Fresh wind for openSUSE
by Andrea Müller
At the openSUSE Conference, we talked to the makers of openSUSE about the new developments for SUSE and for the community distribution.
The openSUSE Conference in Nuremberg, Germany, an annual event where developers and community members share ideas and offer insights into their work in a variety of presentations, ended yesterday (Wednesday, 14 September). The conference gave us an opportunity to find out what's new and what has changed since Novell was taken over by Attachmate. An interview with Andreas Jaeger, Program Manager openSUSE, mainly revolved around the development of the community distribution. The developers are currently working hard on openSUSE 12.1 and plan to release a beta version at the end of September; the scheduled final release date is 11 November.
Many people are unaware of the reason why the developers decided to jump from the current openSUSE 11.4 straight to 12.1, skipping version 12.0. The openSUSE team long discussed its versioning strategy, investigating such models as that of Ubuntu (according to release date) and Fedora (sequential numbering scheme), but the developers eventually decided to stick with openSUSE's classical version scheme.
However, "zero versions" reportedly tend to be regarded as "major updates" and generate a high level of expectation among users. Apparently, this has repeatedly given rise to the opinion that a version wasn't ready for release, and that it contained too few new features for a zero release. Internally, the openSUSE team has never treated the zero versions as major releases, said Jaeger. The developers therefore decided to skip the "zero release" and not release a version 12.0. Current planning stipulates that the same is to apply to future versions – in November 2013, the scheduled release will be 13.1, not 13.0.
However, openSUSE 12.1 will include various major new features, regardless of the version number. As well as Systemd, which is to replace the SysVInit system, openSUSE 12.1 will also offer a series 3 version of the Gnome desktop. The classical version 2 won't be available as an alternative, as the developers decided to focus on offering optimum Gnome 3 support rather than distributing their efforts across two versions of the desktop.
Jaeger said that every release brings a particular desktop integration challenge because openSUSE supports KDE and Gnome equally and in parallel. The program manager explained that, despite technological differences in the background, the developers must ensure that Gnome programs can be executed seamlessly under KDE, and vice versa. Rather than always trying to find their own solution to each problem, the developers are reportedly also careful to orient themselves on the approaches chosen by other distributions.
In the desktop area, openSUSE users are in for a nostalgic treat: various enthusiasts from the developer community have joined forces to prepare KDE 3 packages for version 12.1 of the distribution. However, Jaeger said, as things currently stand the KDE 3 packages won't make it onto the installation media for reasons of space.
Another major new feature of openSUSE 12.1 will be support for the Btrfs file system, which is currently still classified as experimental. Btrfs will, from now on, be fully supported as a root partition file system, which gives openSUSE a pioneering role among the major distributions after Fedora recently postponed the switch. However, as openSUSE continues to use Grub Legacy instead of the Grub2 boot manager, a separate boot partition will be required.
By supporting Btrfs, openSUSE is laying the foundations for the second service pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 (SLES), which will then be the first enterprise distribution to support Btrfs. However, no release date has so far been announced.
The atmosphere after the takeover of Novell by Attachmate is apparently quite positive. Andreas Jaeger explained that, despite certain responsibilities being reassigned as part of the takeover – which can reportedly make it difficult to find the right person to talk to – decision-making has generally been streamlined.
Jaeger also said that Attachmate has already done many things right, even during the takeover. For example, Michael Miller, "Vice President of Global Alliances & Marketing", turns out to be an openSUSE fan: even before the takeover was completed, he asked to be given a supply of openSUSE CDs. At community events, and also in his office, Miller apparently likes to swap his business shirt for an openSUSE shirt.