SUSE LINUX 9.3 Professional Review

Posted: 17 Mar 2005

All the buzz about the release of SUSE 9.3 Professional got me excited. This very morning, I downloaded and installed SUSE Linux 9.3 Professional beta 4. The installation is similar to 9.2 though the screens seem crisper. It has definitely had some work, as it will do an md5sum check on the installation media to make sure it's not been corrupted. Also, when Grub was installed, it recognized the other bootable partitions. It put these partitions into the Grub menu automatically. It did not do this in previous versions. That's all I'm going to mention about the installation. Instead, let's take a look at some of the changes you'll in the newest version of SUSE when you are actually using it.

Almost all of the packages that come with SUSE 9.3 are new versions. As a matter of fact, when I first fired up KDE 3.4, I must say, it was exhilarating. What a beautiful sight. The default theme has changed in look, though not in name. Here's a vanilla install with Konqueror open:

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Right off the bat, I noticed several cool things about KDE 3.4. For example, you can right-click a menu option in the K Menu, and you are presented with a small context menu. This is something I have long desired. I can't adequately convey the joy this brings into my life:

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Things like that let you know the individuals working on the project are out to maximize your positive experience with their application. With a window manager, that is a great mindset to have.

Some machines run multiple operating systems (I've run up to 7 on the same box). With KDE 3.4, you have the ability to select the OS you wish to boot back into when you are restarting the machine:

SUSE 9.3 Professional also comes with Gnome 2.10. I'm not intimately familiar with Gnome because I am a KDE guy. Therefore, I am not as quick to notice the new features. However, feel free to visit the official Gnome site and view their list of new features and fixes. There is honestly quite a hefty amount of changes and new stuff.

There are also some excellent new choices available in the desktop application arena. For example, SUSE 9.3 now comes with Mozilla Firefox 1.0 as the default web browser. With all of the themes, extensions, security, and everything else that it offers, it's the cream of the crop for web browsing:

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For those of you following my articles, you'll know that I'm a proponent of Evolution. It's an excellent application that I highly recommend. SUSE 9.3 ships with Evolution 2.1.5. There are some features in this new version that are guaranteed to impress.

Xen now ships with the new version of SUSE, though not installed by default. This application allows you to run multiple instances of Linux-based operating systems on a single computer. This concept will be familiar to anyone who has used VMware. It creates a virtual machine that the host operating system treats as a real computer.

The new version of SUSE is also a lot more wifi-oriented. Chris Schlaeger of Novell says, "SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3 offers Bluetooth wireless support, including automatic recognition of Bluetooth-enabled devices via the YaST central configuration and administration tool. For busy mobile users, it supports quick and easy access to wireless networks." 2.0 is now available. Many have been looking forward to this for what feels like an eternity.

OpenOffice Impress seems to have had a complete UI facelift. I find it to be much more appealing in it's latest release:

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The suite now includes the ability to detatch toolbars, a feature long overdue:

This new version also supports the OASIS OpenDocument standard for their XML format:

There are also plenty of enhancements to pre-existing features. You now have greater control over PDFs. There is more intuitive support for databases, allowing for creation of a "Database" document. The mail merge features have been spruced up, as well. Even the word count feature has received a facelift. The new version also sports a developing ability to work with WordPerfect files.

These are only a few of the new features. See the official list of improvements for a more comprehensive overview.

It appears that desktop searching is going strong in the Linux arena. SUSE 9.3 Professional now provides users with the ability to search files, cached web pages, chat logs, and the like with the innovative and trend-setting features provided by the Beagle project.

The GIMP version 2.2.3 comes stock with the new version of SUSE:

There is an overall feel of a more solid, feature-rich commercial-grade application with this new version. It feels like the menu items are easier to get to, not having to click seven times to drill down to get to them. This new version of the GIMP deserves nothing but praise. So does Novell for including it.

A small handful of the other upgraded coolness that comes with SUSE 9.3 Professional includes:

  1. Linux Kernel 2.6.11
  2. GCC 3.3.5
  3. glibc 2.3.4
  4. X.Org 6.8.2
  5. Mono 1.1.4
  6. KDevelop 3.2
  7. Eclipse 3.0.1
  8. PostgreSQL 8.0

What do you do when you already have a very strong distribution with all the latest packages? Why, you make the documentation top-notch, of course. Novell themselves says, "SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3 includes complete documentation for installation and application use. A short User Guide provides a quick start and basic instructions, the complete Administrators Guide provides comprehensive information about SUSE LINUX Professional features. Documentation is separated into user and administration guide for casual user and more skilled ones." Documentation for all skill levels is a great way to go.

The system requirements for SUSE 9.3 Professional are as follows:

  1. Processor: Intel: Pentium® 1-4, Xeon; AMD: Duron, Athlon, Athlon XP, Athlon MP, Athlon 64, Sempron, Opteron
  2. Main memory: at least 128 MB, 256 MB recommended
  3. Hard disk: at least 500 (for minimal system), 2.5 GB recommended for standard system
  4. Sound and graphics cards: SUSE LINUX supports most modern sound and graphics cards

So how much is SUSE 9.3 Professional going to cost? Head over to the SUSE Linux Professional 9.3 Preview site; you can pre-order it right now for $99.95. Retail for Europeans will be around 89.95 euros.

The default window manager of SUSE 9.3 Professional? Schlaeger's response: "KDE is still the default desktop environment for SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3. The majority of our customers do prefer it, so we honor their needs and those of the OSS community. But we offer both desktops at the highest possible level to maximize a customer's choice. We also spend a great amount of development effort to make both KDE & Gnome interoperate smoothly."

SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3 is due out in mid-April, 2005.

All in all, this release of SUSE is a nice, big step up. It has thousands of package upgrades. The documentation has even been upgraded. If ever you were considering converting friends and colleagues to SUSE, 9.3 will be your golden goose. SUSE is setting trends, and is the distribution to know in the workplace. This is true now more than ever.

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