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Installing OpenSUSE 11: Not Ready for Prime Time

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A.Lizard explains how to install OpenSUSE 11 with KDE 4, pointing out the good and bad (mostly bad) points of this distribution in its current form.
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This article covers how to install OpenSUSE 11, including how to make it work with full functionality in a Sun VirtualBox xVM, complete with access to shared guest-host clipboard and access to the host workstation filesystem. This is information that, to our knowledge, no one has provided previously in a single document.

I'll show you why OpenSUSE 11 and its KDE 4 window manager are not ready for prime time, including details about some serious usability problems. You'll find out what happens in the touted "one-click install," but without the inconvenience of discovering it from your own experience. You can enjoy my frustration at trying to put desktop icons into the trash and seeing those icons maddeningly refuse to disappear from the desktop (instead of watching this happen with a distribution you just installed). You can vicariously experience the OpenSUSE multimedia train wreck.

Just to be fair, of course, I'll also tell you what was done right in OpenSUSE 11—in particular, what's good about KDE 4. You'll get some helpful information on how to find alternate OpenSUSE 11 repositories and the OpenSUSE custom application build service—and where to find out how to install these applications.

I'll cover routine peripheral installation, including USB scanners and printers (yes, this works). Perhaps most importantly, you'll learn about some functionality workarounds that you may find helpful if you have reason to run OpenSUSE 11 despite everything you'll read here.


Before you start installing the OpenSUSE CD or DVD ISO download, make sure that your BIOS is set to boot from CD. Installation seems to work better if you boot to the Live CD and start the installer from the install icon once you get to the desktop, rather than selecting install from the initial boot screen.

The OpenSUSE installer holds no surprises for anyone who has previously installed a Linux program. Accept the defaults unless you know exactly what you're doing and why/how you want to make changes. In particular, accept the defaults on partition size, even if they aren't what you expected. OpenSUSE puts its app files in the root partition, so if the root partition is undersized you'll run out of room very, very quickly.

Since I use KDE 3.59-2 as a window manager, given a choice between an OpenSUSE 11 with KDE and KDE 4, I picked the KDE version. I've also had occasion to install the KDE 4 version of Kubuntu-KDE4 Hardy, which gives me a chance to compare it with the KDE 4 implementation in OpenSUSE.

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