March 21, 2011, 3:56 PM — OpenSUSE is back with a new, improved version, but it reminds me of how spoiled I've been by other Linux distributions.
I've liked openSUSE since before it was named openSUSE and went by the unlikely name S.u.S.E Linux 4.2 back in 1996. It's come a long, long way since then. Today, this Novell-supported community Linux distribution makes both a strong, server and desktop. For all that, though I've found in this go-around some fit and polish issues.
[ See also: Image gallery: OpenSUSE 11.4 ]
To test it out, I put openSUSE 11.4, on two computers. The first was a Gateway SX2802-07 desktop. This PC uses a 2.6GHZ Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300 processor and has 6GBs of RAM and a 640GB hard-drive and was being wasted doing nothing but serving as a full-time Windows PC. The other was VirtualBox 4.04 VM (virtual machine) running on my Mint 10 desktop. Behind the VM was a Dell Inspiron 530S powered by a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800-MHz front-side bus. This box has 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB SATA (Serial ATA) drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) chip set.
Neither of these are exactly screamingly fast PCs. I'd characterize them as inexpensive, older PCs. You'd almost have to try hard to get slower PCs in today's market. That said, openSUSE 11.4 ran like a top on both of them. I especially noticed on the Gateway PC, which I'd been using for Web browser benchmarking on Windows 7, just how much faster openSUSE is than Windows 7. It was like moving from a family sedan to a sports car.
On both systems, there was nothing to the installation process. I downloaded the full DVD, which took a while even with my 25Mbps (Megabit per second) Internet connection. If you have a slower connection, you can also download it in CD versions, which are much smaller and hence are faster to download.
With the Windows 7 system, I just booted it up from the DVD and let openSUSE take care of dividing up the hard disk with the copy of Windows 7 Ultimate that was already living there. No fuss, no muss. In less than an hour I had both a working Windows 7 system and a new copy of openSUSE 11.4.
The basics are great. The brand new openSUSE 11.4 uses the 2.6.37 Linux kernel. This kernel does a great job of scaling virtual memory. On your desktop that's not a big deal, but it can be on your servers when you're running tight on memory.