The crazy season is upon us, when a ton of Free and Open Source Software operating systems are being released to an increasingly larger crowd of enthusiasts, and I'd like to take a moment to take at look at what's on offer. But first a look at one of the chief reasons that more folks are going nutso about Linux/*BSD:
You may think that the video above is only about post-singularity tech effects that are of little more value than as simple eye-candy, but how wrong you would be. The expo effect, or the application switcher are huge benefits in terms of productivity, and if you have a limited screen resolution (say 1024X768) then you are going to want to switch between windows/desktops with the least amount of fuss possible. The painting fire on the screen trick, well, that's just silly.
After having downloaded the RC1 (release candidate one) of OpenSuse 10.3 last night, I burned it to CD (KDE version) and installed on my Thinkpad. Suse allows you to customize in the greatest detail imaginable exactly what you include in the install (if you so desire) or just picks a base system after examining your hardware.
The base install is 2.2Gb, but I chose to add the KDE4 preview, as well as language localization for several asian languages, adding another one Gb to the total. As it was an install CD, a large amount of software had to be downloaded off of a local mirror, lengthening the install process quite a bit. Not exactly a net install, though not too far off.
The nice part about the Suse installer is that it includes all the proprietary software and download repositories in the initial install, so there's no hunting around as one has to do for Ubuntu or Fedora.
This is still not the final release, and there are a number of bugs to still be ironed out, particularly in the post installation update where you have to click a pop up button labeled 'patch progress check' around twenty times before you are fully updated.
Another oddity about the install process is the need to restart your system before you have created a user profile for the OS; the only other system that does this (to my knowledge) is Fedora--and if you are a new user/someone less tech-savvy, it can create quite a bit of confusion.
The total install process of approximately 3.5Gb took a little under two hours, the great majority of it being installing software from the CD or getting it from the online repositories, which you can enable as one of the first steps in the process.
OpenSuse 10.3 is much like version 10.2 in that it is very polished for a Linux distribution--it is quite evident when booting into the desktop that a great deal of hard work and care has gone into getting everything to look absolutely stunning.
Handy desktop icons are there for you to get help online as soon as you need it, with Firefox and something labeled 'Online Help' with a red and green life preserver being the most obvious choices.
Clicking on either of those leads you to the OpenSuse FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page, and also a link to the OpenSuse irc channel (chat room). Although it was the first day of release, there were still nearly two hundred participants on the main Suse irc channel, and they were more than happy to answer my queries on how to get Compiz-Fusion (seen in the video above) going.
Sadly, in my eagerness to get it installed and working, I made some major operator errors--installing, de-installing, and then re-installing some of the components for compiz-fusion; this led to a series of lockups that forced me to hard reboot the Thinkpad. I think I'll wait until it's included in the final release by default before I tread those waters again.
The KDE4 preview is nothing too special; there's still several months of work to be done on it before it can be called usable, though one can see the glimmering of potential there. Well worth a pass in the present state, unless you are just incredibly curious.
OpenSuse 10.3 is just amazing in its hardware recognition; every single button on my Thinkpad was operational--the volume adjust buttons, the little overhead light, the print screen button, and so on. I look forward to trying it again when the final is out, as it promises great things in terms of ease of set up and use, if not necessarily a speedy install.
I'll be looking at those other pillars in the coming days/weeks, as they release their final release candidates/final releases and giving a feel of just how easy they are to set up and use with all the tools you need for productivity/normal web browsing.
As always, this is open for all tech-related discussion (Open Source or not), and if I have omitted anything or overlooked making anything absolutely clear, please feel free to drop a comment, and I will try to amend it.