OpenSUSE gets more open

By Jon Brodkin, Network World |  Open Source, Linux, Novell

Novell's openSUSE project is becoming more open, as a new release due out Thursday includes licensing changes that make it easier to redistribute the Linux operating system, and a build service that will encourage more contributions from open source developers.

OpenSUSE previously used a standard user license agreement and contained some proprietary software -- namely Adobe Acrobat and Sun Java -- that made it difficult to redistribute the open source software, says Joe Brockmeier, Novell's openSUSE community manager. OpenSUSE 11.1, the release that will be announced Thursday, modifies the license to eliminate some of the legal headaches, and also removes the proprietary software, which now must be downloaded separately.

"We've modified the license so it's easier to distribute," Brockmeier says. "As an open source project, that's important. ... It was usually a bit of a headache around release time, trying to coordinate with all the publishers."

The new version was also the first to be completely developed using the openSUSE Build Service, an externally available development platform. This change allows anyone to submit potential changes to openSUSE, spurring increased collaboration that will help Novell develop the open source Linux distribution going forward, Brockmeier says. Many of the improvements to openSUSE ultimately find their way into Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise, which is based on the free, open source version.

OpenSUSE 11.1, the first update since June, includes numerous software updates such as improved support for video cameras; music synching with Android phones; the latest version of OpenOffice.org; improvements to system administration and installation; and upgrades to the two major desktop environments used with openSUSE.

The Banshee music player can now sync with Android phones, but probably not iPhones because of proprietary software formats, Brockmeier says. OpenSUSE 11.1 is also the first version to include Novell's edition of OpenOffice.org 3.0, which came out in October.

YaST, the openSUSE system administration and installation software, includes better support for printers and a module that periodically runs security checks to identify problems and suggest solutions.

Improvements to the GNOME desktop include a new instant messaging client and upgrades to the Nautilus file manager and tools for photo management and editing. The KDE desktop environment received updates to the Dolphin file manager, power management features, and integration with OpenStreetMap, a service similar to MapQuest and Google Maps.

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