Review: OpenSUSE 11.1 - 17/01/2009 by Andrew
Distro Review

OpenSUSE (in various forms) has been around for quite some time and has been quite popular with developers and business users. It currently holds Distrowatch's number 2 spot on the page hit ranking and has a thriving community of users. Each release has seen the distro improve, though it's still not a distro that jumps to mind when most people think of Linux (that's reserved for Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian and Mandriva).

OpenSUSE 11.1 is packing some good stuff; Kernel, Glibc 2.9, Gnome 2.24.1, KDE 4.1.3 (as well as 3.5.10), Xorg 7.4, OpenOffice 3.0.0 and Firefox 3.0.4 – so lets see how it runs on my old test machine (Athlon 3200+, 6600GT AGP, 1GB DDR1, 40GB ATA100).

I burnt the Gnome 64bit live CD version of 11.1 and fired up my machine. The boot process was quite fast for a live CD and soon I was at the desktop, free to play without committing to any irreversible changes. Not wasting any time, I started the installation to the hard drive. The installer is quite clean and easy to navigate though it did assume that UK English means that I live in the UK, which obviously is a smart assumption though isn't correct if you're from one of the colonies (in my case, Australia). It's a small quibble to an otherwise excellent start.

The installation was surprisingly quick, though the catch was the system configuration happens once you reboot. In around 30 minutes it had finished and I sat watching my new OpenSUSE 11.1 desktop. Nothing happened. It sounds weird though I was expecting something. No update pop-ups, no hardware driver pop-ups and no further configuration required. After a bit of snooping I found the updates and kicked them off though I was having no luck with finding an easy way to get the proprietary Nvidia drivers installed. After a bit of googling I found my answer and decided to write a guide outlining how to get Nvidia drivers installed with version 11.1. It's not that hard really, just enable an extra repository (in this case an Nvidia one dedicated to Suse) and then select the package(s) from YaST. After a reboot I was running nvidia driver version 180.22 (the current version, at the time of writing).

Unlike some other Gnome desktops, OpenSUSE uses a single main panel down the bottom, like the standard 'Windows' setup. It's user friendly enough, though I did have to create quick launch icons on my panel and navigating to find my favourite applications was too much effort to do all the time.

Configuration of the system is done though either the Control Panel or YaST and it's complete and well presented. You can definitely tell that a lot of time and effort was put in to making this system seem very professional and not some hacked up affair that you see with some of the lesser known (though still oddly popular) distributions.

The list of applications is quite good, with all of the usual suspects turning up to handle your music (Rhythmbox Music Player), CD/DVD burning (Brasero) and image manipulation (Gimp). Out of the box, you've got a great collection of applications that will see you through the majority of your Linux tasks and will ease the transition from other non open source operating systems.

Adding additional software isn't a problem as OpenSUSE has a large online catalogue of software available in their repositories though this is where my love for OpenSUSE falters. Since OpenSUSE caters more to the professional Linux user there isn't a large number of games on offer. Nexuiz, AlienArena, OpenArena, Prboom, Warsow, Glest, FreedroidRPG, SuperTuxKart and many others are absent. Some games do appear though with the case of Wesnoth, it installs but doesn't run.

All isn't lost as you can manually download Nexuiz, Warsow and OpenArena and run these straight from the directory. If you're planning on playing closed source games like UT2004 or Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (or anything using Wine for that matter), not having a large collection of games in the repositories isn't going to affect you one iota.

Ignoring the gaming side of things, adding extra applications from the repositories is an easy process, though it does seem a bit bland. Maybe adding in a popularity ranking or better descriptions will make choosing applications that little bit easier for the Linux newcomer.


OpenSUSE 11.1 is a fantastic release and show the quality that comes from a professional distribution with many years of experience. Yes, it's probably not the first choice of distribution that many users (and Linux gamers) go to but I've found it to be quite well laid out and easily configurable. If you're after a solid distribution that's able work hard as well as play hard, you won't go wrong with OpenSUSE.



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15/10/2009 11:25:45 PM

When you say you cannot install wesnoth, that is not because it is not supported by openSUSE. I play wesnoth regularly on openSUSE 11.0, and all you have to do is install through package manager, not console. This automatically installs all dependencys, which stops problems like you see in your screen shot, where libSDL isn't installed. There is also a console command to install dependancies, something like zypper build-dep wesnoth that should do it :D

21/05/2009 7:06:09 PM

Newbie to Opensuse. Using 11.1 and stuck it on a stick, had no problems booting into windows or linux. the stick was slow, so i've now ditched windows (vista) and installed opensuse to my hard drive. nice os. thanks.

13/03/2009 5:54:41 AM

I have created a Multimedia Pack portable for OpenSUSE, the included programs and codecs are: 1) kchmviewer 2) mplayer, mplayer plugin 3) audacious 4) k3b, k3b-codecs 5) sox 6) devede 7) audacity 8) avidemux, gtk qt 9) ffmpeg 10) transcode 11) ntfs-config 12) vlc 13) libdvdcss 14) w32codecs 15) xine, libxine1* 16) xmms, xmms-* 17) dvdShrink 18) k9copy 19) Gtkpod 20) Acetoneiso 21) furiusisomount 22) DVD::RIP 23) Amarok 24) Kaffeine 25) kmplayer 26) Kdvdcreator 27) K3guitune 28) Kino 29) ManDVD 30) Kguitar 31) Mjpegtools 32) Soundconverter 33) Kdenlive 34) Asunder 35) Brasero 36) Smplayer 37) LMMS 38) Isomaster 39) Mediainfo 40) DVD2Xvid 41) recordMyDesktop 42) Gstreamer* 43) Mixxx, Mixxx-skin* 44) Djplay 45) Ardour 46) Soundreced you can install any of the above without internet, they include all the dependencies, just unzip the both files into a folder named MMP2009 and create a repository from that folder as a simple rpm folder in yast, then make a search in the yast installer with the name of the program and check it to install it, this is very important if you don`t have internet at home, and besides, by default Open Suse doesn`t include several codecs due to license matters. I created a blog about the MMP2009 where you can download the pack:

5/02/2009 6:55:54 PM

Yes, the multiboot issue is a problem. It wiped my MBR two times: the first I thought I did something wrong, but the second time I was SURE to have done the right thing (installo boot loader in the root partition), but the MBR got damaged all the same. Fortunately with the recovery functions in my laptop fixing the mbr was a breeze, otherwise this could have been a BIG showstopper. Apart from this, some things to tune up on my hardware but a good and stable distro with a lot of support on the net. Regards ___ campamax

26/01/2009 4:17:40 AM

Under 11.1 I found that ETQW did not play well with KDE4: keyboard freeze-ups, KDE trying to fight its way on top of the game (complete with annoying sticky keys question), etc. After switching to a Gnome desktop (which I don't like as much) these problems have gone away.

21/01/2009 7:19:39 AM

RE: KDE4 version - I've been staying a bit away from the KDE4 versions of distros as I don't like blaming the distro for the shortcomings of early KDE4. It is getting more stable and more complete so it won't be long till I review it again to see how it looks/performs with an eye to gaming.

Jiri Srain
21/01/2009 12:48:48 AM

We (Novell) are aware of the issue with breaking bootloader, unfortunately it was not known to us at the release time. We are working on releasing an online update which fixes this bug.

20/01/2009 9:44:07 PM

Too bad you didn't review the kde4 version , that's where openSuse really shine , coming from Ubuntu to openSuse i'm really impress how suse handle kde4 , now i upgrade to kde 4.2 rc1 it's fast solid and eye candy and not that bug...

20/01/2009 4:45:02 AM

I had the same thing happen to me. Don't adjust your boot order with Yast after installing. However, I dual boot and I edited the boot during my second install and it defaults to Windows like I told it too. I haven't tried but I assume you can still edit the menu.lst manually. Overall, this is a very nice release. All releases have bugs.

19/01/2009 2:36:28 PM

11.0 Wiped out my mbr so that I couldn't dual boot to windows also. It was a real mess. A friend of mine just installed 11.1 and he is now looking for something else -- fedora was last mentioned. I've been using him as my test dummy. He's quite a pro and he turned me on to SUSE a long time ago, but now he's bailing. We both agree 10.3 was the openSUSE crown. I don't really see any "improvements" that I would value in 11. or from, what I heard, 11.1.

18/01/2009 5:44:15 PM

On the gaming front, I've been using crossover games to play steam games with great success in Suse 11.0. On the MBR front, I was able to get the windows partition to show up as an external drive but I'll have to re-install everything since the boot record is no good. Too bad. My favorite thing about Suse was that it lived well with windows.

18/01/2009 2:08:55 PM

I and two of my friends got the same problem with dual booting with windows. Well not a big problem for me since i plan to remove my windows, but it's a serious problem for my friends since they still use windows for gaming. I don't know if anyone has report this bug to opensuse bugzilla. And about geme collection, you can add an extra repository for it on

18/01/2009 11:37:02 AM

My situation is a multiboot setup. I setup yast to install grub to root partition. It did do this but with dire consequences. I do have a working Suse install despite a terrible scare. Like I said before, beware if you change the default setup. I am impressed with this release. Very polished and professional. Will I install it again? Not a chance.

18/01/2009 10:19:40 AM

That's a bit more than serious - surely it would have been a show stopper bug as dual booting (if not triple booting) is quite common.

18/01/2009 9:23:53 AM

Yes. David. I had the same experience as you with the installer on two machines. Wiped my mbr and made the drive unbootable. Not good. Those who stray from the default install - BEWARE -. My hard drive would not even show up in the bios boot order so it was a chore getting things running again. I've been waiting for someone else to complain about this very serious bug.

18/01/2009 8:54:30 AM

I didn't test 11.1 in dual boot, though if it doesn't work out of the box it will annoy a huge number of people. Regarding the games repository, that's a bit crazy that it has a bunch of games with a slightly secretive second games repository hiding more games! Can anyone confirm this? (I've since blown it away for a Fedora 10 build!)

18/01/2009 8:38:50 AM

I have had a terrible experience with 11.1. Something is wrong with the partition install as it keeps destroying my mbr. I've been able to re-create the error. Beware of installing 11.1 as a dual boot with windows if you want windows as the default boot selection. Changing the boot order in Yast (when you have a partition install) will make the computer unbootable. This didn't happen when I did a LVM install. If anybody has had this experience too please point me in the right direction.

18/01/2009 4:28:38 AM

You can add your favorite applications to the main menu / remove unwanted applications by right-clicking on the application's icon.

18/01/2009 4:21:25 AM

You can enabled the Games repository, it contains several games. I think it even includes all of the games you listed.

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