November 2005


I am The Cyberwolfe and these are my ramblings. All original content is protected under a Creative Commons license - always ask first.
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SuSE 10.0 and Kubuntu 5.10 Reviews

Some of you may have heard this particular story before – feel free to skip along as you see fit. For those that haven’t, sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…

Way back in the never-never of 2000, I was living in apartment A of a 4-unit building. B:TNG lived in unit C, with TS and the Physicist living in the stacked apartments between us. We all decided life would be much better if we could network all of our computers together to share out B’s DSL connection and get all of us out of dial-up hell. Me being the cable guy, I spent a few hours crawling around under the building and got the whole thing working without much fuss – with one exception.

It seems my barely-sufficient eMachine computer simply would not recognize and install a network card. No idea why not, it just flat balked and gave me the bird. For weeks.

Christmas finally came around, and my boss gave me a $40 gift card at a local electronics store. After wandering around the place for an hour or so, I was looking at the available software titles when I noticed this happy little green box titled “SuSE Linux 7.2”. I had heard about Linux for years, and knew that it was approaching the point where anyone could pick it up fairly quickly. Still being pissed at my Windows box, I decided to see if I couldn’t fix it’s little red wagon.

Buying the box set proved to be a very good choice, and SuSE seemed an even better choice once I was able to look around at other distributions. The box set comes with a very handy printed installation manual, and I would have been hopelessly lost without it. I read it twice before dropping a CD in the drive and rebooting.

The installation process was remarkably straightforward and easy to follow, even with a dual-boot configuration. What really knocked my socks off was the window that popped up and said “I see you have a network card…configuring for DHCP…your network is now available.” I couldn’t believe it – all those weeks of diddling this bit and that bit in a vain effort to get Windows to recognize any NIC at all, and this just grabs it and goes? Eureka!

What was really funny was that Windows correctly saw the NIC next time I booted it.

Here we are 5 years later, and I have installed SuSE’s latest release, v 10.0. The installation process is even more visually slick than the 9.2 release, and ticks along just as merrily. (I had some trouble with the first install due to a bad download, but the second try went just fine.) There are some quirks to using a major distro of this nature though.

For example, when I went to add bitchx to the install queue, it popped up a warning: “This package may contain some foul language.” Well duh, it’s called ‘bitch’ fer Chrissakes. When I selected Fortune, it stopped to warn me that “While this package contains many humorous phrases, some may be considered politically incorrect.”

Puh-leeez. We can stop the nanny-syndrome any day now, folks.

I ended up installing SuSE twice, once on my spare test drive and then I went ahead and blew away my current SuSE 9.2 install. The first test went really smoothly – it even correctly found my ATI video card and it took me only one click to enable 3D accelleration. this used to be a harrowing process that took me almost an hour last time around.

Multimedia playback, however, is crippled just like you would expect it to be in a major distro that doesn’t want to get itself into any lawsuits over DRM and such. With apt4rpm, this can be remedied fairly quickly. Myself, I never got that far with it.

The second install onto my normal drive ended up having a quirk or three, and I have been wanting to go with a Kubuntu install for a while now. Sure, SuSE is slick and all, but it is still an RPM-based distro, and that can be a real pain in the posterior enough for me to not want to deal with it. I figured since it was basically a fresh drive, why not try Kubuntu?

I can tell you why you might not. It seems there is a bug in KDE that really only crops up when you disable the root login on a KDE system. This bug somehow affects the sudo command, and makes it function erratically or kills it entirely. It doesn’t affect all systems, and it can change state with a reboot. It can also affect how some settings are saved, so that changing them becomes impossible, or the changes don’t stick once you’ve made them.

Kubuntu, of course, disables the root login. I have had no problems at all with the Kubuntu install on the laptop I use, but it cropped right up on my desktop and settled right into the clock settings, which are now stuck on UTC instead of local time. That is damn annoying.

After doing a full upgrade, I was also smacked in the ear by my old friend arts, which crapped out completely. (It worked fine at first install – just don’t do a KDE upgrade.) Worse than that, it kept throwing fault messages up every 2 or 3 seconds while I was trying to fix it. You know, the kind of messages that pop to the front and interrupt whatever you were doing? Yeah. I was having to click the window I wanted to type in between every letter. Try it sometime.

Okay, so where so we stand on the whole review thing? I have no idea. SuSE is a battleship of a distro fit to compete with all contenders, and usable by just about anyone with a little minor tweaking. There are enough software packages that a business could use it just fine, and it will ably handle all of your websurfing and email needs.

Of course, you can say that about any Linux distro nowdays.

As for Kubuntu, well, they still need some work it seems. I’ll bash on it for another week and let you know the final verdict then. I may end up back in the SuSE camp.

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