Changing distributions: openSUSE?

Due to everything that has happened at Mandriva, I guess it is time to switch distributions. I have no idea when I made the switch to Mandriva, but I know for certain I’ve used it for the last 5 years. This means I am very used to my distribution. I’m currently investigating what distribution to switch to. At the moment I’m considering Fedora and openSUSE.

I appreciate a distribution which appreciates a non-active person. In all these years I mainly enjoyed the work that others put into Mandriva. Still, I did triage in the Mandriva Bugzilla for a while, contributed the occasional package, submitted some bugreports and occasionally (more like very rarely) joined the development discussion. Whenever I did help, it always resulted in a positive impression.

Things I look for are:

  • Minimal amount of patches applied to GNOME
    So Ubuntu is out
  • Good binary packages for x86_64 (no source distribution)
  • Ideally libraries should be packaged as lib64 / lib. So not part of the main package. Makes it cleaner to compile using jhbuild
  • Ideally a good split between x86_64 and ‘i386′, making it easy to have mix and match.
  • Ideally rpm based
    This as I’ve used rpm for a long time.
  • Ability to run latest unstable GNOME version preferably within hours of the tarball release using packages (so no jhbuild/GARNOME solution)
  • Ideally able to run the development version of the distribution
  • Ideally packages are available quickly after the upstream release
    I like to have the package within hours after the packager uploaded it. Requires a quick mirror, enough packagers and continuous release of new packages (not e.g. synced 1-2 times/week). Distribution/development freezes are fine if limited to 2 times a year.
  • External but nicely supported repository which has the more difficult (patented, etc)software (mp3, x264, etc)
    PLF handles this perfectly for Mandriva.
  • I need the nvidia binary driver
    Mandriva uses DKSM for this. It automatically (re)compiles the driver, sets up something using alternatives, etc. Totally painless, even with kernel upgrades, etc.

I’ve been looking into Fedora and openSUSE as I am pretty used to rpm. Ubuntu is out of the question due to the big changes it has compared to GNOME. I haven’t completed any analysis yet. I currently have the following impression regarding openSUSE

  • Lots of meaningless discussion in the development mailing lists
    Mandriva development mailing lists almost solely talk about actual development (well, until the latest financial troubles). Compared to this, openSUSE has loads of meaningless posts.
  • Difficult to determine if GNOME is just not the focus (which is fine, hopefully results in less differences compared to upstream) or that the distribution is actively hostile towards GNOME desktop
    Seems a bit hostile when reading various discussions within the mailing lists and when judging previous decisions. Especially amazed to read discussion which is intended to change what people like to work on (e.g. have people switch from GNOME to another desktop) / quantify the amount of help a distribution receives overall. Gives a really bad impression (not appreciative). Mandriva was never seen as a GNOME distribution, but it always worked perfectly and it was well supported.
  • Development version is available. It is called Factory
  • Development packages (Factory) are released when approved by the package maintainer(s)
  • For e.g. GNOME it is possible to run a GNOME:Factory branch and get the upstream packages very quickly
  • Packages always need to be approved by maintainers (even in these branches)
    With Mandriva I got the impression that it was more free-for-all (aside from stuff like the kernel and Mozilla). Sort of how git.gnome.org works (if you know what you’re doing you’re able to do whatever you want).
  • No idea regarding mp3/x264 driver
  • No idea regarding nvidia driver
  • Vuntz helps out here. So hopefully easier to be able to request changes (Mandriva responses towards bugs was overall a very positive experience)

PS: Above is my impression looking into openSUSE for the first time. And when I talk about Mandriva I usually mean the distribution (paid + volunteer contributors+developers), not just Mandriva the company.

29 thoughts on “Changing distributions: openSUSE?”

  1. Hi Olav,

    I switched to openSUSE (from Fedora) earlier this year right before I started working at Novell.

    I use the nVidia binary driver just fine – starting with 11.2 and then I had to wait a few days after 11.3 for it to be available. This wiki page for additional repos worked great for both nVidia and MP3 (http://en.opensuse.org/Additional_package_repositories)

    Out of the box, Fedora has a more GNOME upstream feel, but once you take 5 minutes and add a top panel, remove SLAB and enable NetworkManager it’s very much a GNOME experience.

    The Open Build Service and Factory are nice to in getting new upstream packages quickly as you point out.

    Paul

  2. I can really recommend Fedora. It generally works very well and the support (bugzilla reply rates!) are great.

    As for codecs and binary drivers, the semi-official rpmfusion.org and rpm.livna.org should provide everything you can dream of.

  3. For OpenSUSE, NVIDIA hosts their own openSUSE repository and packages their own rpms. So you get packages and updates right from the source.

  4. Fedora seems to fit my needs – I am a long time Ubuntu user, but Canonical’s creeping commercialism, installation of proprietry features, fonts and hosting, tracking and other general failures are pushing me to a choice.

    I always liked the responsiveness of the Ubuntu community and forums. We (I) really need to focus on the Linux forums that are not distribution-specific.

  5. Well, thanks for saying so much nice things about us, as sometimes, I feel like having worked for nothing when I read all the bug report I have to fix. I do not know what I can tell to make you change your mind, but I would wait a little ( like some months ).

    But yes, I think that opensuse is a fine but quite unknow distribution ( at least in France ) Fedora is nice too, except that fedora-devel is quite noisy, and I think that rawhide is not really as usable as cooker.

  6. stop being picky and try Ubuntu for a week. If you still dont like the changes, go for Debian unstable.

  7. I’ve been working as a community member on openSUSE-GNOME and the GNOME 2.30 on 11.3 is pretty much the same GNOME upstream. Once you add the top panel and remove slab (like i do and like Paul mentioned) it’s the same GNOME upstream with a dark theme.
    Plus you can have GNOME:Factory (this means unstable packages ready on the same day/or day after the release) on your stable distro (11.2 or 11.3). As for jhbuild you have a jhbuild package and jhbuild-recommends package which installs all packages needed for a jhbuild install. Of course with time you’ll see the same technologies from Fedora but much more tested.

    I’ve been hacking on GNOME with openSUSE since 11.0 and i’m a very happy user and community member.

  8. Debian unstable is a happy place. What really buys me into Debian is apt and the packaging QA, the strict naming guidelines also help a lot to find packages.

    It’s lib and not . Or python-.

    Also, after you are used to it, apt-get is hell a lot faster than yum or its RPM friends.

    My only peeve: unstable GNOME is not usually packaged as a whole, right now you only have GTK+/Glib and WebKit dependencies in “bleeding edge version”. That said, telepathy guys usually push their latest stuff to Debian first.

    If you are in the mood, you might want to try it for a while.

  9. Oh and about GNOME unstable not being packaged as a whole: I use stuff from master in a jhbuild anyway, so I wouldn’t use the distro packages anyway.

    OTOH, for trivial testing it’s good to have them, something I miss from earlier Ubuntus (when they didn’t patched everything).

  10. With the exception of “uses rpm”, all of the points you describe apply to Debian:

    Minimal amount of patches applied to GNOME

    True in general: Debian tries *not* to patch things unless necessary, and certainly not with patches that won’t go upstream. The GNOME team in particular seems to just use unmodified upstream GNOME.

    Good binary packages for x86_64 (no source distribution)

    Check.

    Ideally libraries should be packaged as lib64 / lib. So not part of the main package. Makes it cleaner to compile using jhbuild

    Check; libraries always go in a separate package.

    Ideally a good split between x86_64 and ‘i386′, making it easy to have mix and match.

    Check, both sets of packages exist, and biarch support works well.

    Ideally rpm based
    This as I’ve used rpm for a long time.

    Sorry, not this one. ;)

    Ability to run latest unstable GNOME version preferably within hours of the tarball release using packages (so no jhbuild/GARNOME solution)

    Dunno about “hours”, but unstable GNOME versions usually end up in experimental fairly quickly.

    Ideally able to run the development version of the distribution

    Check, either testing or unstable depending on how much “development” you want to deal with.

    Ideally packages are available quickly after the upstream release

    Check.

    I like to have the package within hours after the packager uploaded it. Requires a quick mirror, enough packagers and continuous release of new packages (not e.g. synced 1-2 times/week). Distribution/development freezes are fine if limited to 2 times a year.

    How does 4 times a day sound? :) http://ftp-master.debian.org/dinstall.html . And even during freezes, new development doesn’t necessarily stop in unstable/experimental.

    External but nicely supported repository which has the more difficult (patented, etc)software (mp3, x264, etc)
    PLF handles this perfectly for Mandriva.

    Check. Debian ships *decoders* for everything you might want, and if you want the *encoders* and other such things you can get them from debian-multimedia.org .

    I need the nvidia binary driver
    Mandriva uses DKSM for this. It automatically (re)compiles the driver, sets up something using alternatives, etc. Totally painless, even with kernel upgrades, etc.

    Check, well-supported.

  11. I switched from Ubuntu to Fedora half a year ago because of the non-upstream feeling you mention (see also you other blog post – I completely agree).

    Fedora is good when you need to stay close to upstream but some things are still a bit more painful compared to Ubuntu and Rawhide isn’t usable at least until the next release reaches beta status.
    Bugzilla support has been fine so far so I must admit that I filed a lot more bugs than I had to file in Ubuntu.

    Cool thing with Fedora is that you get all this early-adapter technology first but that can of course be annoying sometimes.

    Last time I used (Open)SuSE there was no “Open” yet, I mainly left it because of the KDE focus back then. After vuntz joined SuSE I think they made good steps in setting up a nice GNOME Desktop and I would be interested to hear how it worked for you when you switch.

  12. Hello Olav,

    I’ve been running openSUSE KDE (at first) and now GNOME for several years, and generally the experience has been good. Though you are right that development seemed directionless most times, and the direction it is taking now is really equivalent to telling people off who prefer GNOME. They want to go the KDE way.

    I’m gonna say ‘good riddance’ to GNOME when GNOME 3 (hopefully) will be adopted by other mainstream distributions, next year. Until then, openSUSE remains my choice, for practical reasons.

    It’s reliable. Were it not for some hostile ringleaders in the KDE-department of it, it would be a hell of a good choice for GNOMEies.

  13. MP3, x264 and other codecs are at the Packman Repository which you can enable easily in the package manager. You simply add a repository and choose to download a list of community-repositories. They also feature non-crippled gstreamer-packages.

    Also the IMHO best solution for x264-encoding, h264enc, is built using openSUSE’s buildservice:
    http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=134652

  14. openSUSE has the great BuildService. Which is unbelievable cool.

    But Fedora has way better bugzilla reponse times for reasonable bug reports …

  15. @Pavel:

    I am on the release-team and I help out GNOME. My focus is to improve GNOME as released by GNOME. As such, I need a distribution which only minimally changes GNOME. It is not that I hate Ubuntu/Canonical or anything. I actually find such changes quite interesting (see my other post).

  16. First, there’s no need to switch distros, if you like Mandriva. A _HUGE_ portion of Mandriva is community built. If all else fails, it’ll continue to be a community distro. However, Cooker is actively being developed, and we await word from Mandriva on the state of things.

    If you like Mandriva, you should seriously try PCLinuxOS or Unity Linux. Unity isn’t really intended for the end user, but can easily be setup to be a nice distro. Both are based on Mandriva tools and are very similar in many regards.

    Being a former Suse user, I have nothing against that distro at all. As a matter of fact, I truly believe in supporting distros such as Fedora and Suse, whose parent companies commit so much money and work into the Linux and FOSS ecosystem.

  17. You’re like a mechanic who instead of enjoying the car, is looking for faults and wants to tinker will all aspects of the automobile.. As for me, Ubuntu is easy to use, accomplishes the task desired.

    1. That is because I need to do QA for GNOME. To do QA I can either use jhbuild/GARNOME, or use distribution packages of the development version of GNOME.

      I appreciate distributions, but I have a specific need in the distribution. I fully acknowledge that my needs are unusual :)

  18. I think you’re really looking for Fedora, the only problem may be that I don’t think the nVidia binary driver works with it very well as they often have the very latest kernel and X versions.

    Regarding the fact how openSUSE handles Gnome, I don’t think the community is in general hostile to it. You may look into this talk from FOSDEM for more info:
    http://tube.opensuse.org/fosdem08/fosdem08_day2_02_gnome.ogg

    You can’t make a bad decision as both are great distros, so try both and pick what you like better I’d say ;)

    PS: I think openSUSE has set up some repository called “contrib”, where new packagers can very easily get their own packages in. If they are on the BuildService, it will be easy to find for users anyway as they’ve recently integrated this great search feature for the BuildService in YaST (webpin it’s called I think).

  19. Try Foresight Linux, would fit perfectly for you.
    good 64bit support. as all packages in Foresight must work in 32bit and 64bit.

    Fresh Iso available, from 13/7-2010 (if i remember right)

    Nvidia is always workable and fresh, all codecs available, can get rolling updates if running from development label. Can also upgrade to development in computer easily. And offcourse you get conary, great package manager. I only hope that you aren’t scared of terminal, we use it often.
    The best way is to join freenode server and ask questions in #foresight or #foresight-devel channels.

    http://www.foresightlinux.org/

  20. I think you’d be happy with either. I got up and running with Fedora in an afternoon when I moved to RH and it took maybe a week to pick up the finer nuances, it’s really not much of a deal. From all I know about OpenSUSE that would work fine too. Toss a coin or something =)

  21. OpenSuse is really good. zypper is the best package manager around, it is fast, and works well. Yast2 may have an old feel to it, but it does its job. Packman is a great repository, and the build service Suse provides slowly but steadily grows the ecosystem. Over time Suse studio will become very useful since it takes advantage of the build service.
    It is a long time since I tried Fedora but I don’t know what it offers that OpenSuse don’t.

Comments are closed.