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Software choices

Depending on whether automatic login has been enabled, the first reboot will either display the login manager or go directly to the desktop. openSUSE offers programs to suit most requirements, and what hasn't automatically been installed on the hard disk during setup can be found in the distribution's repositories. openSUSE 12.1's default browser is Firefox 7, its default email client is Thunderbird 7.0.1, and LibreOffice 3.4.2 is included to take care of the paperwork.

Users can get creative with GIMP 2.6.11, Inkscape graphics editor, Blender 3D rendering software and the Kdenlive video editor. If a user's focus is more on multimedia content then Amarok, Banshee, Kaffeine and Totem are available to play audio and video files. To ensure that as many formats as possible can be processed, the Packman repository should be enabled in the software manager of openSUSE's Yast admin tool, as it contains various multimedia codecs.

While in the package manager it is worth taking a look around the manager's individual categories. For example, the Chromium browser has made it into openSUSE's standard repositories, and the distribution is also the first to include Google's new Go programming language. However, the biggest surprise is to be found in the Desktop category's KDE section, where packages containing the classical KDE 3 desktop have been re-listed. Rather than offering the version maintained by the Trinity project, the packages contain version 3.5.10 of the desktop, which is still released by the KDE project, together with various patches created by the openSUSE team and the Chakra and Trinity projects. One of the patches ensures that the media manager is no longer dependent on HAL.

Unfortunately, by default, KDE 3 can no longer be found in the KDM or GDM login managers once this version has been installed. The easiest way of starting it is to copy the .xinitrc.template file in the home directory to .xinitrc and add the following line before the last line in the file:

exec /opt/kde3/bin/startkde

Zoom The KDE menu in openSUSE distinguishes between KDE 3 and KDE4 applications
Adding this line will overwrite KDM's selections, causing KDE 3 to be started automatically after the next login. Another way run it is to make KDE3 appear in the login manager by installing the package kdebase3-session.

There are no problems running KDE 4 applications under KDE 3, and vice versa. In the menu, the desktop variant that is currently inactive will be given a version label. However, in the KDE 4 start menu, this label will only be visible when the mouse pointer is moved across a menu entry. If both KDE desktops are installed it is therefore more convenient to use the classic menu.


There's even more for nostalgic users to discover in the software manager's "X11/Utilities" area, where the SaX application for configuring the X Window System is celebrating a revival. openSUSE had to retire SaX2 when they changed the X configuration system to use files in the /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d directory. SaX3 was developed as a Google Summer of Code project and allows users to configure keyboard, monitor, mouse and touchpad via either a graphical UI or a text-based ncurses interface – this comes in handy if the automated process fails, or if a user has special requirements.

However, the new edition of SaX doesn't yet offer the original tool's level of convenience. The version in the distribution repositories is flawed and will only display an empty window after it is started, but the developers are already working on an update that is available through one-click install in the openSUSE Build Service's X11:sax repository. The keyboard configuration module in this version offers the largest number of options including allowing users to configure the location of the compose key and the behaviour of the Windows keys.

There is no air of nostalgia attached to the Snapper tools and the Snapper Yast module, which provide access to Btrfs' snapshot functions and are, therefore, only installed on disk if a Btrfs partition was created during installation. The integration into Yast has been particularly successful: whenever a user installs an update, adds or removes packages, or modifies the system configuration, the tool will create a snapshot of the filesystem.

Zoom The Snapper snapshot tool for file versioning and rolling back changes
The "Miscellaneous/Snapper" section allows users to inspect and check the snapshots that have been created. What exactly has been changed can be determined by double-clicking on a snapshot: the tree view on the left side of the window displays all files and directories including the changes that have been made. Highlighting one of the entries will reveal whether the file in question has been deleted, modified or newly created, and it also allows the change to be reverted if necessary. The Snapper module's user interface hasn't been fully localised, but the developers are already working on an update.

The Yast module doesn't yet allow users to create custom snapshots or delete individual snapshots from the list. This functionality is available via the snapper command line program, whose list option will display a list of all snapshots. The snapshot numbered 0 is the current system. A custom snapshot can be created by entering

snapper create --description mytext

Any blank spaces in the description must be placed in quotation marks. To compare two snapshots enter compare followed by the appropriate snapshot numbers – however, this can also be done in the more convenient Yast module, whose list will also include custom snapshots.

Another new feature of openSUSE 12.1 is systemd, which has replaced SysVInit. The developers had originally planned to make this switch in version 11.4, but decided to keep SysVInit because of various bugs. Systemd emphasises parallelisation when starting system services, which speeds up the boot process. openSUSE users who prefer SysVInit can simply uninstall the systemd-sysvinit package. It is also possible to manually boot with the old system by pressing F5 in the boot manager, which opens a menu for selecting the start system.


With systemd and Btrfs, the openSUSE team has integrated two major new components, and it has integrated them well. Special highlights are the Btrfs snapshot management tools and the resulting roll-back function in Yast – no other distribution currently offers this functionality. Another unique feature is the re-integration of KDE 3 into the repositories, although this measure will probably mainly please the die-hard fans of this classical KDE variant.


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