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openSUSE 12.1 Reveiew by Terence Lam

December 30th, 2011 by

This review is written by Terence Lam a student from Singapore sharing his experiences with openSUSE

In this review, I will install openSUSE 12.1, try out GNOME and KDE and also give a brief overview of advanced tools like YaST and have a look at ownCloud.

DVD Installer

The installer supports a large number of languages and had options that can be used both by beginners as well as advanced users. The YaST partitioner supports a large number of users. Keeping ext4 as the default filesystem, the installer also suggested using btrfs as the default filesystem for installation. One thing that caught my eye was the selection of the passwords, openSUSE recommends you to use strong passwords and by default it supports SHA256. The overview panel had a lot of options to customize my installation starting from my bootloader to software selection to networks. All in all, the installer maintains a healthy tradeoff between simplicity and flexibility.

KDE Desktop Environment

The KDE Desktop environment really enhanced my openSUSE experience. It contains many tools and features that could increase productivity. One of the most interesting features was the activity manager. It pushed multi-tasking to the next level by customising the desktop according to the tasks. Besides that, Dolphin , Amarok, KMail and KDE PIM provided a tight integration with the desktop. Visual settings could be easily customised. The softwares included with openSUSE by default was already sufficient for normal use. However, after firing up Apper, i was surprised by the numerous number of application choices. KDE can be a good place for anyone who needs a tightly integrated, feature rich environment. KDE is very much extensible with all its plasmoids and application plugins and a user can integrate his desktop with identica, twitter, facebook etc and other zillions of internet services. Localisation and Input methods were pretty annoying for me and I had to manually install IBus to solve it.

GNOME Desktop Environment

The GNOME desktop environment gave me a very simplistic feel. The interface was more application-oriented than task-oriented and it was not very easy multi-tasking. There are not many visual effects and the interface can only be minimally customised. I am sure that the GNOME desktop environment would definitely be appealing to users who seek simplicity. First time GNOME shell users may find the interface a little hard to use, but after getting used to the interface, it’s not hard at all. Apart from that, Gnome shell does not seem to be suited for netbooks as many of the windows sizes are quite and can hardly be scaled. Applications and online services integration with the desktop was not too bad, but I feel that i could have been better integrated with the panel. However, accessibility settings could be accessed directly from the top panel. I could not find any software centre, which is really a pity as openSUSE has a wide range of application choices. Setting localisation and input methods was as equally annoying as my experience with KDE. One thing I liked a lot was Gnome extensions, which brought out the real customisability power in gnome, it made minor but powerful tweaks to the interface. In all, I feel that Gnome’s simple interface coupled up with gnome extensions is really awesome and even advanced users would like it.

Snapper

Snapper is really one useful piece of software. Even though there were a few hiccups when using snapper, but it was relatively easy to use from both the GUI as well as the command line. It supports quite a number of features like comparing two snapshot,s mounting snapshots, etc… Problems that users face like accidentally deleting files, system crashing, etc… all can be solved by using snapper. Snapper is definitely a software that every openSUSE user should make use of and try.

Systemd



openSUSE introduced systemd as the new framework for booting up and managing your services. After reading up on it, I realised how good it is. At startup, only those important services like security would be started. Other services would only be started on demand later on is needed. This makes bootup much faster. Systemd has quite a bit of flexibility that system administrators can make use of like socket and dbus-activation. Systemd also make the operating system more stable by closely monitoring and controlling services. For example, if any important service is ended, systemd would try to re start is. The old system would just let it go undetected. The new “.service” files also provides more functionality and flexibility as compared to the old shell scripts. Even though developers are encouraged to port init scipts to systemd, but systemd is also backward compatible with the old init scripts. openSUSE users also have the option to fallback to the old SystemV init daemon if they prefer it. Even though it is more work to port the old init scripts to Sytemd, but the power brought upon by systemd is really something that should not be missed.

YaST

I could find almost every type of configuration available. From the boot loader to network services, all could be found in the YaST control panel. Configuring settings was not very hard either. It’s really a very valuable resource for both normal users and system administrators.

webYaST


webYaST was awesome. I was able to access almost all of the configurations available for my machine through my browser. I could even check out on system resoruces, or applying gupdates. I’m sure that system administrators would love this feature.

OwnCloud

OwnCloud was a really good feature. It’s the first time I see a tool that can help me set up a cloud service on a webserver of my choice. Configuring it with miralll was not hard at all. Not only does OwnCloud improve privacy, it also contains many useful features like calendar, contacts, etc…

openSUSE Weekly News 207 is out!

December 24th, 2011 by

We are pleased to announce our openSUSE Weekly News Issue 207. Sadly we can just release a PDF Version. You can find it there: http://bit.ly/vwq9yW

systemd – boot faster and cleaner with openSUSE 12.1

December 22nd, 2011 by

openSUSE 12.1 features systemd as a replacement for the System V init daemon. systemd provides a new and improved way of booting up your system and managing services. It comes with many new features like socket and dbus-activation, use of cgroups (control groups) and aggressive parallelization capabilities which leads to a faster boot-up of the system. Systemd also introduces a number of new features and tools for sysadmins. This article will explain what systemd does, how it does it and how to take advantage of the new possibilities it offers.
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openSUSE and ownCloud

December 20th, 2011 by

ownCloud logo

openSUSE 12.1 has been released a few weeks ago. A major new technology we introduce in this release is ownCloud, which we ship in a separate repository. ownCloud is a web application which lets you set up your own cloud – a place for you data where you can share it with others or use it over multiple devices. As YOU will own the data, it’s great from a privacy and security point of view.

However, setting up ownCloud, while not particularly complicated, is still vastly more difficult than navigating to a website which offers you convenient ways of giving them your personal data. If the convenience offered by companies like Dropbox, Canonical or Facebook is so much greater than what is offered by technologies which protect your freedom, you don’t really have a choice as common user.

openSUSE 12.1 offers a solution: mirall. While this tool has not yet solved all problems in the world, it makes deploying your ownCloud as easy as a few clicks and makes your files available for you off-line (a feature ownCloud itself lacks). Read on to learn what mirall has in store for openSUSE users!
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openSUSE Weekly News Issue 206 is out!

December 17th, 2011 by

We are pleased to announce our new openSUSE Weekly News 206.
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openSUSE Board Election 2011 results

December 17th, 2011 by

The openSUSE Election Officials is pleased to announce the 5th openSUSE Board elected by openSUSE community.

The new board members are Pascal Bleser, Will Stephenson and Andrew Wafaa.

We would like to congratulate all Board Members and wish them all the best. We would also like to thank all candidates for their time to run for openSUSE board. We’re really proud to have so many good candidates.

The votes are as follows:

Pascal Bleser (172 votes) – 79%

Will Stephenson (104 votes) – 48%

Andrew Wafaa (90 votes) – 41%

Pavol Rusnak (81 votes) – 37%

Manu Gupta (60 votes) – 28%

Richard Brown (43 votes) – 20%

Marcus Moeller (42 votes) – 19%

Chuck Payne (16 votes) – 7%

A total of 218 members participated in the poll. Voters had the option to vote for 3 candidates.

Thanks Bryen Yunashko, Rupert Horstkotter and Pavol Rusnak for the great time served in the Board.

The official results can be found at http://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Board_election

Thank all voters for taking the time to vote. Thanks to the openSUSE Election Officials.

FOSDEM12 Cross-Distribution Devroom: (Last) Call for Participation

December 16th, 2011 by

FOSDEM is the biggest event organized by and for the Free and Open Source (FOSS) community. Its goal is to provide developers a place to meet, come together and share and discuss ideas. The event happens 4-5 February 2012 in Brussels, Belgium. And there will again be a cross-distribution mini conference at FOSDEM this year. By organizing a mini conference where all distributions participate in we foster collaboration and cross pollination. You are hereby invited to hold a session.

If you’re interested let your intention be known on the distributions@lists.fosdem.org mailinglist, with the following information and we will factor in your contribution.

  • Your name
  • A short bio, to be put on the website along with your name
  • optionally a picture of yourself
  • The title of your session
  • A (short) abstract describing the session in further detail.
  • The desired approximate duration for the session.

Sessions can be talks, round tables, BoFs, or any number of other things that could generally benefit from an audience of distributions developers.

The deadline for submissions is December 22nd!

Use this opportunity to bounce ideas, projects and plans off your peers in the Linux distributor community.

Forums and Wikis and Blogs, Oh MY!

December 12th, 2011 by

It has been suggested that I write a post explaining some of the big changes that we have been doing with the forums, wikis, and blogs over the last few weeks.  Here is a quick list:

  • Forums, wikis, and blogs have been moved from iChain to Novell Access Manager
  • Wikis have been upgraded to MediaWiki 1.17
  • Blogs have been upgraded to the latest version of WordPress
  • Blog and wiki servers have been patched to the latest kernel, Apache, and PHP

Now for the details…

Novell Access Manager

Until a couple of weeks ago, the openSUSE blogs, wikis, and forums were running on a product called iChain.  iChain is an appliance that acts as an accelerating (caching) proxy that can perform SSO, authorization, and identity injection for applications.  While iChain does its job very well, it was discontinued a number of years ago, and it has become increasingly difficult to keep it in service.  Some of the major problems are that the hardware it is running on is aging, and it will not run on newer hardware.  It is also having trouble with the extensions and field formatting of newer certificates, and it also has a lot of trouble with clients attempting to use newer TLS protocols.  Those of you who tried logging in to openSUSE.org with an iOS5 device more than two weeks ago have probably noticed this.

Novell Access Manager is the successor to iChain. While it is slightly more buggy, it has a lot of additional features, and is an actively developed and supported product. Recent builds have also been much more stable and issue-free. It works on a different principle than iChain in that it is based on a federation model. This makes SSO across domains and organizations much easier. For example, openSUSE.org is now single sign-on with www.novell.com and www.suse.com. We can also do SAML 2 federation with other sites, if that ever becomes necessary.

While we are working on moving the rest of the Novell related sites to Access Manager, we are running in what we call “migration mode”. In this setup, iChain continues to handle the authentication for itself and Novell Access Manager. This allows us to retain single sign-on between the two systems as we migrate. As some of you have noticed, a side effect of this is that the openSUSE sites now log in via a Novell-branded login page. When the rest of the sites have been moved off of iChain, we will be able to change back to an openSUSE branded login. This will probably take some time, but we will get there.

Since the openSUSE blogs, wikis, and forums were running on a single iChain server that is out of warranty and irreplaceable, they were among the first sites to be moved to Access Manager. While this provides some benefits, it has also led to a couple of problems that come with being the guinea pig.  The first is that we are having a few problems with the IPv6 tunnel that was set up for these sites, and the IDP domain (login.novell.com) does not have an IPv6 address yet.  I have reached out to the networking team to get this resolved, hopefully this week.  The second is that the default Access Manager timeout is very short compared to what the openSUSE contributors are used to.  I changed the timeout to 4 hours last night, so this should no longer be an issue.  I know the change has been frustrating for a few of you, but I hope that you can agree that it’s better to work out the kinks now, rather than waiting for the old system to break down.

Wiki Upgrade

While MediaWiki 1.17 comes with a lot of improvements, many of you have also noticed that it came with a lot of heartburns.  The biggest one was the UTF8 corruption that happened on most of the wikis.  This seems to have come from a combination of an outdated collation on the “older” wikis and the way that the update script handled the schema changes.  This highlighted a problem that I was not aware of before, which is that there are some major collation differences between the “new” (i.e. English and German) wikis, and the “older” wikis that were not recently rebuilt.  After many hours, I found a way to fix the UTF8 corruption, and  I also worked with our DBA to get the collation of the other wikis to match the new wikis as best as we could.  This should minimize the chance of future upgrade issues.

We also had a couple of smaller issues, mostly an Apache rewrite rule interfering with the new resource loader that came with 1.17.  Those issues were also resolved last week.  Despite these problems, the new MW software is working very well.  I have noticed a major improvement in performance, mostly due to the new resource loader optimizing the javascript and stylesheet load times.

Blog Upgrade

The WordPress upgrades are usually much easier than the MediaWiki upgrades, and this was no exception.  Except for a minor glitch in the theme for logged in users, there are no known issues with the new software.

System Patches

Similarly to the WordPress upgrades, this was a pretty uneventful change.  This update fixes a lot of vulnerabilities, including the “Apache killer” DoS attack discovered over the summer.

openSUSE Weekly News 205 is out!

December 10th, 2011 by

We are pleased to announce our Issue 205 of the openSUSE Weekly News.
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openSUSE Weekly News, Issue 204 is out!

December 4th, 2011 by

We are pleased to announce our new openSUSE Weekly News 204.
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