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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.

The ZENWorks package management system seems to finally work the way we were told it would, and it might even be worth using now. It seemed pretty snappy in my limited testing, and there were none of the deadly 30-minute update problems that were rampant in SUSE 10.1. However, I've long since given up on this technology, and have been using the third-party Smart package management toolkit almost since I learned about it, so I still removed ZMD and the related components out of reflex. Somebody let me know if it's still broken.

What It's Good For

Overall, I've been very impressed with openSUSE 10.2, and have decided that it's worthy of replacing my SUSE 9.3 systems. Considering how long I've been using that release, that's a fairly significant testament.

Hardware support seems to be pretty good, although it took some banging to get everything working, and there are still a few areas that are extremely weak (especially in the RAID setup and recovery areas). Once everything was configured to my liking, performance and stability have proven to be rock-solid on my server systems, although my desktop systems still have some problems (including a sporadic system hang on my ASUS P4C800-E desktop PC).

The critical infrastructure services that I need are all working good, even with the minor flaws and problems. For the most part, they work the way I want them to, and do so out of the box, which is a vast improvement over SUSE 9.3 which required me to recompile almost everything to get things working right. The interface has some problems that need to be resolved, but those are mostly cosmetic, and they do not affect the quality of service provided by my servers.

There also are lots of interesting new technologies that are likely to become more useful as the features are fleshed out over the next few months and years.

The system could really have benefited from another month or two of developer time, but it still manages to come across as remarkably solid for the number of features that are there. It's also quite apparent that the installer needs some serious loving if it's ever to be restored to its previous luster and glory--SUSE used to have the best installer, and while it's probably still among the best, it has fallen far.

All told, I consider openSUSE 10.2 to be a real winner for server duties in my labs. Given the number of pre-release packages that are included, this probably isn't a particularly good choice as a server platform for business-grade networks, but Novell doesn't position it as such, either (that's what their "enterprise" products are for). I don't think it's as good of a desktop release as SUSE 10.1, either, and there are better distributions for that anyway, but other people are likely to disagree with me here.

Eric A. Hall worked in almost all segments of the networking industry over the past 20 years. He managed a regional network for a multinational corporation, served as lab director for Network Computing magazine, consulted to Fortune 100 and Wall Street clients, worked for a Silicon Valley startup, and founded his own startup. He wrote hundreds of articles, two technical books, and a handful of RFCs and drafts. He currently provides technical research services for his clients.

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