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A desktop review

This page was last modified on Mon, 16 Aug 2004 17:06:24 GMT

SUSE 9.0
a desktop review
My experience installing #Linux and some throughts…
When you finish this article, You may want to read the round 2 HERE

GNU Free Documentation License РCopyright (c) 2003 Walter C̩dric.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled
GNU Free Documentation License“.

-> this page is getting bigger and bigger with the time, I will also start soon a SUSE section and divide this page into smaller sections.

I decide to buy the professional edition instead of downloading all cd from ftp.suse even if I have a 2MB internet line. You must support company like Suse or Mandrake which develop linux distributions and buy their package. All versions or patchs can be acquire freely and download from their FTP or HTTP mirror..

If you still hesitate about #Linux, I would recommend You to try a Live Eval of #Linux. A live eval is a set of applications and a fully functionnal #Linux (nearly 2Gb) compressed on 1 CD and It does not require a hard disk to start!

* Knoppix live cd, the fastest and first version, highly recommended since Divx, DVD, NTFS drive are recognized as default.
KNOPPIX is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a #Linux demo, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it.from

You can use knoppix and have a home on USB disk. K, Knoppix, Configuration, Create Persistent home dir, then boot with the option:
knoppix home=scan

 * Gnoppix live cd
“Gnoppix is a linux live cd based upon Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 (woody). It can be compared to Knoppix but GNOPPIX uses GNOME as desktop environment.” from
* Suse live cd which did not convince me at all, this bootable cd take too much time and user interaction to initialized itself: more than five minutes are required. Moreover NTFS drive are not recognized.
* Mandrake Move live cd was developed to work with a USB stick to save user data permanently. This is another step for #Linux, you can take any PC in the world, insert this CD, restart it and have a runnable #Linux system and tools you’re familiar with.
 * Pclinux review
“PCLinuxOS 2K4 Preview 4 is a live Knoppix style cd based on Mandrake 9.2 that runs entirely from a bootable CD. Data on the CD is uncompressed on the fly, allowing up to 2 GB worth of system and programs on one CD
including a complete X server, KDE 3.1.4 and Gnome 2.4, and large packages like OpenOffice 1.1final and Mozila 1.5 plus plugins. Since it runs solely off the CD, PCLinuxOS makes an excellent portable #Linux demo or system rescue disk, but its completeness makes it a good general purpose desktop as well. PCLinuxOS should work on most modern computer hardware. Recommended memory to run is 256mb or more.”
 * GeeXbox turns your PC into a dedicated media player. It boots a version of the #Linux kernel, and then uses the popular mplayer to allow you to play DVDs, VCDs, or regular audio CDs. It also allows you to play pretty much any multimedia file from your hard drive, and can mount Samba shares as well. Best of all, the ISO is a mere 4.3 megabytes…
Download it HERE
 After knoppix…welcome flonix
“a linux system that can reside on a USB key!!!! (use less than 60Mo). It is based on knoppix and let you start linux everywhere if you can boot on USB!
You can:
– play dvd, burn CD, watch and edit pictures, scan, browse internet,
word processing, sync a Palm PDA,
read PDF files, start a webserver and more….
read more here:

* can be download freely

Test system:

One more time, here is my system, The #Linux experience you will have is very depending on hardware (and also drivers)…..

Mainboard Nvidia Nforce 2 ASUS A7VN8X deluxe
2 integrated ethernet card
6 USB – 2 Firewire
On Board soundcard
Harddisk IBM 120Go UDMA 133 (primary master)
Harddisk IBM 80Go UDMA 133 (primary slave)
CDR/RW 16x IDE noname
Geforce FX 5600 256Mb MyVivoAthlon XP 1700 overclocked at 3200 with my watercooling
512Mb DDR Dual Channel mode PC3200 (new)
SUSE #Linux 9.0 and the KDE 3.1.4 desktop 

My Background:

Can be read HERE and my experience with Linux? I am using Cygwin with ssh at work to connect to the HPUX development system, deployment, release management is done with ANT and bash scripts.So I am only a user but I use to write some FAQs in the past when I was using #Linux at highschool (a small part is reproduced HERE, sorry it is in french ).

My collegues of XDreamTeam have installed a SUSE on a dual AMD64 Opteron server, and they will write a review soon.

Some sentences you may hear about #Linux:

Linux user interface is ugly, Xp is better!
Who can still says this?, look at this KDE 3.2 pictures

(click to enlarge). KDE default user interface for Ark #Linux, Conectiva, Knoppix, Lindows,
Lycoris, Mandrake #Linux, SUSE #Linux, TurboLinux and Xandros.

Moreover you can choose another desktop manager, instead of KDE, a lot of people prefer Gnome. If you still can’t live without Windows, try this windows manager under linux

Suse (or #Linux in general) is difficult to use!
Not so much, in fact the tool YAST: “Yet Another Setup Tool” do a great job when dealing with the configuration of your computer, softwares and hardware can be configured in a hierarchical control panel. I found it even better than the equivalent of “Windows world”. What can be disturbing is the organisation of files and program on disk. I would say that someone who never use Windows before will have the same learning curve and encounter more or less the same difficulties with linux, the only drawback I see is that no so much friends can help you (and give you tools for which you have no licence 😉 ) since #Linux as a desktop is not so much floating around. Now if you are a Windows user like me (since 10 years), you will encounter some difficulties, I prefer to say “forget some bad Windows habits”, like

  • Windows make no differences between upper and lower case filename, but #Linux does! which is normal because we also make this distinction when we write letters and office documents.
  • Windows use drive letter and this is a pain to maintain especially when you need to configure software, #Linux use a directory base mapping, symbolic links can be created on files or directories. Example: 2 documents folders can have different name but point to the same folder:
    For example you have a website which is located in a directory “MywebsiteV1.12” and you want to have only one reference in all program that use your homepage (typically in configurations files), all you have to do is to open a terminal and type:

    ln -s MywebsiteV1.12 httpdocs

    and use everywhere httpdocs instead of the path to MywebsiteV1.12 in configuration files. The same apply if you want to alias office documents or media files (reference the same file under different names but always use the same target)
    this is a lot more powerful than the Window’s shortcuts.

  • Windows has a limited command line size, and limited number of subdirectories.
  • Even on XP, you must sometimes restart your PC because the program XX has freeze and can not be terminate.
    Bill Gates said in an interview: “instability do not come from Windows itself, but merely from applications installed” For Me, a good OS must protect the user/itself from system crashing, XP isn’t good at this, #Linux is a little better.
    On Unix a # kill -9 pidProcess has a lot of chance to succeed and you can even restart some part of the system, without restarting the whole (restart the network server or the soundcard). Try also CTRL-ALT- ESC to kill graphically a process!

Why choosing #Linux now? A very good article, how you can switch with success and what your motivation can be

Here are the personal reasons why I am switching to #Linux, You may find a lot of website which may present You better arguments:

  • Suse (replace with any #Linux distribution) come with a lot of applications (= packages) to do almost everything, not all of them are of the same qualities, or can be compared to commercial applications, but in linux world they do not require any licences! (some of them are freeware, giftware, shareware through)
  • I want to live in a world where, I can search and solve problems instead of restarting the machine which is for me not a solution….(I am a developer and like challenges, restarting is like loosing a race fsor me) yeah as today 16.12.2003 I am FREE with LINUX, even if this freedom will have a cost (a relative complexity in usage at the beginning)
  • Virus threat, less virus are living in Unix world. At least till today.
  • You can still run Windows and #Linux together thank to a great multi boot menu (no System commander, Partition Magic, old text based LILO required)
  • Real Multi users system, program are running with user right privileges.
  • Linux is gaining market place, I do not want to loose connection with the market reality.
  • The community is extraordinary! they develop at a speed never seen before, even If I am convince that too much project are started and do the same things with more or less success . Look at Mono (.NET platform on #Linux) which already support 99% of .NET ASP. Ximian (acquired at the beginning of 2003 by Novell and Suse) will continue to support the effort of Mono development.
  • Linux is modular, there is like 120 distributions, 30 are dying per year and are replace instantly. Look at Flonix (Linux on a USB stick 64Mo, burning, browsing internet, webserver, GUI), or Knoppix (“From zero to GNU linux in five Minutes”) this is great. #Linux can be start on nearly all plattform (portability) and does not require good machine (Windows Longhorn will require 1Gb of memory (dixit Microsoft) so understand 2Gb to work flawlessy).
    #Linux was first developed for 32-bit x86-based PCs (386 or higher). These days it also runs on Compaq Alpha AXP, Sun SPARC, Sun UltraSPARC, Motorola 68000, PowerPC, PowerPC64, ARM, Hitachi SuperH, IBM S/390, MIPS, HP PA-RISC, Intel IA-64, DEC VAX, AMD x86-64 , CRIS architectures. This includes Handled, celullar phone, gaming station like Xbox, Dreamcast.
  • Everything is free, thanks to the open source community: Apache is the best/most used webserver, Tomcat the best servlet runner. Of course, the open source community has to find now a economical model. I am convince that developing is like speaking, you can not stop people to talk or think.
  • Each days, I enjoy the use of CygWin under windows (for developing or maintaining this homepage), combining unix tools like: grep, sed, awk, and others…using ssh is now natural and I am feeling sad when I must start the poor Windows terminal.
  • I am using products from the open source coomunity since 3 years now, at work: mainly the Apache Fundation and their frameworks, at home a lot of tools: virtual dub, videolan, GIMP, … and this all under Windows 2000. I am totaly satisfied by these tools, so why not replacing also windows by a totally free and open source system.
  • I can install Suse #Linux everywhere (on all PC I have, currently 3 desktop) and has no annoying licence scheme or registration process and even give it to friends as long as I give it for free.
  • There is a difference between “choice” and “apparence of choice”, before choosing an OS (Operating System) was easy:

– On one side Windows, which cover more than 90% of the market, is shipped with new PC, has many softwares of good qualities. All your friends (normal users not geek), companies or your office, are certainly running under Windows. This is good but you do not install Windows because it is your choice, you install it because it is common to install it.

– On the other side, alternatives OS: Mac, #Linux, BeOS (I am also a big fan of BeOS) are installed by people who want to try something different, (remember the moto “think different” from Mac corp). Geek users accept some instabilities because they want to improve the system, or even help at the source code level. End users give a try or installed it at home because they discover it at their universities.

This was before, before mean “Linux without good support of hardware ( I remember installing Mandrake 9.0 and fighting 10 minutes to find a USB driver for my Microsoft mouse), without good desktops manager (Now this time is over thanks to KDE and Gnome), without a huge base of applications” Now this is slowly changing, On the server side, there is already a big change, HP, IBM and major actors are now committed to #Linux and that is great. Now you have the choice, because now you can hesitate between #Linux and Windows and/or even dual boot both (It has never been so easy as today because dual boot is integrated in many #Linux distributions)

SUSE home for the version 9.0 is
SUSE has a page which present 10 reasons to choose #Linux Suse
SUSE has also a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page here:

Choose a file system
ext2 or ext3 or ??? a good articles can be found here:


Great menu everywhere for installing the OS, 10s after having insert the CD (and choosing a resolution with F2 – default is 1280×1024), the linux Kernel is loaded and guide you through the installation process.

Personnaly what I dislike is the number of “package” (understand application, with strange name and strange revision number) given, like 10 tools to do the same task…I know I do not want to see any new Microsoft take the advantage under linux, but why the open source community does not concentrate on GUI. A user will remember that the GUI was horrible even if the program has done its job. That is my point of view. As a developer, I do not care but as an end user….

I decide to install everything, this take nearly 3 Gb of hard disk, Yes it is much but do not forget that XP take alone 1.2Gb without any office, photoshop, and so on. In this case the installation took 37 minutes, too long? You can also send complaint to hard disk manufacturer!

The partition manager compute the best option depending on your configuration, in my case I reserved 80Gb for Suse but on my secondary disk. By default linux want to modify the primary disk (and move windows data if needed), I switch to manual mode and only say click on “use everything” of the second disk. YAST then install then a small graphical boot manager on disk 1. This allow me at boot to start Windows if it is needed.

One page display a resume of all settings choosen, you may change the value of each section by clicking on the topic title. No technical words at all, You must only choosing some options in selection boxes.

Due to the huge number of #Linux tools, you must also deal with 5 cd or one double face DVD, each disk may copy data during 15 minutes depending on options you have selected. (I forget to say that my CD drive is an old 16X). The estimated time to complete installation is quite accurate.

After completing the first disk the system restart and continue on CD2, a windows show you the list of package copied in realtime, you must just wait (Suse is made of more than 7000 packages or programs).

The system asks then for the root password, You can use the whole keyboard layout (letters, numbers, special characters) except accent (éà è) and umlaut (öüë), I choose a highly complex root paswword and write it down, till I have time learn it. Some word about security, program on unix system are running under user privileges, that mean that a potential virus MAY only destruct your data, and no data of others users (most of Unix virus try to replace some binary executable to gain a higher level access or may install a trojan horse)

The 2 integrated networks card were detected automatically (mainboard ASUS nforce 2 desluxe has a 3COM and Nvidia 100MB network card),

The system then ask if you want to download new packages and security upgrades from internet. This is higly recommended. No compagny in the world can ship a perfect code, this is True even in #Linux world. I am pretty convince bugs handling is better in opensource paradigm, because nearly all users can see the source code (OK, I admit NO all users are developers, but there is a lot of great skilled developer which in their spare time review code, not to speak about university students which may have a lot of time 🙂 ). On the other side, take any business compagny:

  • They first try to reproduce the bugs and know how many users are affected (which is OK),
  • Worse, They try to minimize effects resulting of a bug (to avoid some political problems with clients, but correct the bug as fast as possible in the background),
  • They speak about money all the time (but I am happy to get paid as a developer 😉 ), can we ship in delay? can we not correct this for the next release?

In opensource world, #Linux developer consider this as a hobby and may try to correct everything or at least move the delivery date.

Back to the installation, I choose stand alone, because I do not want to use this linux box as a server. In Mandrake, this is a little better, since you can choose the security level: (Mandrake install may activate the firewall for You during the install), or block installation of some packages which can help a hacker (like ssh, webserver, VNC).

I strongly recommend You to deactivate auto login, security come always at a cost, I do not want that somebody simply restart the computer to gain access to my data and read private documents: Yes you will have to enter your password at each restart. Password is limited to 8 characters…which is somehow strange The password length is limited to 8 character because the default password encryption methd is set to DES (most compatible but SUSE also allow md5 or blowfish which have no length limit but at the cost of more cpu power and the loss of backward compatibility across other systems or old software). You can change this under Yast – Security and Users Password settings

Finally the release note of suse 9.0 is displayed, You can read it to be sure that nothing has changed since the manual printout.

YAST, then dectect hardware and set a graphical resolution.

ATTENTION, always use the test button to validate any refresh rate and resolution before applying changes, otherwise you may have a black screen at the next logon! If it ever happen, the only way is to reboot and choose “safe mode”, logging as root, go to /etc/X11 and open the file X86Config….or rename the previous backup done by YAST (backup named X86Config.YAST). I have also done this mistake

Choose “safe mode” in booting menu
logging using user root
# cd X11/etc
rename the old X86Config to X86Config.old
# mv X86Config X86Config.old
then restore the YAST backup if it exist
# mv X86Config.YAST X86Config
or type Exit
restart the PC

Manual upgrade of all drivers to the their latest status
In my case I went to and download all latest rpm (rpm are like setup.exe in windows world),

To resume: Suse has now a very good and reliable installation system. YAST is now mature, detection of most hardware is good (at least on my system). I think it is even easier to install SUSE than an equivalent Windows system, mainly because partiioning is better support in YAST

How to install RPM

There is many ways to install RPM. In facts, choose the one you prefer. Note that you must be loogged as root to install any application.

Method 1: With Konqueror: click on RPM filename and after the download completion right click and choose “install packet with YAST”
Methhod 2,3,4,5 can be found on this page

Install divx codecs and drivers

For some legal issues, SUSE can not deliver Divx drivers in the distribution, but they can be download at
This internet page propose binary version of all major #Linux program

One of the best player can be found at , Caffeine (installed as default) is only a frontend GUI and use the runtme libs from Xine.


You can use one of the following to use some of your windows applications: and for directX games (even without recompiling the game!!!) and this even without installing Windows! Vmware is a commercial alternative but required a fully licensed windows images. MORE TO COME…

Killer apps

These applications are installed as default,
Open Office (OO), which can open nearly all Microsoft office documents, GUI is not as good as MS Office but it do the job. Some powerpoint made with MS Office have some strange alignment, but MS Office represent correctly document created with OO.
GIMP a program for manipulating 2D images (like photoshop), run also on Windows because of the porting of GTK (open source 2D library)

from in about the GIMP

This is only a very quickly thrown together list of GIMP features. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Full suite of painting tools including Brush, Pencil, Airbrush, Clone,etc.
Tile based memory managent so image size is limited only by available disk space.
Sub-pixel sampling for all paint tools for high quality anti-aliasing
Full alpha channel support
Layers and channels
A Procedural Database for calling internal GIMP functions from external programs as in Script-fu
Advanced scripting capabilities
Multiple Undo/Redo (limited only by diskspace)
Virtually unlimited number of images open at one time
Extremely powerful gradient editor and blend tool.
Load and save animations in a convenient frame-as-layer format.
Transformation tools including rotate, scale, shear and flip.
File formats supported include gif, jpg, png, xpm, tiff, tga, mpeg, ps, pdf, pcx, bmp, and many others.
Load, display, convert, save to many file formats.
Selection tools including rectangle, ellipse, free, fuzzy, bezier and intelligent.
Plug-ins which allow for the easy addition of new file formats and new effect filters.
Over 100 plugins already available.
Supports custom brushes and patterns
Much, much more!

Playing DVD, MP3, all tasks can de done under Suse without having any licence!!!! I recommend you to donate some money to the authors if you like their programs (so that they can pay their homepage hosting at least)
Opera Opera is a religion. All those features, mouse gestures, keyboard shortcuts, embedded mail client, drag-around panels, skins, GREAT standards-support, it’s so fast, easyness of bookmarking, the “magic-wand”… and the list goes on and on…It is not open source but I like it so much.

Files manager

I am a big fan since 1991 of Norton Commander (I was using NC 1.0 on floppy disk), In windows I am using Windows Commander a lot to order million of files. This page contains nearly all file commander clones of Norton Commander. XNC 5.0

Forums and Help


English news site on linux
Great forums

Others reviews you can submit me a new link HERE Suse vs Redhat

How to/tutorials Step by step install of SUSE 9.0 using FTP (non need to download and burn the iso’s) Linux on HP Compaq NX7000 (that’s my notebook at work)

Links “This site is an attempt to provide a basic feature list and a package comparison table of major, minor and regional #Linux distributions”

Links with reference to this article

When you finish this article, You may want to read the round 2 HERE

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