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18 December 2008, 13:20

Andrea Müller

OpenSuse 11.1 is here

OpenSuse 11.1 breaks with the tradition that new minor versions include minor changes only. As well as separating free and proprietary software, there are also three revamped Yast modules and improvements to make it more user-friendly.

OpenSuse 11.1 is available from today (Thursday 18th Dec.). With kernel, 7.4, KDE 4.1.3 and 3.5.10, Gnome 2.24.1, Firefox 3.0.4 and OpenOffice 3, the new version provides users with the latest software. There's also a whole range of new features, of which the most striking is the separation of free and proprietary software.

A new broom

Users installing OpenSuse 11.1 will no longer have to accept an End User License Agreement (EULA) – the installation DVD contains free software and freely distributable firmware only. Proprietary software such as Flash and RealPlayer and drivers for Nvidia and AMD graphics cards can, as previously, be found in the "non OSS" online package archive. For users without a broadband internet connection, OpenSuse provides the archive package on a CD, which is also included in the OpenSuse box. This separation provides a greater degree of legal clarity and ensures more freedom for users, since it allows OpenSuse 11.1 to be copied and distributed without restriction.

There's no loss of convenience for users – the non-OSS repository is automatically included in the list of online package sources and some applications from the repository are installed on the hard drive pretty much automatically, following installation. The first time the system is started, the update wizard pops up to install the Fluendo MP3 codec. The first time the user starts the software manager, Flash Player is already selected for installation.


Not much has changed with regard to the installation process itself. The generally sensible recommendations made by the installer can be adopted without danger, but partitioning, software selection and boot manager settings can also be selected manually. One surprise is the completely revamped partitioning assistant.

A two-part display shows all hard drives, RAIDs and volume management in tree form on the left hand side. Details of the selected element are displayed in the right hand panel. Clicking on "Edit" allows users to create, delete and format partitions and set mount points. The range of options available in the new partitioner is a plus, but it is less straightforward than the previous tool.

KDE 4 and Gnome are given equal billing during desktop selection, with KDE 3.5.10 relegated to "Other". The developers now consider KDE 4.1.3 as suitable for day-to-day use, but wish to offer KDE 3's many fans the option of working with the older version of the desktop environment. The option "Other" also includes the lean XFCE desktop environment and simple window managers.

The overview screen at the end of the installation can be used to adjust various settings, including network, graphics and boot manager settings. Users can then log onto the system, which by default runs without 3D desktop effects, even where a 3D-accelerated graphics card is installed.

As well as the Fluendo MP3 codec, the update applet also offers to install Smolt, which collects information on the computer's hardware and sends it to Fedora's Smolt server. OpenSuse 11.1 will now be involved in expanding the Smolt database, which should allow developers to determine what hardware users are using, and therefore what drivers are required. After installing the Smolt client, the update applet asks the user to send their hardware configuration, which they can also inspect before sending.

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