SUSE Linux Enterprise 10rc3
As I'm sure you read, Novell offered a test drive of SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 release candidate 3 (announcement). As my interest in all things SUSE never wanes, I downloaded the 5 cds right away. They came in rather quickly, although I overlooked the md5sum file. Upon returning today for said file, it appears they've begun to require registration to download the preview. I'm not sure why they now want this information, but I suspect they see these testers as possible future customers. They didn't lose out on me as I have no intention of buying. Not that it's not worth it to the right people, I'd just go for the opensuse version myself. However, to the new office setup or businesses wanting to change, SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 may be just what the IT doctor ordered.
The installation of SLED was very similar to the OpenSUSE version described previously. The only difference I could spot off-hand is not being asking about one's preferred desktop early in the process. Seems sled defaults to gnome. Fortunately SUSE's version is quite a bit prettier than most I've seen.
I had a little trouble with my installation here. It went fine until it asks for the 3rd cd, then things fell apart for me. It couldn't find rpms it needed and such. I went on to finish the installation as I was figuring I'd install the rest of the software afterwards. Hardware detection was pretty good as usual, but I've purchased a new printer since our last SUSE install. Although the correct make and model was detected, the setup was unable to configure it during install. I even attempted to feed it a ppd file to no avail.
Upon boot/login, the first thing that popped up was a hardware configuration that offered to configure the printer for me. It retained the ppd file in the database I'd pointed to during install and even suggested using it. Really all I did was click 'Finish,' and my new Epson r220 was ready to go. I did have to go into the yast scanner configuration to set up my scanner.
I tried installing the rest of my system through the software manager, but the problems encountered during install remained. I mounted the downloaded isos as loop and copied the contents to a directory. I used the sources configuration to set it up as an installation source and deleted the cds from the list. After this, anything and everything I wanted was installed with no problem. Somehow I must have had a bad burn - twice. As stated, the md5sum didn't jump out and bite me on the nose at Novell's download site, so they weren't checked. But all's well that ends well, I had an installation source and got my software installed. There were no updates on which to test the Online Update. One may even have to register to get updates to sled.
After those trials I got down to exploring the system desktops. The KDE version is 3.5.1 and it seems setup more or less exactly like the OpenSUSE version. Gnome is 2.12 and actually appears a lot like OpenSUSE's at the onset. However when clicking the menu, the changes are presented. The menu now appears as a little system browser more than a menu. I think it looks rather nice. You have a "Favorite Applications," "Recently Used Applications," and a "Recent Documents" drop down to bring up the obvious screens.
Over to the right are some other quick launchers to some system tools and quick stats. Under System is Help, Control Center, Install Software, Lock Screen, and Log Out. Help brings up a browser with links to various topics such Audio & Video, Communicate, and Office. Install Software brings up a screen that installs software.
Under Status is Hard Drive and Network. Clicking Hard Drive brings up a disk information center while Network brings up a Active Connection Information screen.
The gnome control center is chocked full of links for system configuration and desktop customization/personalization. It has many of the yast hardware modules as well as modules for setting up fonts, wallpapers, screensavers, accessibility/assistive technology, users & passwords, and such.
Also in the control center is the settings applet for XGL. With registration, one can download their proprietary graphics drivers and then configure your desktop for XGL. There is a graphical interface to set up all sorts of options such as window effects, desktop cube behavior and appearance, and other misc features. Mine are grayed out in the screenshots, but you can still make out the options. I suppose one could manually install their graphic drivers themselves and still make use of the graphical tools.
Then there's the catch all "More Applications." This opens a large browsing window full of applications categorized such as Audio & Video, Browse, Games, Images, Office, System, and Tools. Although software isn't as numerous as found in the OpenSUSE version, it's still plentiful. In many categories there are several choices for certain tasks and at least one for others. This being the Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise, you have all the groupware, ICA Client, and such as well. Adobe Acrobat is among the list as well as Real's Helix Player. OpenOffice is of course included as well as many audio, video, and imaging creation/manipulation tools. There are even some games. You can find the complete RPM List here.
One last thing of note is the SUSE Linux Enterprise Tour. This takes you literally on a video tour of the sled system. It includes not only instructions on navigating the menu and finding applications, but also how to use some of those applications. To most of us reading this article, this isn't needed, but I imagine for the office personel trying to make the adjustment from the windows world, it might be quite useful. I did learn how to correctly pronounce SUSE. How many of you have been saying su-see? Come on raise your hands! I thought so, me too. It's su-sah (according to the tour guide).
All in all, it wasn't a large surprize. As a fan and frequently flier of the OpenSUSE versions, I found most of the Enterprise version a familiar playground. The new gnome menu is nice looking as well as in combination with the "More Applications" menu and the gnome control center make for a wonderful uniform and professional appearance. It seems polished and well thought out. I found the "More Applications" menu a bit cumbersome in that it closes right after choosing your application. Then one must go to menu, choose "More Applications" again, and wait for that window to open to launch another application. But then again, I guess only a reviewer wanting to open a hundred apps in 5 minutes would be inconvenienced by that. I also found the fonts not quite as pretty as I've become used to in the OpenSUSE products. I'm not sure of the reason, but it's very noticeable. They aren't like "Knoppix ugly" or anything that bad, but definitely not as nice as I'm accustomed. In conclusion, I had very few minor complaints with SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 (rc3), and if I was running a business or an office - or just working in one - I'd definitely love to have SLED 10 on my desktop.