excuse or exemption from “an uncontrolled community” that shelters Novell from many critics (same tactics are being used to defend Mono). It’s possibly done in order to give this illusion that CIOs cannot depend on OpenOffice.org or that “the future is not bright.” It’s a contamination of an important announcement and message at a very strategic time. This timing is not a coincidence and there was possibly a plan and preparation of this.

Either way, the timing of this actual release was good. This came at a good time for special reasons:

OpenOffice 3 launch timed perfectly but will Sun, IBM exploit opportunity?


As the global economic crisis dries up credit and whacks IT budgets, corporate chiefs and administrators are going to be more open to a Microsoft Office alternative that is more compatible with Microsoft Office.

Novell wants to make more/most of the money from the project (support contracts) while at the same time ably adding some unwanted elements (and potential costs) to this hugely popular software. Novell/Microsoft use as an excuse Sun’s control, but it’s intended to increase their own control (Novell along with Microsoft) as they exaggerate existing and perceived issues in the process. It’s self serving, brutal, and dishonest. It’s about choking Sun, not just subverting Free software using patents, OOXML, and .NET (Sun is a JAVA company).

OOXML patent issue prompt

There is a rebuttal to the Novell FUD, which was posted in the GullFOSS blog. It draws some figures and concludes with the following:

OOo 3.0 was a Major Release and in it many general restructuring and refactoring was started. Also from now on the default file format is based on ODF 1.2 (the standard will be approved soon) instead of ODF 1.1 in OOo 2.x. All these changes could be done in a major step only, because of possible incompatibilities to the the 2.x code line.

This major release was a challenge for all release driver on OOo. Also the OOo teams for QA and L10N had many new things to organize, which didn’t exists on OOo 2.x code line or wasn’t a problem for that updates. Thanks to all the teams for their hard work.

The release was a success if demand is something to judge by, but enormous demand knocked down the key server (index to mirrors) at a most crucial of times. NBR has some more details on that:

One major hitch: intial interest in Open Office 3 was such that the openoffice.org download site crashed, unable to cope with the traffic (and as I write, half a day into the release, there are still “technical difficulties”).

As the world turns to cost savings and real standards like ODF, such demand needs to be expected and appropriate preparations made. As Bob Sutor indicates in his latest essay, the world is rapidly embracing ODF as a national standard. He presents a map of nations extracted from his presentation slides.

What always strikes me at such gatherings is the passion of those who have committed to adopting ODF. You get people who have decided for all the usual reasons that ODF makes sense for their use, or that of their department, or their agency, or their government. We’re seeing interesting and varying bottom up, top down, and middle out patterns of adoption in different parts of the world.

Any smart CIO (or small business) should invest in software which is controlled by customers and end users. Anything other than that, especially in schools, is a case of letting people become ‘addicted’ — as Bill Gates put it — to a particular vendor. Moreover, in the case of education, there is a chance and even a responsibility to teach children transferable skills using Free(dom) software. This can help them build their own economy (just watch Brazil go). All countries should do this and some already do.

Lastly, Ovum has this so-and-so analysis of argumentation involving document formats.

The debate on ODF versus OOXML continues to rage, with ISO offering to take on the maintenance of the ODF standard that is currently under the care of the standards body OASIS. This follows resignations from the Norwegian standards body, Standard Norge, with accusations that there were improprieties in the OOXML adoption vote.

Added below is some press coverage for a sense of completeness.

Release Coverage

Here is the press release.

Celebrated at a launch party in Paris today, and just in time for the eighth birthday of the project, the OpenOffice.org Community today announced the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0. The third major update of the leading productivity suite delivers significant enhancements and advanced, extensible, productivity tools for all users, including Mac users, as OpenOffice.org now runs natively on the Mac OS X platform.

Other coverage includes:

Heise: OpenOffice.org 3.0 Reviewed

OpenOffice.org is a free cross-platform office suite, originally developed as the proprietary StarOffice suite. It combined a word processor, spreadsheet, database and presentation tools and was available for Unix and Windows based systems. The StarOffice code was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999 and released under a LGPL/Sun licence in 2000. In 2005, OpenOffice.org’s licence became LGPL only, prompting greater adoption by the open source community and Linux distributions. Now, OpenOffice.org is about to release their third major version of what is the de facto standard in open source office productivity.

iTWire: OpenOffice 3.0 released, ready for download

Finally out of the beta and release candidate versions, Sun Microsystems’ OpenOffice.org 3.0 has been released for anyone to download and try for themselves. Here’s my “first look” at this brand new Office suite!

Linux.com: OpenOffice.org 3.0 is an incremental improvement

At least OpenOffice.org’s frumpy interface is familiar. And with all the changes in version 3.0, most users will probably discover at least half a dozen ways in which their office productivity is suddenly easier.

Ars Technica: OpenOffice.org 3.0 officially released

The new version offers some aesthetic enhancements and usability improvements, including a new icon set that makes the user interface cleaner and a convenient slider control for adjusting page zoom. OpenOffice.org 3.0 also has a new launcher interface, improved support for annotations, and a handful of other new features.

Examiner: Treat yourself to a suite alternative: OpenOffice.org 3.0

Your mileage will definitely vary, and how much it varies depends on just how you use these productivity applications. Although, given the fact that OpenOffice.org is one free 150MB-ish download away, it can’t hurt to give it a run in your own productivity environment.

IT Pro: OpenOffice 3.0 now available for download

New features in the word processing software ‘Writer’ include multilingual support, better zoom tools for editing, and the ability to edit web-based wiki documents. The spreadsheet, called ‘Calc’ now supports 1024 columns per sheet and a collaboration mode for multiple users, as well as a new equation solver. Graphics program ‘Draw’ can now manage images up to three square meters in size, while presentation software ‘Impress’ now has a table designer.

Web Monkey: OpenOffice 3.0 Embraces Microsoft File Formats and Adds Mac Support

Other changes include a “Start Center”, some new, more legible icons, and a zoom control in the status bar. On the whole the beta doesn’t look much different than previous versions, but each of OpenOffice’s apps have received some welcome new changes features like improved PDF creation throughout and a much better Notes tool in Writer, the OpenOffice word processor.

This last article wrongly claims that “OpenOffice 3.0 Embraces Microsoft File Formats.” It’s a common mistake that’s repeated in some other Web sites.

There will be many more articles, but most of the actual news is already out there for everyone to see.

A certain Novell hacker contacted us a couple of hours ago, so the contents of this post were changed slightly.

OOXML data vacuum


Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part I: Two Weeks of OpenSUSE News and Reviews

Posted in Novell, OpenSUSE, Review at 10:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One penguin

THIS is an accumulation from a whole fortnight, so pardon the inclusion of just many quotes and very little accompanying commentary.

Read the rest of this entry »


Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part II: OpenSUSE 11.1 Reaches Second Alpha

Posted in GNU/Linux, OpenSUSE, Review, Security at 4:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SUSE in Green

The big news of the week was probably this alpha release, which was announced a few days ago. From Christoph’s E-mail:

[opensuse-announce] openSUSE 11.1 Alpha2 is available

Read the rest of this entry »


Novell FUDs OpenSUSE to Sell SLES and SLED Licences

Posted in Novell, OpenSUSE, Review, SLES/SLED at 3:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The morning week+ after

It hasn’t been long since the important release of OpenSUSE 11.0. Novell is already trying to downplay the viability of OpenSUSE in order to sell its proprietary software-enhanced SLES/D. Watch this:

The differentiation for corporate customers is what comes next. Why is openSuSE not well suited for corporate use? It’s built by great people, with the purest of intent, and they will want to make things better. The problem is that corporate needs something more.

Given an in-house skilled person (or people), this just isn’t true. Moreover, support can be called from the outside even for a community-driven distribution. That’s how Free software works, and that’s how profit is extracted. Acquisition costs are belittled by maintenance costs no matter if the software deployed is Free or proprietary.

Unconvinced Users

The above example may seem like a bit of a stretch, but OpenSUSE’s woes needn’t be tied to Novell’s attempt to overshadow its presence. Quite a few people were displeased with the following elaborative report, whose conclusion is as follows.

openSUSE 11.0 is a difficult system to qualify. Highlights include good availability of current packages and YAST GUI configuration tools for some advanced features. However, these advantages are largely eclipsed by a chaotic, dysfunctional package management system and marginal performance. New Linux users with more complex network configurations or challenging hardware may be forced to use openSUSE due to its unique innovations in GUI system configuration. Yet, experienced and inexperienced users alike may find themselves increasingly frustrated by the grave lack of refinement in what is an otherwise capable Linux distribution.

Here is another interesting take from Steve Carl (BMC).

As usual, I have to ask the question, is OpenSUSE 11 a viable desktop for an enterprise. Not for geeks like me but for the average computer user that does not want to know anything about the computer itself: they just want a tool to get a job done.

The desktop itself is easy to use, easy to configure, easy to update, and a strong preview of what is to come in the next release of SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop). It has all sorts of standard Open Support, from Wikis to mailing lists to online doc.

There are still those who suggest that Ubuntu, for example, is an inch ahead.

In my own choice of categories and tests, and in my own judgment alone, Ubuntu 8.04 has beaten openSUSE 11 but only by a very slim margin. It only shows that openSUSE is worthy to be called the second most popular Linux distribution at the moment, and Ubuntu is still the cream of the crop.

Admittedly, it’s very user- and PC-dependent, but the reviewers in this case are experienced ones and their PCs are definitely not Linux-hostile.

Technical Assessment

We gave some examples of technical deficiencies a few days ago. There are some more minor peeves, which probably ought to be seen as bug reports. Here is one about suspend to RAM.

In my notebook computer, HP Compaq NX7300, the “suspend to RAM” functionality had worked without any problem in OpenSUSE 10.3, with kernel However, it suddenly did not work after an upgrade to OpenSUSE 11, with kernel I became nervous, tried to find out the solution, and fount out: downgrading kernel to

This one is about Beagle-ReiserFS incompatibility. The former is Mono and the latter is better off forgotten.

I installed OpenSuse 11.0 today. Beware that if you install using reiserfs andl KDE your computer will freeze periodically in KDE. It took me 6 hours of debugging to figure out that beagle was causing the problems.

We apologise for being hard on OpenSUSE, but it’s clear that Novell continues to use OpenSUSE as a ‘free sample’ to lure users in to its Microsoft-taxed distribution. It’s also a case of free labour.

As a side note, I received my new PC just a few hours ago. Without going into specifics, the plan is to multi-boot it, with a 64-bit distribution that’s already installed and probably Mandriva 2008, which I’ve just downloaded. All the setups (e.g. need to buy another monitor tomorrow morning) are likely to affect activity on this site for a few more days. Summertime is a good time for readjustment.


Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part I: OpenSUSE 11.0, The Week After

Posted in GNU/Linux, OpenSUSE, Review at 5:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The coverage from last week, which mostly comprised pointers, ought to be made a little more complete with the addition of the following:

Release Announcements

Read the rest of this entry »


OpenSUSE 11.0 Weaknesses — in the Words of Others

Posted in Audio/Video, GNOME, GNU/Linux, KDE, Novell, OpenSUSE, Review at 3:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


fter this previous post, and over at the IRC channel, I promised AlbertoP some more specific details. He asked for a better supported set of complaints that show the weaknesses of OpenSUSE 11.0. So here is just a quick rundown.

Too much like Vista, says Techie Moe in his short review.

OpenSuSE 11: Channeling Vista

If SuSE is actively trying to make Vista converts feel comfortable (at the expense of everyone else), they’re catering to a different demographic than me. When that sort of thing happens, I look elsewhere.

Visual gripes aside I had a solid experience with OpenSuSE 11, when I installed it from the DVD. It’s not quite something I’d pay $60USD for, but it would let me do what I needed on Rig 2 in a pinch.

Bruce on the lack on focus:

OpenSUSE 11: A Feature-Rich Distro in Search of Direction

Some members of the free software community will reject openSUSE out of hand, remembering the Microsoft-Novell pact in November 2006, and damning openSUSE along with its patron Novell. That is understandable if not entirely fair.

However, thinking only on the technical side, a better reason to have reservations about openSUSE is its lack of focus. These days, major distributions are known for a particular focus — for example, Ubuntu for user-friendliness, Fedora for the latest innovations, and Debian for stability and software freedom. By contrast, like the distributions of a decade ago, is still trying to be everything to everybody.

This guy too reckons it’s for power users:

openSUSE 11.0 x86_64 Review

I have finished setting up openSUSE 11.0 on my HP dv2000z AMD Turion64 X2. Up to version 10.3 I was running the 32-bit version of SUSE and decided now was a good time to do a ‘New’ install and give x86_64 a spin.


I’ve covered the basics for getting openSUSE 11.0 x86_64 installed. So far, I have had only a few minor ‘nuisance’ issues described above and feel that the openSUSE Development Team have done a great job of putting together another winner. YaST is even easier to use combined with ‘one-click’ installations that puts it on the same level of ease of use with Ubuntu’s Synaptic GUI. At the same time openSUSE is a power-user’s Linux.

Beranger takes things apart, as one just ought to expect.

40 minutes with KDE4 under openSUSE 11.0

I was initially impressed by what I thought it was minutiae in Bruce’s report, but this ended shortly after I noticed he mixed old and new impressions as if everything was hot stuff. The babbling about the EULA is certainly BS: «By accepting the license, you agree not to distribute copies for profit or bundled with anything else, and also not to reverse engineer or transfer rights. The rationale is probably that the license refers to the distribution as a whole, but, all the same, it seems at odds with the free licenses of the individual applications — especially any version of the GNU General Public License — so you might want to consult a lawyer before using openSUSE commercially.»

Fiddling phobia:

openSuSE 11.0 – A Closer Look

So, to summarize at this point, I am considerably happier with openSuSE 11.0 than i was after first installing it. However, I still think that it is much more complex, and requires a lot more fiddling and tuning from the user, than Ubuntu 8.04. If I were setting up a system for someone else, I would certainly install Ubuntu. But if I were setting up a system for myself, I would seriously consider openSuSE, and I will have to do some more investigation before making a final decision.

Audio issues:

Resolving openSUSE 11.0 Sound Issue With Some Audigy Cards

In the last few days I managed to install openSUSE 11.0 on more than 6 desktops, helping my friends on setting up the distribution, and on one of them I encountered a strange problem, running KDE 4.0. The problem occurred with the Audigy 2 ZS card, same as the one I have. From forums I noticed that I was not the only one to get this strange hiccup. As it seems, this small problem lies within the KMix settings.

Achieve Zen with openSUSE 11.0 (i.e Get rid of pulse audio)

I’ve been having a lot of stability issues with openSUSE 11.0 lately and the majority of them boiled down to audio.

Jan shared some pet peeve which is to do with package management.

OpenSUSE – searching for programs and packages

Looking for software that isn’t there is a nuisance, though you can’t expect the repositories to contain everything you like. What really got on my nerve was the menu panel. I switch from app to app and to click on Computer, then on More programs and then have to wait in order to see the list and then find the application is cumbersome and requires more mouse clicks than I want. Okay, I didn’t dump it immediately. I added a new panel and a menubar.

Moosy’s speed comparison (on fat and bloat):

Ubuntu faster then openSUSE?

So, my conclusion. If you change the openSUSE 11.0 menu to the traditional GNOME menu and disable some of the need features of openSUSE it feels very very similar.

The impact of including an early version of KDE4?

Staying with openSUSE – Switching to GNOME

I started using Linux at the suggestion of a friend, around the time of RedHat 7.1, and that friend told me to install KDE because it was better than GNOME, and I did.

The disconnect that newbies would find daunting:

Installed OpenSuse 11.0

First, the installer misdetected my monitor resolution, then i told him the good one, but that ended up in a messed xorg.conf that applied zoom onto the desktop, i had the remove the Option “PreferredMode” line from the file.

No match for Ubuntu yet:

openSUSE 11 installation this weekend

In summary: a great effort, lots of neat features. I’m not sure it would replace my hardy heron laptop yet. Looking forward to 11.1.

Minor complaint:

openSUSE 11.0

In the future, I would appreciate that developers focus on the individual applications and drivers, to reach a very high level of desktop functionality.

This is not intended to demoralise. It’s mostly specific and instructive.


Quick Mention: Room for Improvement in Novell’s SLED (via Lenovo)

Posted in IBM, Novell, Review, SLES/SLED at 11:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SUSE in Blue

Take it from the man, Steven Vaughan, whose conclusion is that Dell’s laptops with GNU/Linux preloaded may be a better deal to many who consider SUSE on Lenovo Thinkpads.

But then Ohlhorst found some flies in the soup. First, one of the boot options was to bring SLED up with the Xen virtualization program. Whoops. It didn’t work.

I’m not sure what Lenovo thought it was doing by making that a boot option, anyway. I mean, if you want to use virtualization, you’re going to need to get in there and install another operating system and set its system settings first. Why not leave setting up Xen until it’s time to set up Xen, or, as I’d be more likely to do, install and set up VirtualBox?

Steven and Frank did not bash SUSE. They made an observation and the fault might be with Lenovo, not Novell.

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