SuSE Linux 7.2 Professional Review

Reviewer: Mark
Category: 
Operating System
Version: 
7.2 (Professional)
Price: 
$69.95

My first version of the GNU/Linux operating system came to me via a shareware disk that I purchased from a friend of mine. That GNU/Linux version was numbered in the 0.9x series and I tired quite easily in my attempt to get the system up and running. It wasn't until I purchased a manual on Slackware Linux a couple of years later that I was able to get the system working properly and I haven't looked back since.

But what has always bothered me, and other novice users, was the learning curve necessary to get a fully operational GNU/Linux system up and running with minimal effort. That complication has been overcome with the release of the 7.2 version SuSE's popular distribution. I received a copy of the boxed version of the Professional distribution and can state quite categorically that this is the easiest install I've run to date.

System Requirements

Minimum: 486DX processor, 32MB of memory (64MB for GUI operations), 400MB hard drive.

Recommended: None cited specifically for the processor; a top of the line Pentium (or equivalent) processor will do quite nicely, as much memory as you can afford, and a 1.5GB hard drive to get the full suite of applications.

Features

There are almost too many features to list here. Please see the SuSE webpage for a complete listing of new features. The features most experienced Linux users will find advantageous include:

  • Kernel 2.4.4
  • KDE 2.1.2
  • Gnome 1.4
  • glibc 2.2.2

The system also comes standard with the SuSE graphical user interface, the YaST2, XFree86 4.0.3, Samba 2.2, and StarOffice 5.2.

Installation

The SuSE installation can be booted from an ATAPI CDROM drive, or with the aid of two boot disks. Those two options of installation alone expand the number of machines that can run SuSE Linux from the fastest Pentium-grade machine to a 486. The install boot screen gives you several options that include new install, upgrade, or memory test. Wait a minute; was that a "memory test"? What a novel idea! I can remember at least two installs where I was 15 minutes or so into an install only to receive a dreaded Signal 11. With the memory tester, I would have been able to diagnose a bad memory problem early in the installation and fix it before I had wasted the effort attempting a complete install.

As with many modern GNU/Linux distributions, SuSE has a variety of options during the initial installation stage to select packages based on the type of system the user is building. I selected a standard install for both iterations to establish both an install time, and stability of installation. For testing purposes, I have a 400 MHz Pentium system with 32 MB of memory, and a 6 GB hard drive. That is a small system for a server, but perfectly acceptable for a home-based workstation. The complete installation took 35 minutes from the time I placed the first install CDROM in the drive. That time span included installation of Star Office 5.2, the open source office product distributed with SuSE Linux 7.2.

After installation, the configuration takes roughly 10 additional minutes as SuSE Linux sets up hardware and network preferences. The only glitch I ran across during my particular installation was the IRQ and address settings of my sound card; the sound ran fine, but I received an error message from the console that the OS was having difficulty assigning the default settings. This was more of an annoyance than a disabling bug.

Configuration

After setting up my hardware, I was set to run the applications that were installed during the default setup. I chose to add my system username, but found that the username I had running on my network was invalid. This is the only real problem I had with this GNU/Linux distribution. My network username begins with a capital letter. This is verboten under SuSE Linux, but a work around is possible. I created a dummy account during the initial configuration, created a new account using useradd, copied the files from the dummy account, and then deleted the dummy account using userdel (and removed the entire dummy directory for good measure). Being able to use any character one would want (other than reserved system characters such as !) is a flaw in my opinion, but surely, this is a minor shortcoming.

Documentation

I had heard that the documentation that accompanies SuSE Linux is one of its better attributes. I can state unequivocally that this it indeed the case. The user guides are extremely to the point, but also provide plenty of examples that even the most "newbie" of users will find helpful. Wonderfully illustrated and concise, the manuals provide instant access to everything from network administration to tips for getting the most out of the plethora of bundled applications. The list of manuals includes topics covering quick installation, network configuration, system configuration, and a detailed reference manual. Although I found new information in all of the manuals provided, I found the reference manual to be the greatest asset. Of course there are also online references that include the entire library of HOWTOs that are part of the Linux Documentation Project.

Summary

I am impressed with the ease of installation and configuration of this latest SuSE product. They have taken great care to provide their customer with the highest quality Linux system that I have used to date. Although there are some notable shortcomings, most of which are not "deal killers", I would recommend this distribution to anyone regardless of their expertise with Linux systems. From the new arrival to the hard-core Linux zealot, everyone with a desire for a stable, flexible, and versatile modern operating system will not be disappointed.

Conclusion

The Good - Pros
  • Terrific installation speed and ease of use
  • Well written user guides
  • Wonderful "look and feel" of product
The Bad - Cons
  • None worth griping about - there are plenty of simple workarounds
The Ugly - Problems
  • User name configuration
  • Difficulty rendering some webpages with default Netscape installation
  • Difficulty executing some setup and configuration scripts
  • Buggy sound card installation
The Verdict - Opinion
  • Arguably the best packaged operating system distribution for all levels of Linux users.

Installation: 
4/5
Performance: 
5/5
Documentation: 
5/5
Ease Of Use: 
5/5

18/20

Overall score


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