Slick! — that is the best word I can find to describe the installation procedure in OpenSUSE 10.1. Today, almost all desktop Linux distributions have a graphical installer which hides most of the gory details of installing an operating system. OpenSUSE’s installer is certainly one of the best I have tried, and its ability to auto-detect hardware is superb. In my mind, installing OpenSUSE is easier than installing Windows, since almost all the hardware is configured automatically, and you do not need to run a bunch of CDs to install special drivers for your devices.
I installed from the DVD edition. For some reason, I had disabled booting from the DVD drive, so the first step was to enter the BIOS and enable booting off the DVD. After restarting, the nice blue graphical installer appeared. All through the installation, a list on the left side shows the steps you have completed and the ones that remain.
Partitioning the harddrive(s) can be rather daunting, since if you mess up here, you may loose data on existing partitions. The installer proposes a number of setups that will work fine if you are installing on a fairly standard machine. You can also choose your own partition scheme. My rig is definitely non-standard with multiple disks and partition types, so I went for manual partitioning. I deleted my existing Fedora partitions and created new OpenSUSE partitions. I went with ReiserFS journalling filesystem instead of ext3 – not really sure what the pros and cons are, but ReiserFS seems to be the default for OpenSUSE, whereas ext3 was the default for Fedora.
Package selection comes with the standard package groups that cover the major scenarios for use, like development, servers, games etc. Sensible defaults are provided, so most users should probably stick with the package groups. Advanced users may choose to customize their setup by selecting individual packages from the enormous repertoire included on the DVD. Some versions of OpenSUSE ship with a collection of packages containing non-open source software, like an Adobe Flash Player plugin, RealPlayer and Sun’s Java JDK. These are definitely nice to have, so one should be sure to select the right download from opensuse.org.
During the installation SAX auto-detected my graphics card and monitor and decided on a resolution of 1280×1024@89 Hz! This is better than what I have managed to get it to do in Windows, where I am limited to 1152×864@85Hz. Awesome! In the early versions of Linux setting up X could be tricky business. I remember messing with scanlines trying to get the best resolution and frequency out of my monitor. None of that these days — it just does the job and asks you to confirm. Perfect!
The installation even auto-detected my winprinter, a Canon iP4200. I suspect it may just have read the device descriptor from the USB bus, though. Traditionally, printers have been one of the Achilles’ heels of Linux distributions, because the cheap so-called winprinters have all used proprietary protocols, leaving you stuck with the manufacturer’s Windows-only drivers. With the growing acceptance of Linux, some manufacturers have started either opening their protocols or publishing closed source drivers. Canon, however, have a reputation as being very uncooperative when it comes to printers. Stay tuned for a new post, when I have tested the printer.
In all, the installation took about 1 hour and left me with a modern operating system, an attractive graphical user interface, a full-featured office suite, a very capable image manipulation program, a vector graphics program, a full suite of software development tools, and much much more.