Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open Source OS's Part 3: OpenSuse

Welcome to Part 2 of the Open Source Operating System mini-series. Today's focus is OpenSuse, a sponsored OS by Novell.


The OpenSuse website says this about the project: "The openSUSE project is a worldwide community program sponsored by Novell that promotes the use of Linux everywhere. The program provides free and easy access to openSUSE. Here you can find and join a community of users and developers, who all have the same goal in mind — to create and distribute the world's most usable Linux. openSUSE also provides the base for Novell's award-winning SUSE Linux Enterprise products." The fact that Novell is behind the development of this software is interesting because it adds an element of more professionalism to the applications. It doesn't really make it better than other distro as big companies are behind other distros but Novell has done a great job with their Suse project. The OS is based on GNOME which is the GUI that a lot of Linux distros are based upon.


Desktop: The look and feel of the OpenSuse desktop is similar to Ubuntu and XP. An interesting feature that OpenSuse has that Ubuntu does not is a virtual desktop - basically that means that you can seperate your open windows onto different windows and even go through them in a unique way. It also has a lot more desktop effects than other open source OS's like when you grab a window to move it, it kind of of sways with the way you move the cursor. The start menu is really intuitive on OpenSuse: it tabs between documents, applications, and network places to make searching fast, easy, and clean. (see last screen shot - the blue one)

Audio: OpenSuse uses Banshee audio player which I like a lot. It is actually pretty similar to the iTunes format. It also seperates into 3 different windows for artists, albums and songs so that you can sort your music really easily. Playback is typical. Banshee links to online stores so that users can purchase music and play them like on iTunes and other popular audio players. (see center shot for a look at the layout)

Visual: The graphics and video playback are what you would want and expect out of an OS. The graphics are slightly better than Ubuntu but only because the OS includes desktop effects that are pretty fun to play with. A reader pointed out on the Ubuntu post, however, that modifications can be made to the OS's to create better visual effects in Ubuntu (which is true of many Linux distros). Check out his page for an idea of how the GUI's can be modified to have a better look and feel. This is a great demonstration of how users can get MORE out of Linux based OS's because the code is not fenced in and closed off from third party modification. Linux is based on the ability of users to develop ways to customize their user experience and get more out of their machines. The problem is the technical know-how that is required to get these results.

Support Forum: OpenSuse has one of the larger support forums for users out of the Linux distros. This is a plus for users that want a free OS but also need some support and help learning how to use it. I will also note that Ubuntu has a large support forum as it is truly the Linux operating system (in my opinion) that has done most to actually make a system that is user friendly and aimed at ordinary, non-IT savy people.

E-Mail: OpenSuse uses Evolution (like Ubuntu) which interfaces with some e-mail accounts (Google in particular). This is like having Outlook on an XP. Evolution is even easier to use in my opinion.


Well, OpenSuse is probably the best Open Source OS out there with a large corporate sponsor. I think it is the most intuitive, the most in line with what consumers want, has the best features, is the sleekest, easiest to customize desktop OS that is free. Be warned, there is a costly one that is even better but it costs something like $80. A lot of companies buy the liscense becasue it is a stable, virus-free environment for their desktop users - and they get professional support from Novell, the company that backs the development of the OS. In the next post, I am going to tell you how you can play with these Linux distributions without having to format your computer or virtualize the OS through the use of Live CD's and Live USB's.

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