Updated: November 29, 2013
Let's explore openSUSE 13.1 Bottle. This was the first serious home distro that I used, and have used loyally for many years. Then, starting with version 12.X, things went downhill kind of. Not bad, but hardly the plug 'n' play beast that I used to love.
With the fresh release of the 13th edition of this operating system, if you can trust the numbering scheme, it is time for a fresh start. Bias and low expectations aside, we shall now attempt to use openSUSE with merriment, on top of a laptop that has an Nvidia graphics card. Das follow.
It is amazing what the human mind can do. Concoct the best looking distribution around, and then plague it with problems. Indeed, and this is purely my awesome judgment at work, openSUSE 13.1, just like its predecessor comes with the most handsome desktop environment ever made. KDE, with an extra dose of flair. Simply great.
Every little visual detail is a feast for your eyes, delivered by sweet, virgin photons of beauty and elegance. You really wonder why no one else has thought about this before, because it's as good as it gets. Feel free to disagree, but you're wrong.
So dandy. I'm naked now, and writing this review, just so you know. Kidding. I'm wearing socks, because the floor is kind of cold.
Now, to make things interesting, the SUSE engineers decided to botch the live session by giving you only a 400MB root filesystem, crammed to bursting with stuff. So when you start using it, you actually have no space left for saving screenshots or logs or anything, and Linux is not nice when it has no place to write logs and save configurations.
What ensures is a crapfest of slowness and problems, including inability to save Samba share bookmarks, or even browse the Samba network properly, open and use Amarok, and many other unexpected quirks.
This is the next item on the menu. I have never seen a live session with so many crashes. Absolutely horrendous. Anything that could segfault did. It's a miracle that the whole system did not go down in panic.
There was hardly anything else left to do. Wireless was fine, Samba was not, no codecs to enjoy pr0n. With all the crashing and whatnot, the only sensible thing was to try to install the system, if not abandon the attempt altogether.
The one redeeming quality of SUSE is that it has the smartest installer around. It always makes good suggestions based on the existing layout, and it's one of the few distributions that aggressively calls for a separate home partition.
Furthermore, this happened to be the fastest installation ever, probably even shorter than my sidux attempt four or five years back. Really awesome. Five minutes, done. Sounds too good to be true, but it is, honest, sir, I swear. Anyhow, openSUSE did not have problems cooperating with Kubuntu residing on a nearby partition.
Now, what gives? So we have openSUSE installed. The question of pimping it to a presentable level is a curious one, which is why I have decided to write a separate article on this one. Coming soon. Anyhow, you have a desktop, so what now?
I decided to install updates first. It's funny that a system update took longer than the installation. While doing this, I was blessed with several more ugly system crashes. At least the updates fixed it, once and for all. But it was not a pleasant start.
Your one and only consolation is the extreme beauty. Even the updates splash screen is cool, although a higher-resolution image would work better.
I tried making a few changes and could not find the System Settings option. Turns out, it's called Configure Desktop, which is misleading. But the subsequent updates fixed this.
After the updates, and now that I had real disk space to use, I tried Samba once more. It works, but it's somewhat slow compared to other distributions, especially when it tries to open new shares. Moreover, KDEWallet tried to molest me. Now here's the trick. If you refuse, the first time, it's gonna work well, but subsequent connections will fail. You will be forced to delete your access point and recreate it, and then finish the KDEWallet setup once more without providing a password. End result, you will be forced to manually input your access point passphrase each time you log in to your system. This is annoying.
Now, I wanted to install proprietary codecs, so I could enjoy music and such. But before that, I had an ever more urgent problem. There was no way to configure the touchpad under Input Devices in the system menu. I was forced to manually download gsynaptics, so I could control the annoying taps and whatnot and make my typing humane.
After selecting gsynaptics, the system suggested another 287 updates, including MP3 and Flash, even though I have not yet specified them anywhere in any manner. In a way, this solved my problem, but it happened not when and how I wanted it. Why would the installation of a touchpad frontend trigger this?
Next on the menu, after fixing the touchpad behavior, I tried installing the proprietary drivers for my graphics card. No go. The 1-Click Nvidia setup is still not ready, and it should be available about a week from November 20, they say. We're past that date, and still no drivers. In fact, why release a distro when not all components are in place? In fact, why have so many bugs? What's this, a beta release?
Going through the community repos, you can indeed see that there's no Nvidia resource. This is a shame. Feels like a half-baked job.
It was fine, except there were two problems. One, Amarok comes with an invalid certificate for one of the online resources. Stupid. Bad QA. Two, Kaffeine complained about missing some of the codecs, but then it could not download them. Other than that, MP3 and Flash played just fine.
Speaking of errors:
The default collection is rich and fairly interesting. You have Firefox, KMail, the full LibreOffice suite, plus GIMP, plus Marble. Okular, GwenView, and a few other useful utilities complete the package. Not bad for 700MB worth of CD media.
No good. Samba shares, nicht!
Didn't work well with the Nouveau driver. I was unable to resume from suspend.
Well, openSUSE 13.1 Bottle was moderately hungry, at around 500MB on idle, with some gentle CPU activity. Not bad, but it sure can be better. Coupled with the lack of stability and no decent sleep support, it's kind of a disappointment.
We go back to that. But it's only that.
openSUSE 13.1 Bottle comes with two excellent features - the fastest installation around and the most beautiful desktop ever conceived. The price is so much beta quality, it's embarrassing. Really. Crashes, bugs, missing codecs and drivers. Horrible.
I am really curious why openSUSE 13.1 could not have been polished to perfection. It would just have taken another three or four weeks of time, going through all the problems, making sure the repositories are fully up to date, fixing the last niggles. Think about it. What does it take to transform this distro into an awesome one. The first set of updates fixed all the crap. A live session with more free space would have been great. Nvidia drivers, better printing. That's most of it. Alas, no. Ergo, 4/10. Sad. Maybe next time.