February 28, 2006

My desktop OS: SUSE 10.0

Author: Sebastiaan Mathot

I'm a student, and I use my computer mainly for word processing, surfing the Internet, listening to music, and watching videos. I am also a musician, and have set up a small home studio around my computer. For years I used Windows, but I wasn't happy with the software or Microsoft's marketing strategies. After moving to SUSE 10.0, I am quite satisfied.

In evaluating a Windows replacement, I wanted a major distribution, so I could be reasonably sure updates would continue to be available for the foreseeable future. I also wanted installation, setup, and use of the system to be easy. I didn't care about running bleeding-edge software, which led me to choose SUSE 10.0 over Fedora Core, which appeared to me to be the two major distributions.

Next, I had to choose between the evaluation version of the commercial product and a version including only open source components (openSUSE). Despite its name the evaluation version does not expire, and I saw no reason to pick openSUSE, which does not include some useful packages, such as the Acrobat reader, that are present in the evaluation version.

Although I would no longer be using Windows I still wanted to be able to do everything I had done before. This meant I wanted my distribution to include at least a browser (Konqueror), an instant messenger (Kopete), an office suite (OpenOffice.org), a BitTorrent client (Ktorrent), a CD/DVD-burning application (K3b), and a media player for both audio (amaroK) and video (Kaffeine). I also wanted it all to look really good (KDE). SUSE 10.0 provided all of this right out of the box. The programs I have listed are the ones that appeared to be the obvious choices, but for many purposes alternatives are available.

The fact I rarely play games made my transition that much easier, but SUSE 10.0 comes with an emulator (Wine) that enables you to play Windows games under Linux. I still need a dual boot configuration to use my music software, however, since most of it is available only for Mac OS and Windows. Although music production applications such as LMMS and Rosegarden are available for Linux (though not supplied with SUSE 10.0), these cannot yet replace professional applications such as Cubase and Logic.

Installation went smoothly. SUSE appeared to detect all of my hardware automatically. Setting up a dual boot was a breeze, as the SUSE installer made reasonable suggestions for repartitioning my hard drive. However, when I started the system for the first time I was presented with a console login instead of KDE. Something had gone wrong with the Nvidia video driver, which caused the X server not to start. I finally succeeded in starting the X server by editing config files, but this made me a very unhappy user.

When I started KDE I made another unpleasant discovery: amaroK and Kaffeine would not play my music or videos files. After a quick search on the Internet I learned I could fix this problem easily by installing some additional software. The problem has to do with licensing issues, but it's exactly this kind of hassle that makes many people unwilling to make the switch to Linux. Hopefully this will change someday as more open source alternatives become available and there is less need to use proprietary software.

The only additional software I needed to install was the Azureus BitTorrent client to replace Ktorrent, which is not quite there yet. I occasionally use Firefox, which is supplied with SUSE 10.0, instead of Konqueror, as the latter browser tends to crash when visiting certain sites. I have installed some extra software and newer versions of already installed software, but this is not necessary: I did it simply because I like to mess around with my system a little. Updating packages using the YOU updater (part of the SUSE Linux distributions) and maybe updating the entire system to the newest SUSE distribution occasionally will be quite sufficient for most users.

What's your desktop OS of choice? Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us what you use and why. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your favorite OS or have one in hand.) In recent weeks, we've covered SimplyMEPIS, Xandros, Mac OS X, Fedora Core 3, Ubuntu, White Box Enterprise Linux, Mandriva PowerPack 2006, and Slackware.

Category:

  • Linux
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