I’ve said before that I’m not a frequent desktop Linux user. It’s certainly my operating system of choice on servers (where I like to use Debian if possible), but it’s still a much harder sell on the desktop for me. That’s mostly down to 2 things - X configuration issues and applications. I’ll cover the X issues later (I never use X on servers which is why it never bothers me) but on the application front, I find it very hard to feel 100% happy and productive without Visual Studio, Photoshop and to a lesser extent iTunes 😀The former is still the primary reason, you can fault it’s compiler but the Visual Studio debugger is still without equal in my opinion, which easily pays for itself in time saved. Also, I have other tools like VTune which whilst I can get on Linux, I’d have to buy again to use so inherently I’m on Windows most of the time.
That said, I like to keep a Linux partition around on my main machine, for doing the odd bit of testing when I need to. I’ve had Ubuntu on there in recent years, but it’s gotten rather old, and I had a bad experience with the X auto configuration last time so I decided to try SUSE again this time to see what it was like.
- Installation. Went mostly very smoothly and I was glad to see it was smart enough to figure out that the best default course of action was to re-partition the space that Ubuntu was using. Generally speaking all the default options it picked were very sensible, including not overwriting my MBR.
- Visuals. I picked KDE this time around, I tend to alternate between Gnome and KDE (Ubuntu uses Gnome by default) and really, I find I like KDE better. The default theme is very slick, with a multi-tabbed ‘Start’ button with a well thought out ‘Search’ box at the top - I’d love to have that in Windows where my programs menu is ridiculously cluttered.
- Update. System update was fast and simple.
- Speed. Once fully installed and configured it runs very nicely indeed.
- Click & install packages. Installing non-official packages like Skype was really easy.
- Beagle. Never really used it before, but damn it’s fast and just an ALT-Space away.
- X configuration. SUSE did the exact same thing that Ubuntu did last time, and the default X configuration resulted in a sparkly array of multicoloured nonsense. No amount of tweaking the refresh and geometry settings from the monitors reference manual would fix it, and once again it turned out to be the ‘nv’ driver that X tries to use by default if you have an nVidia card. The only way to resolve it was to install the nVidia proprietary drivers and manually change the xorg.conf to use ‘nvidia’ instead of ‘nv’ - which I would have had to do anyway to get GL acceleration, but jeez, the default ‘nv’ driver is just screwed. It was on Ubuntu a couple of years ago, and it still is. Why the hell not make this easier? Installing the nVidia drivers meant getting some kind of GUI up (by hacking xorg again back to VESA) so I could at least get a browser window up and find out how to install them on SUSE. Doing it required a fairly short but still multi-step procedure. Now, they detected the card correctly on setup, so why the bloody hell don’t they provide the option to automate this sequence? Along the lines of ‘I see you have an nVidia card. Do you want to download and install the drivers now?’. It would only have to automate about 4-5 steps but it would make the world of difference to anyone with less patience than me. Yes, I know that the nVidia drivers are proprietary, but I also know that no-one in their right mind would run without them. IMO the whole X configuration issue is still fundamentally broken in Linux and I’m frankly stunned that it’s still in the state it is now. I really don’t care about all those monitor settings and the moral issues of proprietary kernel drivers - I just don’t want the first thing I see on reboot to be a dogs breakfast, ok? Sort it out for Christ sakes, you’ve had years and Windows is still making you look like a fool over this.
- Strange keyboard behaviour. After installing my keyboard would randomly repeat characters even though I’d only typed them once. It seemed to be this bug, but that was supposed to be fixed in 10.2. In the end I turned key repeat off to get my sanity back, but I still notice a weird lag in the keyboard input every so often.
- Package Management. It’s not bad exactly, but I’d expected a bit more since people have said that SuSE has got better in recent years, whilst I found it felt much the same as I remember. YAST is ok, but it still assumes you want to install everything from CDs all the time by default. A quick change to the sources list fixed that, and it was easy enough to grab the stuff I wanted, but still it felt clunkier than my Debian experiences. I know I can install the apt RPM port too but the point of trying other distros is to use their own native tools.
So overall I think I gave Ubuntu a bad time last time, the underlying setup issue I had last time was obviously just with X and it’s still there, rather irritatingly. Perhaps next time around I’ll try Kubuntu. Now, I just have to get everything else ready so I can get ogre building on it…
Yay, ogre runs like a dream. \o/ There is a happy ending after all.
[edit2]Another random view on SUSE: http://www.linuxforums.org/reviews/suse_10.2_review.html