What's new in openSUSE 12.1
by Andrea Müller
With version 12.1, openSUSE has switched to systemd, which speeds up the boot process. The Btrfs filesystem is now supported and its snapshot function has been integrated into Yast by the developers.
openSUSE 12.1 has arrived, bringing many improvements – including systemd, which has replaced the classical SysVInit, and Btrfs support, as well as several software additions to the repositories. The H's associates at heise open have had an opportunity to look at and test the new features.
It is as a result of the openSUSE team's versioning discussions that version 11.4, which was released in March 2011, is now followed by version 12.1 instead of 12.0. Members discussed several models but eventually decided to stick with a classical versioning scheme – but the team said that "zero versions" have a tendency to be regarded as "major updates" and to create high user expectations, even though they have never been treated as major version releases within the project. Consequently, the developers decided, as policy, to skip zero versions in future and, in this case, skip version 12.0.
As usual, openSUSE's installation media includes a DVD version, installable live images with a KDE or GNOME desktop, and a net install CD. The developers have made no changes to the installer, and users who are familiar with a previous version of openSUSE will immediately find their bearings. Pressing F2 on the boot screen allows users to change the language settings to "German", "French", "Dutch" or many other languages; the installer uses this choice to select the correct time zone and, later, an appropriate keyboard layout. The next item to select is the desktop: KDE 4.7 and GNOME 3.2 are both available, with KDE being selected by default. Clicking on "Other" opens an extended desktop selection that includes the lightweight Xfce and LXDE desktop environments.
The next task is to partition the hard disk, and here is where the first new openSUSE 12.1 feature appears – the installer offers the option to select the Btrfs filesystem in the overview. When this option is selected, the installer modifies the suggested partitions and adds a boot partition in Ext4 format, because the Grub 1 boot manager can't handle the Btrfs filesystem. Users who don't want to install the suggested partitions can access "Create Partition Structure" to partition the hard disk according to their own requirements. The final task is to choose a user name and password, and then the installer summarises the chosen installation settings in a final overview.
It is important to check the boot manager settings in this overview: where a Windows installation exists in parallel, openSUSE defaults to installing the boot manager in the Linux partition's boot sector and sets the active flag for this partition. The system does this even if starting from the Master Boot Record (MBR) has been enabled, which can potentially create problems with a parallel Windows 7 system. To avoid having the Linux partition flagged as active, this setting must be disabled in the "Bootloader Settings".