Switching from Ubuntu to OpenSuse

Yes, I just switched my desktop computer from Ubuntu to OpenSuse.

I am sure that some people won’t believe it or think that I am stupid or that I work for Microsoft, but here are the reasons of this choice.

The first reason why I did it was a number of bugs with the latest release, Feisty. I mean, not just simple bugs. At every new release, there are new bugs (I have been using Ubuntu since Breezy) : this is quite understanding and I can deal with it.
What make me fustrated is when some of these bugs are regression bugs. And especially when you already reported them months ago and see that they were not taken into account.
You will tell me that this must happen because making a new release is not an easy thing. Ok, but a release is supposed to be stable, and particulary on pretty standard hardware.

The bugs that I experienced with my pretty standard laptop hardware (and not only me, though there were several topics on the forums or bug reports) :

  • The synaptic touchpad had random messing the interfaces of my applications. It was dramatic and frequent enough to make it unusable.
  • I could never get the touchpad to work.
  • Trying to use a 686 kernel made the computer increadibly slow. Ok, let’s fall back to i386… better but not great !
  • I could not get main-menu to work (slab port to Ubuntu). And I was convinced neither by the messy gnome menu nor by the USP development.
  • After any hibernation, the acpi module of the kernel became extrimely unresponsive. For instance, after pressing to adjust the screen brightness, it took 20 seconds to be effective !

I may forgot some but that is enough. And yes, all of these are regression bugs… It means it worked fine with Edgy ! I really wonder if the developpers did test on centrino laptops…

The second reason why I decided to leave Ubuntu is that I was just tired and wanted to see something else. Everyone is talking about this distribution as if it was an Eldorado. I (still) like it but it is far from it and there are many other good distribution. I generally don’t like when something become so popular that its popularity takes over its real qualities.

So, changing, but for what ? I immediatly thought about three distribution : Debian, OpenSuse, Gentoo. There are all also very popular and each has a particular flavour.
I decided not to use Debian, because I use Debian on many other machines, including servers. That would not have been really a change.
On the other hand, I never tried Gentoo. I am sure that this is a great distribution, but I also know that it requires some investment in time. Recently, I really haven’t had much time… So I will give a try soon, but not now…

So let’s go for Suse ! Note that a few years ago, I already tried this distribution but so many things must have changed !

So how did it become since then ?

The installation was smooth (the graphical installation process is rather easy but functionnal) and I got a nice Gnome desktop pretty quickly. I won’t make a long review but I like :

  • The very clean and polished desktop, with a nice theme (so much better than the human theme, sorry). I was always tweacking something in my Ubuntu, trying to have an organised desktop. Here Slab and Application Browser both do a pretty good job and the default theme is coherent and smooth.

  • The speed : I was shocked, I did not realize that my Ubuntu was so slow… I think that this is one of the kernel issue I had with Ubuntu. The feeling I have is that the OpenSuse developpers did a great job optimizing the kernel. Ubuntu just keep the advantage for the startup time.

  • With Powernow, true power management works out of the box : no need to set up laptop-mode, cpufreq, sony_acpi, etc.

I don’t like :

  • The rpm package system ! On this point, I was not expecting that it would compete with Deb packaging. It is not that bad, but deb packages with apt are definitely superior ! It won’t protect yourself against your own mistakes, as it happened to me a few times. Fixing a mistake might also ask you some more work… Talking about package management, it is worth using Smart instead of Yast to set up new packages. It is almost as powerful as Synaptics (just don’t trust as much the dependencies) and is even much faster. It dowloads simultanously all the packages during set-up and can manage a number of repositories : APT, RPM, Yast, etc. This tool is great !

  • Yast is still good for hardware management, but it is becoming old and needs to be refreshed.

So, globally, I am extremely satisfied with this OpenSuse and will certainly keep it for a while.

It is polished, light and fast. You feel you have a professional and user friendly OS, compared to Ubuntu where you need to spend more time for tweaking.

I recommand you to give it a try ! OpenSuse deserves to become as popular as Ubuntu for desktops and laptops.