What's new in openSUSE 12.3
by Oliver Diedrich
With the new version, 12.3, the openSUSE developers are presenting an update of their popular Linux distribution that offers a redesigned, elegant desktop, updated software and various technological improvements.
Among the new features in openSUSE 12.3 is added UEFI support: the distribution will boot on UEFI computers – both from DVDs and from USB sticks. This worked on our test computer even if Secure Boot was enabled in the firmware setup; however, Secure Boot support must be explicitly enabled in the bootloader settings during installation. The openSUSE developers are still classing the feature as experimental.
Compared with the previous version, no other major changes have been made to the installer. It safely guides users through the installation process in a few steps, although it does offer various debatable default settings that may not make sense to everyone: when starting the system, the user that was set up during installation will automatically be signed in without any password verification, and the home directory will be located in a partition of its own, but both options can be changed with a couple of mouse clicks.
However, we did experience real network problems during our test. During the first start after installing the new version, two PCs that were both connected to a LAN with a DHCP server didn't have any network access. On one of the computers, we managed to solve the problem by doing a reboot, but on the other we explicitly had to set the network card to DHCP with the YaST2 configuration tool. However, the network applet in the KDE panel still complained that the network wasn't set up properly and that the network manager wasn't running – although, according to the developers, the network manager is only used on notebooks anyway. On our test notebook, however, the network manager didn't start automatically and had to be activated manually.
As usual, openSUSE 12.3 gives users a choice of desktops: GNOME and KDE are offered as equal alternatives; other desktops including Xfce 4.10, LXDE, Enlightenment 0.17 (E17) and various window managers are accessible with a further mouse click.
The included current version 4.10 of KDE offers improvements such as a new print manager and improved Bluetooth integration. The Nepomuk "semantic desktop" has a new file indexer that, the developers say, works faster, uses fewer resources and offers more configuration options than Strigi. The makers of openSUSE have given KDE 4.10 a stylish theme that provides an elegant and convenient desktop in various subtle shades of green. However, they went a bit overboard with the mouseover tooltips, for example by getting the tooltips for the desktop folder icons to display exactly what is already being displayed on screen.
One of KDE's new features is the option to hide the menu bar in applications: the Fine Tuning tab in the "Application Appearance" module in KDE's System Settings configuration tool allows users to hide the menu behind a separate button in the window's title bar or display it at the top edge of the screen when the mouse is moved there. Irritatingly, the KDE screensaver shows a password entry field when the screen is locked, but the default desktop setting will unlock the screen without the password.
GNOME 3.6 offers improvements in terms of notifications, the Nautilus file manager, and the integration of Facebook, Windows Live and Exchange accounts in the desktop's account manager. With Boxes, GNOME now offers a dedicated tool for managing virtual machines that is easier to use than virt-manager.