Rant: SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10

Everyone is talking about it, and so I thought I give SLED10 a whirl. My findings so far:

1. During installation I made sure that Grub would install on /dev/hda3 instead of the MBR so it wouldn’t nuke my precious boot loader. The damn thing DID overwrite my MBR (just like Ubuntu did). When the software doesn’t do what you ask, yes, I have a major problem with it. >:-(
2. The installation is sub-par. Its main screens are ok, but all of its “hidden” advanced screens are terribly bad usability-wise and ugly-looking (especially the partitioning editor and the boot loader screens, but others too). I said it before: Novell should use Anaconda. It’s simply the best Linux installer today: easy and to the point and without sacrificing needed functionality. Anaconda has balance more than anything else.
3. The Yast system tools also suck, as they always did. Ugly, terrible usability and even some duplication at places. There are for example 4 different panels that deal with the monitor & graphics card. Two panels that deal with the mouse. 4 different panels that deal with keyboards and keymaps etc etc. Yuck!
4. No WiFi firmwares included in the DVD. They paid for an mp3 license but didn’t they think that corporate chaps would need WiFi support? Heck, most of the WiFi companies wouldn’t ask for money to distribute their firmwares. All Novell had to do is ask for permission.
5. SLED10 uses the default Synaptics configuration which is unusable and there is no GUI to configure it: the horizontal scrolling sucks ass (especially when using Firefox) and the touchpad tap-to-click is overly sensitive. It makes the OS *unusable* until you manually edit xorg.conf and change the synaptics settings.
6. Confusing as hell software installation. There is system update, software installation, and a couple others too. Their labeling is not very clean, all put under the “software” part of Yast, while there are 3 different ways to update the system. As I said, confusing and unpolished.
7. RPM installation is simply not fool proof. Novell should find a way to modify RPM to have more lose requirements when installing a package. For example, if your system has mylib.so.0.5 and the RPM requires mylib.so.0.3, LET IT INSTALL God damn it! There is a 95% chance that the app is going to work! That 95% is better than bailing out altogether!
8. There is not an OFFICIAL *web site* to download third party applications for the OS (something like gnomefiles or versiontracker, but for SLED only). NO, I do NOT mean an RPM repository (difficult to add and enable manually) and I don’t mean OS updates. Instead, create a new http helper like rpm:// and when someone clicks for a package through his web browser, download it, find its deps if exist on the same repository or disks, and install it via a nice GUI. Make it EASY for people to install apps! Adding repositories manually and literally FIGHTING local dependencies or fighting the BROKEN packages that the current third party repositories are full of, it is not an option. After all these years I still find easier to compile my apps than to deal with DPKG/RPM’s conflicts.
9. The OpenVPN coniguration screen does not fit on my 1400×1050 laptop. Let alone fitting on Enterprise market’s XGA monitors. Whoever designed that window or the usability engineer who let it pass certification at Novell, must be fired.
10. One more thing I hate about RPM & DPKG: the seperation of -devel and the main binary. IF you happen to need to compile something, you are screwed. You have to fight the actual dependencies of packages, plus the missing headers. So you are not only making it difficult for users, but for developers or power users too.

And a few minor tidbits:
1. Again I had to manually add s3_bios in the kernel parameter line before I can successfully suspend-to-ram.
2. XGL won’t support my 64MB ATi Radeon Mobility 9000. That’s ok, Vista can’t either. OSX could though.
3. 140 MBs of RAM is used after a clean boot. This means that the minimum usage scenario are PCs with 256 MBs of RAM, provided they don’t have OOo, Firefox and Evolution all open at the same time.
4. Ancient versions for some packages. And Gnomemeeting instead of Ekiga?

Other than that, there are some nice touches in the system: it seems stable, the little icon on the Nautilus path-bar to enable/disable the path bar, the new “Computer” menu, bluetooth/irda panels, Beagle, open-application stuff. But overall, for me, SLED10 is not as good as OSX or Windows. Despite all its external polishness and good looks, it is not truly polished. I wouldn’t use it as my main OS because in 30 minutes of using it, it has ALREADY irritated the hell out of me. It usually takes a week for OSX or Windows to irritate me with something. It’s better than OpenSuSE alright, and it has some original software to be ranked better than Ubuntu or Red Hat/Fedora, but none of these are better than OSX/WinXP anyway. SLED simply catches up in some departments with Ubuntu/FC/RH, it surpasses them in others (e.g. XGL), but overall it still ain’t that super Linux distribution that can truly compete with OSX/XP/Vista.

We are still waiting for that distribution to arrive.

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