I still remember using openSUSE 11.3 around 7 years ago for the first time. It was the second Linux distribution I used since I converted from Windows. Was awesome. Still so.
Unfortunately, the distribution is very underestimated. While most Linux users do know about it, it doesn’t seem to attract very much attention those days. Most of the lights are going toward distributions like Ubuntu, Mint, Manjaro.. And those shiny new distributions.
In this post, we would like to highlight some features which make openSUSE remarkable.
Tumbleweed is the rolling release branch of openSUSE. It’s just like Arch Linux and the other rolling distributions; You get the software as soon as its ready in the repositories.
However, unlike some others, the packages you get in openSUSE Tumbleweed are tested. You don’t get beta or alpha releases. You also don’t get software which is known to be not working or causing various problems in the system. It’s a rolling release model provided with quality (see next the coming openQA section). Which is a nice thing to have.
openSUSE Tumbleweed made some remarkable movements in providing newly-released software to users. For example they’ve provided GNOME 3.24 to users in just 2 days after its release, making them the first ever to ship the new version.
Tumbleweed is the first major distribution to use GCC 7 by default. Just around 1 day ago of publishing this post, Tumbleweed images have been recompiled with GCC 7.
Same things happens from time to time for a lot of different packages. You can keep checking news.opensuse.org to see the latest news about kernel packages, GNOME, KDE and other packages added to openSUSE Tumbleweed.
openQA is a quality assurance service created by SUSE/openSUSE. All the openSUSE releases (Leap and Tumbleweed) and a lot of openSUSE core packages (GNOME, KDE, YaST2..) are tested on that platform. It provides a set of API functions and methods to use in order to test packages and ISO images with automated tests and scenarios. After that, users can test it manually.
The thing about openQA is that it’s not just some automated scripts which do this and that and then check the output of various commands to see if bugs or problems exist. It utilizes openCV and other libraries to “see” what’s going on the screen. It hits different keyboard combinations and runs complicated installation/configuration scenarios and reads the screen in order to determine what’s going on.
The complete testing process is recorded and all the log files are uploaded automatically.
Things like openQA means better quality. Instead of completely depending on manual testing – like most other Linux distributions – openQA helps a lot in automation of those tests and detecting bugs instantly before releasing any new ISO images. Making openSUSE more robust and bug-free.
All openQA source code is free and released on GitHub.
Zypper is the default package manager for SUSE/openSUSE. Just like dnf and apt, zypper can handle any ordinary package management task like installing, removing and updating packages.
According to a personal experience, package management with zypper was faster more lightweight on the system than Apt and Dnf. In Zypper, even if you add a new repository which includes an already installed package with a newer version, it won’t be installed until you change the default vendor for that package. Which is good from a lot of aspects.
Zypper has a lot of features which you can check from its page.
Probably the most special thing about openSUSE is YaST2: The complete control center capable of configuring everything on a Linux system. It comes by default on SUSE & openSUSE distributions.
YaST2 is awesome because it contains a lot of options and functionalities. Currently, there exist around 80 different modules for YaST2, which allows you to configure software management, containers, services, kernels, servers, hardware and a lot lot more. You can say it’s around 80 different applications in a single center.
I like the software management module:
When I downloaded openSUSE again around few week ago, I gave it a shot in trying to find a Samsung printer’s driver. YaST2 did the whole job in around 1 minute. It searched for the possible drivers and listed them. I selected the one I needed and installed it. I couldn’t do this easily on some other distributions:
What is also nice about YaST2 is that it provides a TUI (Text-based User Interface) for all its modules. Meaning that you can run YaST2 from your openSUSE system in the command-line mode and still be able to configure your system in a quick and fast way. You can also use it on your servers:
You can also manage your operating system remotely using WebYast. Just install it on your machine and launch the service online in order to be able to mange it through your web browser any time:
There are tons of other modules which you can use to manage your system. The idea of providing a complete graphical solution to manage all the system aspects from A to Z in a Linux distribution doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else other than in SUSE/openSUSE.
openSUSE Build Service (OBS) is an online platform for building and distributing software packages. Developers and packagers can create packages easily using the platform for different Linux distributions (not just openSUSE!). Currently, it supports Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS and a lot more of other distributions.
OBS currently hosts 400,000 packages. You can search for any package you need via software.opensuse.org. If you were using SUSE/openSUSE, you can install any package in a single click via YaST 1-Click Install:
As usual, the source code for OBS is available on GitHub.
This service is actually provided by SUSE, but since both distributions are like two sides of the same coin, it won’t hurt to mention it here.
SUSE Studio allows you to create a customized operating system based on SUSE/openSUSE in few minutes. Just login to your account there and choose what base image you want to use, add the software and configurations you want and hit the build button.
SUSE Studio is cool because it allows you to export your images to different formats and mediums. It’s also compatible with the openSUSE Build service. It also allows you to run your images online before downloading them using Testdrive. All of this is for free.
This is an example for Testdrive running GeckoLinux Plasma inside the browser:
It also provides a nice download page for each project. In that download page, you can see the added packages/files to the images as well as repositories and configurations. This allows you to check if it’s safe to download the images or not.
SUSE Studio uses Kiwi as its core to build images. It’s also free and released under GPL.
If you are interested about it, you may check our tutorial about building a Linux distribution using the service.
Btrfs is the default filesystem in openSUSE. It’s a copy-on-write filesystem. One of its main features is the ability to take “snapshots” of files stored on your hard disk in order to be able to restore them later.
openSUSE is very compatible with this filesystem. There’s a module in YaST2 called Snapper. Which allows you to restore your system to whatever state you want at any history before/after administrative actions. Such as package installation/removal or configurations change.
For example, if you run a system upgrade using zypper dup. And something broke and you no longer can enter your system, you can easily go back to the previous system state before the upgrading process occurred. All your files and configurations will be restored to that specific time. Just like a system restore point in Windows.
There are a lot of features which make openSUSE a remarkable Linux distribution. If you are happy with your current Linux distribution, you probably don’t need to change it. However, if you are looking for something new and modern, it’s recommended that you give openSUSE a try.
You can learn more about openSUSE from their official website: openSUSE.org