SUSE, along with Red Hat, is one of the longest standing players in the Linux market but with a change of owner can we expect anything new from the package? We enlisted a senior programmer at a leading internet retailer to take a look at the alternative to windows for us:

I have been dealing with Linux systems now for quite a while, and though I use mainly Windows-based systems at home, at work I use Red Hat and I always have at least one box at home with Red Hat or SUSE installed on it. So how does this new release of SUSE compare? First, let's deal with the installer. I think in all Linux releases these days the installer is important, often newbies can be scared off by the difficulties of the install. Unlike early Linux installs these days we have a full graphical install, and all hardware was detected without much of an issue.

I have installed this on two systems, an AMD 800 with an ATI Radeon 7000 also an AMD64 with a Nvidia FX5600. In previous Linux installs I have had trouble with ATI cards but not any more, the install was smooth on both systems, and as the box says the 64-bit version was detected and installed without any hassle.

Once in, the KDE desktop is wonderful to look at. It has a backdrop that I think tries to be a bit like the Windows XP default backdrop but hey, it can be changed without too much hassle. I have a home network that has a Windows XP PC connected to a broadband line and Internet connection sharing on this. SUSE grabbed an IP address from the XP's DHCP without any hassle and was connected to the Internet within minutes. The KDE desktop has a decent browser in the form of Konqueror, which is quick and easy to use. If you have used the Mozilla Firefox browse for Windows then that can be also be downloaded and installed at no cost.

This initial installation got me up and running in Linux without a hitch. To get any further, for instance running C++, perl or PHP, apache2 or using some other applications, I had to go into YaST and install them. This caused no problems and the interface is simple: I was running the Apache server and trying out some Perl and PHP (the programming language pocket-lint is programmed in) in no time.

For those of you wanting your favourite Windows games or applications working in Linux you have the option of Wine, which is included in the package. This gives mixed results for what you can do, and only works up to DirectX 7 at the moment. It's being updated all the time so it won't be long before Half-Life 2 will be playable on a Linux system, and iD already have the Linux binaries for Doom3 so no problem there. Other applications like Microsoft Office XP worked to some extent.

Openoffice comes with the install of SUSE and is a perfectly acceptable alternative to Microsoft Office, with its simple interface and all the tools you would expect from a decent office application. In fact, to a large extent I think I actually prefer this to the Microsoft equivalent and would seriously consider downloading and installing the product for my XP computer.

Verdict

While everything sounds rosy, to be fair I have had a few discomforts with SUSE. Getting the 3-D graphics card to operate in 3-D was difficult, I got the Nvidia drivers loaded eventually but it took time. Downloading and installing any application isn't that simple, as you need to have some knowledge of the working of a Linux system to make a lot of things work. I also found that some of the pre-installed programs could be hard to find; for example it took me a while to find an FTP client. These are small complaints and with patience and trial and error you can get things running smoothly in no time.

To conclude, this release is certainly a step in the right direction for Linux. I still feel that for the novice there is some way to go before they can truly migrate from their current operating system, be it a Windows system, or maybe even OSX from Apple. For the experienced user this is a great upgrade from SUSE 8.0.