openSUSE 10.2 Alpha 4 Report
openSUSE 10.2 alpha 4 was released and we at Tuxmachines gave it our usual once- (or twice-) over. This release brought some exciting new developments and introduced a few new or renewed bugs. Overall it's looking great for an alpha, but we still have some more to do on that long road to final.
The first noticeable difference is the new splash screen has made it into the install boot kernel. This and other instances makes the transition from SUSE Linux to openSUSE pretty much complete. This release the installer seems to be windowed and sitting on an unattractive grayish-blue background at this time. Word has to expect a lovely background at some point.
The installer steps are pretty much the same and if you aren't careful, you just might miss the most significant change this release - or at least with the installer. Once one is passed the usual Validation Check Failure errors, the software selection screen is a bit more complete this release giving the user slightly more refined choices. But that's not it. In addition, JFS is back as a filesystem choice this release. But that's not it either. The biggest surprize this release is that all software from all CDs is installed before one reboots the system. It's hardly noticeable if you aren't watching as the speed in which this process completes is vastly improved as well. In fact, most components of the install seem to have gotten a vitamin boost this time. Summary, configuration, and verification screens all become focused and usable much faster than previously.
Some difficulties found with the installer include the installer pauses to try and initialize catalogs as if it was going to install more software after that first reboot, xfce is offered in the software list but the installer can't find some or any of the needed components and kde-imaging was mia as well, and the Novell Customer Configuration step fails with an internal server error. Release notes download as designed.
I got to be honest though, I'm not sure I have identified the advantage of installing all the software before or after initial reboot. One still has the system configuration to complete after reboot and before the installed system/gui starts. If they can get all of the configuration to occur before reboot as well, they just might be onto something.
More surprises await the user after logging in and starting their gui. Developers have enhanced both KDE and Gnome to bring the user a better experience - or a future better experience. Gnome has been updated to 2.16 although it looks pretty much the same as found last release. The signature SUSE Gnome menu system is ported to 2.16, but they are still working out the bugs. I found many entries didn't work and with some that did, the corresponding app/tool wouldn't open, including the More Applicatons and Control Center buttons. However, most of the Favorite Applications did open. The Install Software module opened, but it couldn't resolve dependencies. It resembles the Software Update app, for which an indicator resides in the System Tray, that suffered with the same bug. With the menu somewhat crippled and the panel being sparcly populated (with only the start button really) it was difficult to test Gnome much further this release.
KDE was sporting the new splash screen we found last release and started right up. The first thing that appeared was the openSUSE Welcome screen and an open new menu. This release we are treated to the new Kickoff Start Menu. This menu system had been run through some usability tests, and apparently it was found ...er, a... usable. I myself find it very attractive looking, but also find the usability a bit cumbersome. I like the search screen when first opened, the My Favorite apps screen, and even the Leave screen, but I do not enjoy the operation of the All Programs menu. It makes things harder for me to find, and it slows me down way to much. It takes added seconds to open and return from the submenus. I don't like it. It's been 'improved' for this release based on findings from their usability study in areas such as:
- "Some users didn't find the search functionality, so we made it appear more prominent
- Users didn't use the built-in menu help, so we removed it completely
- Users didn't discover "Lock Screen" on the main slab so we moved it into the "Leave" tab and decided to put additionally the lock/lockout applet by default into the right panel corner
- The "All Applications" browser gained an all-columns back button for easier browsing"
Fortunately for old fuddy-duddies like me, we can right click on the panel menu button to easily switch back to the standard (open)SUSE KDE menu. Too bad really, as I said, I think it's really nice looking, I just prefer an expanding applications menu rather than the sliding back and forth of the sub-categories.
In the same area is the new panel and start button. They too are quite attractive. The panel is a bit translucent and appears a bit smaller by default this release. The quick launchers are kept to a minimum making for a tiddier appearance. The start button looks like it took some direction from KBFX and features the beloved (open)SUSE Lizard/Chameleon.
In the Yast Control Center, I didn't spot anything new. The Software Installer seemed to function okay here except when I attempted to install XFCE or use the Add-On source. Needed components of XFCE were missing or misnamed. It also couldn't seem to access the directory it assigned the Add-On source during system install, but an adjustment of the path was all that was required. The Software/System Update applet was broken as described above with it not being able to resolve dependencies.
The new layout of the Software Manager Pattern categories is as follows:
- Base Technologies
- openSUSE Base System
- Novell AppArmor
- Graphical Environments
- Gnome Desktop Environment
- KDE Desktop Environment
- X Window System
- XFCE Desktop Environment
- GNOME Desktop
- GNOME Base System
- GNOME Games
- GNOME Graphics
- GNOME Laptop
- GNOME Multimedia
- GNOME Office
- GNOME Utilities
- KDE Desktop
- KDE Base System
- KDE Edutainment
- KDE Games
- KDE Development
- KDE Help System
- KDE Laptop
- KDE Graphics
- KDE Internet
- KDE Multimedia
- KDE Office
- KDE System
- KDE Utilities
- Primary Functions
- File Server
- Print Server
- Mail and News Server
- Web and LAMP Server
- Internet Gateway
- DHCP and DNS Server
- Directory Server (LDAP)
- Xen Virtual Machine Host Server
- Basis Development
- SDK: NET Development
- C/C++ Development
- SDK: Linux Kernel Development
- Not yet Classified
- XML and LaTeX Editing Tools
- Console Tools
Under the Hood
That's about all the visuals I recall, and underneath the hood this release we find:
- Full RPMList
- Full Add-On RPMList
Some Changelog highlights include:
- ++++ alsa:
- updated to ALSA 1.0.13rc1:
- ++++ beagle:
- Update package to 0.2.9 and remove obsolete patch
- ++++ bootsplash:
- don't require bootsplash-theme
- ++++ bootsplash-theme-SuSE:
- Update SUSE theme for 10.2
- ++++ kdelibs3:
- Add patches with Xinerama improvements
- show Beagle kfile sidebar entry only if daemon is running
- ++++ kerry:
- update from SVN:
* icon converted to SVG and revised by Robert Lihm
* start beagle daemon by default
* fixed a memory leak
- ++++ amarok:
- update to version 1.4.2
- ++++ curl:
- updated to version 7.15.5
- ++++ Many many bug fixes, patches, and updates
- ++++ Full Changelog since Alpha 3.
The outstanding "Most Annoying Bugs" this release are:
- usb mouse is not working in X, this breaks especially installation
- zen-updater always shows patterns to update
- Registration fails with an internal server error
- the VNC password used during installation must be exact 8 chars long
So, they ya have it. We have some new eye candy and features, while some previously introduced features developed some little bugs. Overall, things seem to be progressing and moving towards beta. One only needs to take a gander at the Changelog to see how hard the developers are working.