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OpenSUSE Left Behind While GNU/Linux Still Flies Ahead

Turtle



Summary: Status of OpenSUSE as seen from the past two weeks' news

FEDORA 14 was a successful release that I've installed on several PCs. Ubuntu is still very widely deployed, but Fedora has just passed Ubuntu in DistroWatch.



Back in 2006 it was a different story. Almost every PC I set up would have SUSE on it. That was before Novell's deal with Microsoft. Many people can tell (and do sometimes tell) a similar story. Going back to 2006, OpenSUSE was in a good position to be what Ubuntu is today. It was ahead with Compiz, it was polished, it had YaST, and it enjoyed advertising from Novell, which Novell almost stopped entirely over the years, especially after it became Microsoft's friend and abstained from saying anything negative about Windows. Novell even took down its Web pages that were critical of Windows/Microsoft, as we showed back in late 2006.

So, where does that leave OpenSUSE? Even members of OpenSUSE do not appear to be sure. They just keep chatting about strategy, hoping to figure out how to revive the project. They tried to set up a "boosters" team, but that too is failing because Löffler is one among many who leave and journalists do notice. One of the best GNU/Linux-oriented journalists, Richard Hillesley, has just given his famous "Health Check" to OpenSUSE and he too -- like us -- suggests seeking independence from Novell. From his concluding words:

Much more intriguing is the prospective establishment of an openSUSE foundation during 2011, and the much rumoured sale of Novell, which may result in a new era of independence and freedom for SuSE, and new horizons for openSUSE and its developers.


OpenSUSE is a Novell trademark, so the project would have to choose a new name, which can harm brand recognition.

Going further back to the beginning of the month, this one person asked in the headline: "Is it me or is there a lack of interest in openSUSE?"

Is it me or is there a lack of interest in openSUSE?

Whether its browsing the internet and looking for information about openSUSE or talking to the general public, openSUSE just seems to not get the attention I believe it deserves.

It isn't a bad operating system but struggles to gain popularity, is that still because of the Microsoft deal a few years ago?


SUSE has never been the same since that deal. Last year OpenSUSE decided to release less often and even at decreased pace there are delays that Will Stephenson addresses with this very recent announcement. There seems to be nothing that can give OpenSUSE its old momentum back. Even its community leader left, only to be replaced by Jos Poortvliet who hangs out in south America at the moment [1, 2, 3] (he's probably back by now).

It would not be fair to say that OpenSUSE is just history because HP still offers SUSE as an option on this netbook. From the news:

HP has released a budget-priced netbook for business users, offered with mobile broadband and GPS options. The $300 Mini 1103 runs SuSE Linux or Windows 7 on a 1.66GHz Atom N455 processor or 1.83GHz N475, comes with 160GB or 320GB hard disk drives, and has the usual 10.1-inch screen with 1024 x 768 pixels, the company says.


There are still new releases of OBS (in addition to other parts [1, 2] and HOWTO activity [1, 2]) and a person who is usually quite hostile towards GNU/Linux intends to give OpenSUSE a go:

I think I’ll swap in a different hard drive this weekend and try a clean install of Kubuntu or openSUSE. But if I can’t get better performance, I’m going to have to conclude that this laptop is just not up to KDE’s resource requirements. I could go the other direction and install a really lightweight desktop like LXDE, but I like the desktop effects. I know, it’s shallow, but I do.


Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a longtime SUSE fan, reviewed the latest stable release and a British site has just made a copy of his review, which is mostly positive.

While Novell sells its commercial SUSE Linux to business users, the free open-source software version of openSUSE is still freely available, with openSUSE 11.3 majoring on its KDE 4.4 desktop interface

We've been using SUSE Linux since its start in 1994 and then, as now, we like this strong desktop Linux distribution. Of course the latest version, openSUSE 11.3, doesn't look a lot like that vintage Slackware variant, but one thing has remained the same. Today's OpenSUSE is a Linux for users, not developers or Linux technicians.

[...]

All in all, we've found that openSUSE 11.3 is, once more, a great Linux distribution. While we know free-software purists won't care for its use of Mono and parent company Novell's friendly relations with Microsoft, if you can past that, you'll find a truly excellent Linux desktop.


Sascha Manns, who still has those weekly news coming, speaks about OpenSUSE Medical [via] and says: "Some month our team was busy, and so you hasn’t heard about us. But we are alive. We are pleased to announce our new openSUSE Distribution who still medical needs."

OpenSUSE is far from dead, but still, overall, OpenSUSE will never be a top distribution unless it disconnects from Novell and does something amazing. Microsoft crushed Novell, which is now waiting for good buyers. More on that in a later post.

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