So back in 2004, my wife bought me my laptop for Valentine's day. I
know, how romantic right? Well, I was a consultant who lived in hotels
all week and had nothing but extra time on my hands and so she knew
that this would keep me busy on those nights when I was bored to tears.
The problem was that my laptop was 64 bit. At that time the amount of
64 bit OS's out there was absolutely zero. Nada. Zip. Well, first
Gentoo came out with one and I learned more about Linux trying to get
that loaded than I ever thought possible. Next came Mandriva, then Suse
9.2. I tried and tried to get my laptop fully functional at 64 bit, I
mean everything didn't work. No proper video, no wireless, and no DVD
playing for me. I was stuck in 32 bit land and was not happy. What
really baked my cake was that I went out and bought Suse 9.2 as it
stated it had 64 bit support, but it just wasn't really functional. I
instead installed Linspire on my machine and watched and waited for
someone to make a 64 bit OS that actually runs my machine....and
waited....and waited....and now I just have come to the realization
that it just is never going to happen.
Enough on that, so why
don't I use openSuse? Plain and simple; I hate that I need to download
4 Gig of data for any distro. Plus for all of that, 10.1 just was a
nasty memory hog and wasn't very efficient. So when SLED (Suse Linux
Enterprise Desktop) was announced this summer, no real bells and
whistles went off in my head. I was actually busy trying to help the
Freespire community as much as I could and really didn't want to bother
with a commercial beast. Well, someone hinted to me that if I tried
SLED, my XGL dreams would come true....that was it. I spent the time
and effort to download the DVD iso image and set off to see whether
this dream was actually a reality.
So I set off to discover
Nirvana, with doubt in my head and frustration over a distro that in my
opinion lost its way and now is finally coming to the light. What
happened is that I did get what I was after and honestly am humbled by
my experience. So now that you are probably bored to tears, let see
what this beast has under this DVD hood.Details:
Kernel - kernel-source 220.127.116.11
Desktop - Default Gnome 2.12.2 with KDE 3.5.1 and others available
FAQs - http://www.novell.com/products/desktop/overview.html/
Cost - 60 day trial, then $50 per year license
Special Features - Fully configured enterprise desktop with network functionality to integrate into most networksNitty Gritty:
Installation ( )
thing I always loved and hated about Suse was its installation. I loved
it for the simple reason that it worked, well, most of the time. In the
early days I would download only the minimal install and then FTP the
rest of the package during the download. This was mainly due to the
fact that I was always on someone else's internet (hotel, work, WiFi)
so download ISO's is a bit tricky. The FTP allowed for me to get up and
running and then leave and come back and hope it installed. Now that I
had the full DVD I wasn't too worried about that. Now I will state for
the record, I simply hate the fact that the install from CDs happens in
stages. Load disc one, get to the copy data to the hard drive, then
reboot, then continue if and only if the packages align and the creek
don't rise. So if you are going to install Suse, or openSuse up to 10.2
Alpha 3, you probably will have the best luck with DVD over CDs. Now I
just read that in 10.2 Alpha 4, one of the major changes is that the
install copies all data first, then moves on, which if true God Bless
those Novell/openSuse developers. I hardly ever review software in
Alpha states, so once we get a RC version of that, then you will see it
love blue. I don't like the fact that I have zero option to see what is
happening here. Most offer you a quick hit to go to dialog run, so if
there is a problem you can see what crashed, but I am sure it is there,
just not an option they think you need. Oh well, pretty blue is nice.
same options that you have seen time and time again, with Language and
other options included. I always go with what is the basic, but be
quick you only have 10 seconds before this baby jumps to your hard
drive. Now, as reported by me before, I am a big fan of Live CD
installs. Now I guess there is a live version of Suse out there but not
one you can install from. Oh well, I guess if you know you want
something this damn big, you should know you want it, right (ugggh).
and simply, you get to choose your language options here. I love the
status bar on the left, letting you know where you are at and the
back/abort/next options. Just a note that. If a package does fail with
Suse, and you hit ignore, for some reason that crashes the installer.
This happens with most of the 10 family and I had that with Alpha 3
install efforts, but I didn't lose any packages here. Just be careful
as you may get to start over again, and again, and again from CD
installs, hence why I recommend DVD if that is an option for you.
yes, the license agreement. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled
masses....oops wrong speech. There is a funny limited liability clause
in there for $50, which is the license fee for SLED, so if it causes
you to crash you might be able to get your money back. Next please....
the system will check to see if you have any existing Suse packages
that could possibly be upgraded. Not in my case, so here I get to
select new installation. Note that you have the option here to select
the add-on packages, which is a nice way that Novell gives you
proprietary packages outside of the normal Open Source. This mainly is
your Video and Audio drivers that require licenses. Here I didn't
download that so I didn't select it. If you take the time to do so,
just click here and the next step will then ask for that source, which
can be a website, CD, DVD or local server. We will skip those screens
since 90% of you won't have that package.
important to know where you are and what time zone you are in. Also
important is to know whether your machine uses Local time or UTC. What
I like is that they gave you a clock and if you change between local
and UTC this will bounce so you can tell if you don't already know.
Nice little touches like this make installations extremely user
here is the meat and potatoes screen for Suse install. You get two
options; Overview (newbie mode) and Expert (those who wish to break
said install). The main difference between the two is that in expert
mode, you get options on everything, while Overview just allows you to
mess with software and partitions mainly. Since I am installing on a
fresh VMware partition in this exercise, all you see there is the
recommendation to use Ext3 and a Swap drive. If you have many
partitions this will make a recommendation for you that will basically
wipe out other Linux distros and carve the system as it sees fit. If
you don't want that, you can start over, base the system on the
proposal and modify to your liking, or head to expert mode, which it
warns you that what you are about to do can break your system. I find
that ironic since they always want to tear mine apart with their
recommendation with no warning, so why the warning here??? Hmmm, they
think they are smarter than we are don't they? They probably are, but
who can say right?
The other part you will want to mess with is
the software. A good while back, Novell shocked a lot of people in that
it stated it wasn't going to support KDE. Well, this mainly came from a
purchase of Ximian and their Gnome and Evolution products really making
Suse unique, yet up to then Suse was really a KDE branch. All of us
Lizard heads were a bit upset by this, complained enough in the right
places and back came KDE support. So now you get the option of KDE and
others along with a solid, stable release of Gnome. I personally like
Gnome for how efficient it is with memory rather than KDE, which tends
to be a hog. Plus I get XGL working much easier in Gnome, so more on
Here we chose to expand the Software simply by
clicking on 'Software', and you now can select or remove default
packages. This is where you would add KDE and other packages. Note this
isn't where you would add proprietary software, that is with the Add-on
disk that you could have selected, or can actually add in the Expert
dialog as well. If you have a laptop there is a branch for you. Now, I
am not a big fan of the expansion for detailed selection, as typically
if you check the main box, it selects everything below. You can
de-select packages you wish, but you need to click on the little arrow
next to the box. Novell AppArmor is a suite of products that provides
firewall and virus scanning for enterprise customers. Once you select
all that you need, then just click on next and move along.
you have any package conflicts from your selections they will show up
here, but since I didn't it put me to the confirm portion. Now this is
an important step because once you go beyond this line, you will be
setting partitions according to what you, or the software, selected.
This can be the end for something so just make sure that you know what
you are doing. I like that they include this because there has been
many a time when I have wiped out the wrong partition and ended some
distros life on my computer.
you pass that step, you will start to see a lot of information. Again,
I am installing from a DVD so there is no change of disc in my future,
just a long wait until the system is installed. SInce this is a very
complete distro, install times can get into the 60 minute plus range,
compared to the 10-15 minute for Ubuntu or Freespire. But those are
really live discs that are just copying data to drives so it is much
quicker that this method. Why Novell has not moved to a live installer
is beyond me, but I would wager that sooner than later it will be the
standard practice for all of Linux.
you get past the software installation, your computer will typically
reboot. Now, I hate this actually in that sometimes it doesn't come
back, but that does seem to happen less and less. In the latest Alpha I
am told that this is no longer the case, so hopefully people won't get
scared that they crashed their install.
Once it comes back, it
takes you to the next section, according to the little status chart on
the left, and we will now configure our PC for operation on our
network. First we set up a domain and host name, which you can do if
you like, or you can let the DHCP server set that for you if you are
planning on working this into a corporate LAN.
The next step is to set up a root password, which of course is the key security agent of Linux/Unix systems.
install will now allow you to change your network settings. Now Suse
has this Network Manager tool that honestly I think is junk. It never
takes control of wireless unless it likes the wireless drivers, and it
hates NDISWRAPPER. So personally I switch back to the old school method
and don't get the fancy network tool. You can go with this if you are
using a desktop and LAN cable, but for me it just never has worked so I
stay away from it. If you are an old hat at Linux you probably don't
like the idea of software being more in control of your hardware
anyway, so I would think you would want the older methods which you are
accustomed too. Once you select that the install saves these settings
and then move right along to more configurations.
next step will test the internet connect. Now I am told that this does
a good job with finding wireless on laptops, except if those laptops
have Broadcom. Since I have a Broadcom I can report that it doesn't do
squat for me. Most of the time for installation I use my Linksys PCMCIA
card until I can get my internal wireless working. Now it says that it
will download the latest release notes. That has never worked for me
and seem to always fail, so if it does for you don't worry they are
there and it doesn't affect the installation.
though I missed the error message, here it does state that it
downloaded the latest release notes. Bravo!!! Oh, that isn't very
exciting is it?
next step is licensing your software, which you can do later, but if
you are on the internet you might as well do this now. It doesn't
actually happen here, it actually pops open a web browser and then
allows you to enter your key. Now, SLED is not free, it has a annual
license fee of $50. I myself just used the trial version which will
last me 60 days. If you want the free, as in beer, version then you
really should be using openSuse instead. SLED is truly designed as an
enterprise replacement to Windows so it isn't for everyone.
it explains that you will need to enter your registered email address.
If you haven't registered with Novell at this point, it might be a good
idea to do so.
is actually a pretty neat trick, allowing Mozilla to open during the
installation. Now if we could ever get these guys to do a Live
installer then we would be cooking. This install is extremely complex
and I am tired by this point. If it takes 29 screen shots to capture
the install, that is just too much. So enter your data, your code and
be on your happy way. This will add in the ATI, Nvidia and other
proprietary drivers that you will want, especially to get the GXL
like this one, in order to use this, you need to complete the
installation. Hah, who thought of that one???? In order to eat this
food you must cook and prepare it first.
Well that was fun, now we are back in the installation process and we can continue along.
again, if you are connected to the internet one can run the online
update and get the latest security and fixes now, or you can wait for a
while. I myself would rather do this now, especially if there is a new
kernel waiting for me, as I hate to get into a new distro and then have
to update the kernel.
yes, a kernel update. One more reboot and then we can hopefully finally
make it to the end of this journey. I think that in the box version,
Novell need to include two hot pockets and a protein bar.
need to setup some user authentication method, which does support
Windows Domain once again for those trying to place this into an
finally get to add a user. Always add a user and never run the system
as root folks. This is the key to unix/linux security. It might be a
hassle sometimes when trying to add programs, change some files, but
you will get used to that and really never have to worry about someone
hijacking your system.
that was a hoot, was it not??? I mean from live installers that have 6
steps to Linspire with 3 steps, this is pretty much the most
complicated install in Linux that is not command line. If they take the
time to recommend partitions for me and which software, why don't they
just take it a step further and just offer up types of installs and be
done with it? Offer me Desktop/Laptop/Server like Red Hat does and then
allow for an advanced option for people who care about it. This is just
way to complicated. But with that, you do know what you did and how
your system will actually work once you complete the install. So you
lose ease but you gain quality. There has to be a good mix of this,
unfortunately this is not it.
wait, there is more???? Seems like someone put the hardware in at the
last minute, which is very odd. When you get to read all the good notes
on things within SLED, one would assume you are done. I have no clue on
why the hardware config is so late, nor why it comes after the release
notes. But one more step to get my system up and running. Here one
needs to add in their monitor settings, printers, sound and other
gadgets. Networking was setup earlier so this is like the stuff on all
the cables. The tool did a pretty decent job with my monitor, but I did
have to add the 1280x800 resolution, but once I did it worked.
now you are done. The funny thing for me is that here the system
doesn't reboot, it actually takes you into the system. Why does it take
two reboots to install then none at the end? I guess it technically is
running the live kernel and enough of the desktop to get me here, and
since it launched a browser really I have been using Suse since the
first reboot, I just didn't know it.
I just feel like I gave birth, so I can't really say this was a user
friendly experience. It did what it was suppose to, and I know my
system will work. With my scale of scoring, 3 Pennies is average, 4
Pennies means that it did it well, and 5 Pennies means I didn't have to
do a thing. Well, SLED really falls somewhere between 3 and 4, in that
it doesn't do anything new or exciting and really is complex, but
nothing and I mean nothing was left off. So we will round up the 3.5
and give them 4 Pennies just for the blue screens. I love blue.
lets actually talk about why we even wanted to play with SLED. I really
don't like paying for Linux, but I am on a mission to get my laptop up
and running with XGL. Now, I have used it with Live CDs from Kororaa
and RR64 (now Sabayon), but can never seem to get things working with
it installed on my machine. So that is our goal. We know Suse is a
solid distro and we know Gnome/KDE work and what other packages have to
offer. We don't really care too much about that (we do want to test KDE
since that just doesn't work well in Suse) we just want our eye candy
and we want it now.
Starting ( )
once the Gnome desktop fires up, I am caught off guard a little. I
wasn't really prepared for the organization that they changed in SLED,
nor was I prepared for the ease of navigating this. Wow. So this is
what people were talking about. Simple, clean organization of icons and
programs where you can get to things by simply typing it in. Now this
was in Suse 10.1 and is a great little feature, but I only played with
this in KDE, where it narrows down the options that include your
search. Add to this that beagle is included in the start menu and
options for Favorite or most recently used icons being readily
available and I can say that Novell has done wonders with this. Who
cares about XGL now!!!! This is really awesome and doesn't have to
follow Apple or MS in look and feel to add usability to Linux away from
how things are done in the other distros. Bravo folks at Novell,
in SLED is excellent on the desktop. The look and feel, the
organization, how things are managed, it just works. I see a distro
truly designed to be optimized for the corporate user, trying to allow
for the replacement of MS in the workplace. I also see a Linux distro
for all users in that everything works and works well. The standard
packages that get installed allow full functionality across
development, gamers, productivity and media. Well, almost on media.
Novell has a pretty odd stance on Proprietary drivers in that they make
some, like Evolution Exchange, but don't support the ones for media.
The Media player even is locked down so that one cannot just simply
install the w32 codecs and libdvdcss and become functional. What you
have to do is go into Yast and the software manager and remove all
video players (typically Xine and Totem) and then reinstall from RPMs
or Binary builds from scratch AFTER you install the w32 codecs and
libdvdcss. Now once again, in the US, technically this is illegal, but
hey I don't say play any illegal DVDs, just engineer the system so it
can if you want too. My main beef with this is realistically there is
no reason for Novell not to just pay for a licensed DVD player like
Linspire does, especially since I am having to pay $50 for annual
usage. They need to just bite the bullet and fork over some funds to
become a truly functional desktop/laptop replacement. The more these
boxes are becoming media centers in people's homes, the more people
will want the rights (legal ones at that) to play the DVDs that they
pay for or rent. This almost cost Novell a Pennie in their rating but
with everything else working, damn you just can't take a fully Pennie
for that. Plus it is pretty easy if you go to here
to get this operational.
Below is the control panel, which to me is a bit crowded, and realistically moving away from Yast
control which used to be the only place in Suse. Now you can go to the
individual item or back to Yast, which is powerful but extremely
ATI fully functional is next. This really isn't hard if you register
your product and add one simple repository to your system. The detailed
instructions on this are located here
, so good luck with that and with this the next step is getting XGL up and running. Let's get this thing sexy shall we????XGL
on SLED has its own control functionality. Since Novell
one of the leaders of XGL development, this is only to be understood.
You see this in the Desktop Preferences (selected next to the Computer
in the bottom left of Gnome)
you might not get this window because this shows my hardware card [ATI
Radeon Mobility 9600] is not in the XGL list of supported hardware.
Now, I know it is from previous work with XGL, so pooh. Instead I
simply had to click on the button, which at first stated I needed to
add the ati-kernel to even consider this. I could have used the
software installer, but first I had to add the repository for ATI I
mentioned above and then add these features in Yast.
gave me the kernel level support I needed and then poof I was off in
XGL love land. I love the special effects and they are not only cool,
they are extremely functional. I won't bore you with the graphic of the
cube (you can't actually screen capture that very easy and I don't feel
like stealing a shot, but it can be found here
) but rather a couple of my favorites.
up is the translucent windows. Now this is in KDE 3.5.1, but not like
this. Imagine you are working on a word document with a PDF as a
reference. We all did this in college and had to Alt-tab between two
documents (which is also way cool in XGL, but more on that later). So
instead of that, you can now change the level of the word document and
allow yourself the ability to read the document underneath. Worth the
price of admission right there folks. But there is more!!!!!
thing we tend to do with our computers (at least I do) is get too many
applications open at once, making the task bar at the bottom look like
an icon festival. Well, in XGL if you push your Pause/Break key, all
the open applications tile on the desktop and then you are able to
select the one you want from the minor icons. This is a cool feature
and similar to Enlightenment's ability to minimize to the desktop, but
here you can do that in Gnome. Way too cool and now we are cooking.
the others are all listed in the XGL sites, like water effects, zoom
capabilities, Cube effects and the Alt-Tab showing you a thumbnail of
the open application so you can choose more effectively. I am not
really here to review XGL, rather to mention I finally have it running
on my laptop after about 8 months of trying. That my friends is where
it is at. Once you get a Linux distro doing what you want, you usually
stop, tilt your head to the techie gods and give thanks for all the
blood, sweat and tears that it took to get there.
Bonus Stuff ( )
have to say Bonus stuff for SLED starts and stops with XGL. I am not
crazy about the cost, but I am extra pleased with the performance and
packaging that SLED offers. They seem to have trimmed things down over
the 9.2 release of Suse, so the distro runs a lot smoother, but having
moved backwards on their stance of proprietary packages hurts Novell in
my humble opinion. Sure, the purists out there want to be free of this,
needing or wanting total control of their hardware and software. But
the average working person in the office doesn't care. All they want is
function and ease. Who cares who writes what, or who owns knowledge,
blah blah blah. What really matters long term for the Linux system to
be taken seriously is the ability to work without requiring people to
read books, google to death or have another machine running windows
next to the Linux box for one or two packages that just don't work.
else just is ideal for the audience the Novell is after. Sure, you can
save $50 and go with openSuse, but to really get hardware support and
full functionality of several key packages without spending days trying
to hack these into a community package, SLED is probably right for you.
I want to give a really big shout out to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
and his piece on Vista versus SLED, which you can find here
Steven is always on top of what people want to read about and does an
excellent job of putting facts and figures together in a way that makes
sense to people on either side of the MS vs Linux debate. Bottom line
in this piece is that a small company can save about $554 per employee
desktop by going with SLED over Vista and probably have a much cleaner
and more functional system in the end. To some IT folks, that might be
countered with cost of training and support of Novell, but to that I
say BS. Novell is just as easy to work with and to learn this software
is not going to take someone weeks, but rather hours.
Overall ( )
10.0 is basically as good as it gets for performance, power,
functionality and usability in my opinion. It really is the distro that
others should aspire to get too, without trying to emulate a lot of the
problems that Novell self imposes on themselves (proprietary packaging
and lack of good KDE support). If you are a Gnome desktop person who
wants a system that they can work on a corporate WAN/LAN with little
Now would I recommend SLED for a Linux newbie, who has
never installed a system like this before? That might be iffy.
Installing SLED is not exactly fool proof and one can easily do some
serious damage to a system if they didn't know what to not do.
Hopefully this article will help and if you take your time and make
good common sense selections you will not be disappointed with what you
end up with. SLED is going to be on my machine for about 30 more days
(what is left of my trial system) and might be purchased depending on
what else is coming along in the next month.
As always, good
luck in your personal Linux knowledge search and best wishes!!!!
Remember, if you could be so kind to check out our donation link on the side of the page, remember that we run solely on the graces of our readers, so any help would be greatly appreciated.