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Review: openSUSE 10.2 Earns A Seat At The Head Of The Table

Columnist Eric A. Hall was looking for a Linux distro that combines stability with the capabilities needed to test bleeding-edge technology. After a long search, he found that openSUSE 10.2 was up to the job.

Since I wanted to use XFS on RAID-5 for my primary storage, I chose to run the ICH7R in raw SATA mode with software-based mdraid partitions. Using the SUSE installer, I set up a RAID-1 mirror for the "/boot" partition formatted with Ext3 (system recovery capabilities are more important than performance here), a RAID-0 span for the "swap" partition, and a RAID-5 "/" (root) partition formatted with XFS for everything else. Although the installer created all this for me without difficulty, it didn't install GRUB across the RAID-1 mirror volumes correctly, and I had to manually override the boot setup to get the system working. Apart from the setup problems, the filesystem seems to be working flawlessly, with good stability and performance.

The remainder of the hardware installation process went pretty well, but not without problems. For instance, the installer correctly recognized the XGI Volari Z7 on-board video chip, but it did not have a monitor configuration for my HP L1925 LCD panel (other distributions have it, and its not a new monitor). I also installed openSUSE 10.2 on a pair of PCs with Broadcom-based wireless adapters, which openSUSE's installer claimed as supported, but it did not perform a complete installation of all the necessary files.

I also encountered the old hardware-detection problems during installation--half the time it would load a "USB-Storage" module and try to automatically discover DSL and ISDN devices during network setup, but wouldn't do any of that stuff the other half. Thankfully these problems appear to be isolated to the installer, and have not manifested in the operating system itself.

The current version of the SUSE installer seems to have a lot of problems, unfortunately. Obviously, it should be aware of the requirements for booting RAID arrays that it claims to support, such as knowing that it cannot boot from dmraid, and knowing that software RAID needs special handling by GRUB. There are other problems beyond that, too. For example, the installer has a system-recovery mode that can theoretically examine and correct a variety of filesystem problems, and while I've had good success with this module under SUSE 9.3, it appears to be completely broken under openSUSE 10.2--it could not recognize the software RAID partitions at all, which is just ridiculous considering that it was the program that had created them.

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