Sunday 18th December 2005
SUSE. To be quite honest, there isn't very much worth saying to you, wonderful reader, about SUSE in this little spiel before we begin the article properly. It had the 10.0 release a couple of months ago, and remains rather popular. You can either pay for it, or choose the open source version (which I did because I'm tight). And now I'm going to review it.
Naturally enough, the first step is to download it. It certainly isn't a small distribution, weighing at five CDs. It would be nice if the extra CDs weren't really required for the installation, since it would be quicker to download the packages for about the last three CDs, since I required no packages from them. Although you could get away with not having all the CDs, it is difficult to tell which CDs have which packages on them. Having said that, having lots of CDs does mean a wide range of packages that you'll never have to download again. Anyway, I got them in the end, and the next step was, oddly enough, installation.
I'm going to skip ahead a bit and say that SUSE 10.0 probably has the best installation I've used.
You start off with a media check, which is handy for checking to make sure that your CDs have burnt correctly. It does this using the MD5 sums, and, fortunately, my CDs were fine.
After this, there are actually quite a few configuration screens, such as software, partitioning and network. However, the nice thing about the installation is that, while it accommodates the person that just wants to get the install over and done with, it also presents a great deal of options, if you want them. Generally, a screen will show you the settings that have been chosen for you. You can then go on and change the settings yourself by selecting the 'Expert' tab. Easy enough for the average user, and with enough options to keep me happy.
In the Expert options, you can set up your own partitioning - even here, SUSE offers a choice - essentially between guided partitioning and doing it yourself. When it gets to software selection, you can select whichever applications you want. You can choose an entire group, such as GNOME, or each individual package.
It is quite interesting that SUSE offers the choice between both KDE and GNOME, without giving preference to either of them (except that KDE is on top).
During the installation, you are asked for the root password, and to set up a separate user - I was glad to know that SUSE maintains the concept of not logging in as root, unlike Linspire.
Overall, the installation is very polished, and should satisfy most users. The only minor gripe is that it did take a fair amount of time to complete, but it also installs a large number of packages onto the system. Besides, the time taken wasn't really that long.