In September, the openSUSE community released openSUSE 12.2 all around the world. So what have the responses been since that Wednesday a little over three months ago, and what can we learn for openSUSE 12.3, which is just three months away?
Everyone was very enthusiastic about the release. On the social networks we had hundreds of +1’s, likes and shares for the release announcement from the over 12000 Google+ users with openSUSE in their circle. With almost as many followers on Twitter and about 7K on Facebook, these networks were also full of discussions about the release and the sharing of the good news. The general vibe was a good one and there was lots of excitement.
On the various social media and in the article comments section, discussions about the release took place. Quickly after it was out, Will Stephenson first treated us on a picture of Geeko finishing an important download after which Rabauke told us openSUSE would soon see KDE SC 4.9.1 packages. This spread quickly to the other social media and as soon as packages were available, discussions about the merits of this release ensued. We also heard that GNOME 3.6 would have packages as soon as it is released, and GNOME 2 fork Mate and the GNOME Shell alternative Cinnamon were both packaged and built for openSUSE 12.2 as well!
Aside from these Open Build Service projects, the awesome Tumbleweed was update rebased on openSUSE 12.2 and the the Studio team let us know that openSUSE 12.2 was available for your customization. Our channels also discussed the release itself. We informed our community about the features of openSUSE and availability of top technologies like LibreOffice and Firefox. People wrote about their first impressions and what they liked. On Facebook, many people posted screenshots of their new desktop like this, this, this and this. It was noted that the french hosting provider OVH already has a cheap hosting option (down to 15 euros a month for a dedicated server) with openSUSE 12.2 as beta available in the release week!
Troubleshooting and advice
There was trouble shooting with wifi, vlc, java and more. A geeko as flexible as ours can never be absolutely perfect. Gertjan Lettink, one of the Facebook group administrators, pointed out that Facebook is not the right venue for support, we’ve got forums for that - but still, lots of help was asked and given.
There was also a video made to show openSUSE install and boot to a KDE desktop compressed to 1 minute and 30 seconds - which got over 15.000 views until today!
Reception of the press
We’ve seen a lot of positive feedback regarding openSUSE 12.2 via the press with over 60 articles and reviews recorded by us. It had the VAR guy saying he believes openSUSE is “an important force in the larger open source ecosystem” and serverwatch headlining “openSUSE 12.2 Stabilizes Linux”. While those of us in the know recognize journalistic hyperbole when we see it, it’s great to have a pat on the back.
The most thorough review to date is the look at the Great Lizard from the Linux Action Show team. Not only did they love our release - they also encountered a few issues.
On the positive side, the guys absolutely loved the release in terms of stability. They greatly appreciate our focus on a longer release cycle and slightly more conservative package selections to provide something that does its job well. The attention to detail in the installer, offering a separate /home partition, detecting mount points (including Windows!) and the ability to do a headless install over a VNC connection raised eyebrows: impressive!
They also recognized openSUSE as having an absolutely awesome desktop experience, especially running KDE’s Plasma Desktop. openSUSE 12.2 boots fast, starts applications fast and in general brings a completely smooth desktop experience. It’s smart - too. They noticed openSUSE offering to create a separate /home folder upon installation (and even detecting your existing one) and responded with “finally, someone gets it!”. They also saw that openSUSE detects the windows D:\ drive and mounts it under /windows_d - which makes for a “seamless experience” according to the reviewers.
Lack of focus in openSUSE?
Criticism came on the focus of openSUSE: is it a desktop or a server? The enterprise functionality on the server side is there - in openSUSE, you can click a domain controller ready in a few clicks. But it just can’t compete with CentOS which offers binary compatibility with its enterprise cousin - you can drop-in RHEL once you’ve tested on CentOS. Same in Ubuntu - support is always close to what you are running. From openSUSE to SLE is still a hurdle. The gentlemen felt that with the default KDE desktop “the most attractive I’ve seen”, openSUSE has by far the best Enterprise-ready desktop in hands, beating the Ubuntu and Red Hat competition. It is attractive, fast, responsive and easy, maybe openSUSE should focus on their desktop more?
But there were also some problems. Prime among those were issues with package management - the discrepancy between the native zypper tool & YaST for administration by root on one hand and the PackageKit side of things with Apper and gpk-tools on the other hand has a lack of consistency which creates some confusion. Patterns are cool but have dependency issues and are hard to discover. Also, YaST can be a tad verbose in listing and resolving package conflict and letting you handle it - sometimes this could be made a bit easier. They also felt that our handling of proprietary drivers (or rather, lack of handling that) was a bit surprising and last but not least, one of them bumped into a bug in our brand new boot loader GRUB2.
The openSUSE team worked with community members to fix the issues the gentlemen encountered (as well as many others) and we can now confidently say that the problems they LAS reviewers bumped into have been decisively fixed or will be, soon. Right now, for example, Release Manager Coolo is working hard on making sure PackageKit 0.8 is in shape and will not be blocking any zypper activity or the other way around. So, that, leaves us with their summary:
“openSUSE is a cohesive distro and it feels like it is being done by an extremely talented group of people.”.
We again collected some statistics on the downloads of openSUSE. There’s quite a drop in downloads - our release manager attributed this to the delay. Many people were already running the latest RC, which was very stable, and just did a zypper dup on the release day. True or not, combined with a more and more popular Tumbleweed rolling release, it probably explains at least some of the difference. But at the same time - there’s surely work we can do to improve, both in terms of marketing as well as development.
The number of downloaded openSUSE installation DVD’s and Netinstall images within the first 24 hours totals over 65.000 with almost half (46%) of that 64 bit. On bittorrent, another 8.000 ISO images were downloaded. GNOME and KDE LiveCD’s did great too, with around 12K KDE and 8.5K GNOME downloads from bittorrent and download.opensuse.org combined. A complete breakdown for the first day on download.opensuse.org:
One contributor runs a server making pretty bittorrent graphs!
While these are a lot of downloads, as said, these numbers don’t show upgrades to 12.2 by our existing user base via the online upgrade method and those running Tumbleweed have also moved to openSUSE 12.2 now without any additional efforts.
Lessons for openSUSE 12.3
Of course this release did teach us a few things. While openSUSE 12.2 turned out to be a great release, there is room for improvement! Some of these thoughts you find below.
We should be testing Live CDs during the development lifecycle so brokenness doesn’t build up. Help welcome! We have already done so during the hackaton last weekend and we urge you to help during the RC’s!
We need better coordination between packagers on the UsrMerge and similar projects and bug reports.
The openSUSE [Boosters] Team was mostly occupied doing marketing and promotion tasks during the final release phase of the distribution, so some fixable bugs slipped through and were seen by reviewers as negatives. We need to step up our marketing efforts, and it’s why we planned the openSUSE 12.3 marketing/artwork hackaton end of this month!
Since core members of the Marketing Team are moving on to other responsibilities, it’s important that the project builds this team up again now so that can promote the next release effectively, especially completing and distributing press kits and release announcements further ahead of the actual release. Again, the hackaton will help with this.
An openSUSE Build Service reboot in release week brought the completion of the Gold Master image down to the wire - the project needs better coordination with teams inside SUSE.
Since openSUSE follows a development strategy best described as “undirected hacking”, making an exciting story out of the release is harder. We need to plan features and themes for upcoming releases more in advance - this will make development more attractive as well as the marketing team’s job easier.
As you see, some thought went into the lessons learned form this release. In some area’s we’re already working on improvements, in other places we can use help with that. Input, ideas and especially work are very much appreciated! A better 12.3 release means more fun for everyone and we’re looking forward to it!